If artichokes are big balls of spiny bracts, then asparagus spears are telescoped rods with membranous scales. In this follow up post, Katherine takes on asparagus, both the tender and the tough, and explains why peeling can’t rescue a woody spear.
Asparagus is a hopeful spring vegetable. Asparagus aspires, breathes in the warming spring air, and optimistically pokes its nose up from the ground. Its tips are clusters of tiny developing branches, still packed tightly like an unexpanded telescope, containing all the potential of a season’s worth of growth. Except that we whack them and eat them before they can realize their audacious plant dreams. There’s no need to feel entirely bad about this, though. The spears stay alive for a while, stubbornly growing tougher until they are cooked or digested. Continue reading
Inspired by spring and the appearance of both artichokes and asparagus, Katherine explains artichoke morphology in the first of two posts about bracts and scales.
Artichokes don’t exactly look like food, and their name in English is homely and offputting. The scientific name is no better. Cynara cardunculus variety scolymus rolls off the tongue like a giant ball of tough spiny bracts. I’m not ready to call it an onomatopoeia, even though artichokes are giant balls of tough spiny bracts. And the word “bract,” on its own, is just flat-out ugly. But artichoke bracts have delicious meaty bases, and they protect the tender inner part of the bud which we call the heart, so I am a C. cardunculus var. scolymus bract fan. Continue reading
Jeanne reveals which branches of the evolutionary tree of plants bear edible leaves and speculates about why that is.
Giant coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) fronds dwarf me
Most of the 300,000 + plant species have leaves, and the function of all of them is to perform photosynthesis. They are the ultimate source for all of the oxygen and food for the rest of the food chain and help regulate the global carbon and water cycles. They are also nutrition superstars. To figure out why greens are good for you and whether all leaves are equal in this regard, we need to take quick look at global leaf structural variability and broad evolutionary patterns in the species that make their way onto our tables. Continue reading