black rose

Plants can save us from ourselves in a lot of ways. They can clean our air and filter our water. They can take contaminated soils and make them healthy again. They can lock up the carbon dioxide we’re pumping into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. They can even heal our bodies and undo some of the damage we tend to do to ourselves through poor diets and lack of exercise or general overindulgence. Plants form part of our rituals for mourning the dead, and coming to terms with our grief.

What they can’t do, as far as I am aware, is change what is in our hearts. Reading the news this morning, I am afraid. I’m not afraid that Britain is going to be swamped by a tidal wave of immigrants if we don’t do something about it right now. I’m not afraid that someone whose skin happens to be a different colour to mine is going to take my job, my lover or my life. I am not particularly afraid of the outcome of the referendum (although I have a preference) because the truth is that – whatever happens – it’s not going to be the end of the world. If Britain leaves the European Union then life will be different, but that’s just about all anyone can truthfully say at this point, when there are so many unknowns.

What I am afraid of is that the dark side of the British psyche is coming to the fore. That we’re letting ourselves be ruled by fear and hatred rather than compassion and love. I’m concerned that some of our leading figures are Sith Lords, playing both sides of this question to promote fear and chaos to their own ends.

The EU won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, “for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” We know that different plants benefit from being grown together rather than in monocultures – that they’re stronger and more resilient together – and I like to think the same is true of people. With that in mind, let’s look at this week’s internet polyculture 🙂

Natural polyculture inspiration

Last Sunday I was horrified when one of the sub-editors at the Guardian chose the title for James Wong’s article: Meet coriander’s closest cousin – Peruvian black mint. The two plants under discussion – Coriandrum sativum and Tagetes minuta aren’t closely related, they’re in different plant families. So it’s like nails down a blackboard for a botanist/ ethnobotanist. But if you can get past that (or … heaven forbid!) aren’t bothered by it then you will discover an article about a potential coriander substitute for people who have the coriander-hating gene, or who have been affected by the bad press the plant has been getting for centuries.

Lemon balm clearly has far better PR, and Jekka McVicar herself has been lauding the many uses of lemon balm recently. I must try that thing with the rhubarb, since I have some in the fridge from my dad’s garden.

Moving on from herbs to fruit: “People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is launching a new database, FruitFinder, which is the first online database to list every known UK grown variety of orchard fruit, providing a way for gardeners, cider-makers or orchard owners to find nurseries that sell them or a source of grafting material of rare heritage varieties. FruitFinder is part of an ongoing effort by PTES to conserve and restore traditional orchards across the country in recognition of their amazing habitat value to local wildlife” according to a press release I received earlier this month. It’s called the FruitFinder, and it makes a nice companion to the Independent Nursery Guide I mentioned in Tendrils last week.

Apparently there’s no problem finding rhubarb in Alaska, to the extent that more Alaskans are shunning rhubarb. It seems to be more of a tourist attraction than a food plant in the chilly state. Perhaps that’s because they haven’t tried cooking it with lemon balm.

An option for the Alaskans would be to reclassify growing rhubarb as garden therapy, which is now being prescribed by doctors. I would tend towards kitchen gardening myself, as all that fresh air and healthy exercise also ends up providing good food that can improve your diet. It’s a win-win and I like those 🙂 If you don’t think growing your own will encourage you to eat your leafy greens, then how about growing your own jelly garden? They mean jam, rather than wobbly desserts, but I don’t see why you couldn’t make both!

If you fancy listening to words rather than reading them, then the latest Gastropod edition investigates who invented the cherry tomato and why these tiny tomatoes are taking over Planet Salad. They’re certainly far more appealing than the Australian tomato Solanum ossicruentum, which is covered in spines. Interestingly, that link says that it’s one of dozens of different tomato species in northern Australia, so maybe they’ll find something a bit more enticing later on.

Last week Tendrils took a look at The Tea Bag Index, a citizen science project. This week we have another – Earthworm Watch is another project looking at soil health, this time using earthworms. It aims to study how human activities such as planting schemes, moving topsoil and adding fertilisers affect soils and earthworms, and the ability of earthworms to create healthy soils. They’re particularly interested in seeing what happens in gardens and urban green spaces.

Finally, we move on from fruit to cereals, and from the now to the then. Great Grains: How Ancient Einkorn Became the New “It” Wheat explores why Einkhorn is currently ‘having a moment’. Perhaps it’s the new kale we have all been waiting for.

And a Welsh roofer wants to stick to using traditional methods and materials in Wales, but since he’s getting close to retirement, he’d like to find an apprentice to take on his trade. Apparently there are currently only 3 thatchers in Wales. Do you know anyone who’d like to take on the job?

Have a great weekend and be excellent to each other!

Peace lily