Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Soup, bread, and botanical history

Any break in the hot weather, and I can make soup.  So this week it was asparagus, broccoli and red lentil soup, using spearmint pesto. I really recommend spearmint as a flavoring in this soup, light, springlike, and very good. But you have to use farm fresh asparagus and broccoli.  And if you have any spearmint growing, you probably have too much anyway, plenty for making pesto.

Then, to go with, hot biscuits with walnuts and golden raisins, using half and half ap and wholewheat flour. Which makes these halfwheat biscuits, I guess..sorry, couldn't resist.

Then out in the patio, history and botany continues. I noticed a lovely little three petaled flower, blue, growing happily uninvited among the ground cover, and added it in to a pot on the fence, then noticed that the uninvited plant in there was the same thing. And  it was growing out of the drainage holes of the pot as well as upward.  

Turns out it's spiderwort, tradescantia virginiana, which pleased me no end.  For one thing, it spurred me on to find that this is a relative of the other tradescantia, the stripy one I grow as a houseplant, equally vigorous grower.  And the wild one is native to here, must have come with my long ago seeding of wildflowers.

The name is in honor of John Tradescant and his son of the same name, English botanists and plantsmen of the sixteenth century, who went through all sorts of hair raising adventures in search of plants to bring back from all over the world to English gardens. Including trips to the then English colony in Virginia.  Nowadays we look a bit more sceptically on moving plants out of their native habitats, but the Tradescants are still worth reading up, if botanical history appeals to you.

I'm a purist on moving plants, having turned down offers of cuttings from other states so that we don't inadvertently bring in more trouble than they're worth.  Also I like growing the native plants where I can, much less tiring to go with nature than against her. 

I noticed in the farmer's market recently, gooseberries on sale, and wondered how come, since it's illegal to plant gooseberries in NJ.  I had gooseberry bushes in the old house, but they had been there for decades, probably grandfathered in before the legislation.

The reason is that the white pine, a very tall, straight, tree, useful for all kinds of things, is a major product of the state. Yes, I know people only think of oil cracking plants near the airport, but this is the Garden State.  Anyway, gooseberry is a carrier of the white pine blister rust, a deadly disease, so they have to protect the white pine by banning the gooseberry.

If you've ever picked gooseberries, you have experienced the dagger like thorns protecting the fruit, which run right up under your nail as you pick, ow.  Birds probably have even worse trouble, their eyes being in direct contact, so gooseberries are typically left alone, in my experience.

Back to the garden, I don't like shopping for plants, though I have to buy herb plants, but the ornamentals I'd rather go from local cuttings and divisions and my own seeds.  I do have neighbors who only want the fullgrown plants, in flower.  For them it's more like home decor, for me it's more like what I think of as gardening, I guess. Such as the neighbor who got pachysandra, groundcover, from me, and complained after a week that it hadn't spread to cover the area yet, I must have given her bad plants!!

At a meeting last night of the artists' collective, I was reminded again that in art, too, there are shoppers and makers. People who buy materials and frames all the time, and people who try to make their own tools and materials.  Different strokes.


  1. oh you were adopted by spiderwort! One of my favorite garden plants, until it gets too tall and just falls over in despair. If yours ever reaches the despair stage, whack it back right to the ground and it will start to regrow almost immediately. it can also be divided to spread the joy.

  2. I now have spiderwort in three colors, and am delighted daily by their crazy waterfalls of jewel-tones. And by an odd coincidence, I made soup yesterday, only because someone had given me a handful of lovely kale and I wanted to be sure to use it up. It was a hot day, though, and when I came in from evening chores I tasted the soup and thought, "Wow! Too much salt!" Then I realized there was sweat actually dripping off my face and my clothes were sticking to me everywhere, and though, "This might be a good time for a little salt!" So I just added a little water to the soup and it really hit the spot :)


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