Jeanne introduces the diversity of some American natives, the squashes in the genus Cucurbita.
Spring is officially here, and I have squash on my mind. We’ve ordered zucchini seeds for the upcoming summer garden but still have acorn squash from the fall sitting in the pantry (both are varieties of Cucurbita pepo). Our winter vegetable CSA box recently bequeathed to us the tastiest winter squash I’ve ever eaten, a Seminole pumpkin, which is a different variety of the same species (Cucurbita moschata) as the butternut squash sitting on the counter, destined for dinner. Now between last year’s hard winter squashes and the tender summer squashes to come seems a good time to remind ourselves of the origins and diversity of squashes in the genus Cucurbita. Continue reading
Posted in Fruit, Uncategorized
Tagged America, biogeography, butternut, Cucurbita, Cucurbita maxima, Cucurbita moschata, Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbitaceae, diversity, fruit, Jeanne L. D. Osnas, pumpkin, Seminole squash, squash, zucchini
Jeanne walks you through the botany you need to know to understand pomegranate fruit structure. Jeanne’s definition of “need to know” is arguably a bit broad and includes a brief tour of the many different structures plants modify in order to entice herbivores, and at least one goddess, to disperse seeds.
pomegranate fruit (persistent calyx and stamens visible)
Pomegranates (Punica granatum, family Lythraceae, rosid order Myrtales) were one of the earliest domesticated plant species. According to ancient Greek mythology, they even predate the seasons. The story goes that Hades, god of the underworld, kidnapped his beloved Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest. Demeter’s grief over Persephone’s disappearance caused the crops to wither and wreaked havoc with humanity. The plight of the starving masses coerced Zeus to convince Hades to return Persephone to her mother. Before she left the underworld, however, Hades tricked her into eating a pomegranate seed, which bound her to evermore spend part of the year with her happy mother, during which time plants flourished, and part of the year in the underworld, during which time plants go fallow. Thus, seasons arose.
We can hardly blame poor Persephone for finding pomegranate seeds irresistible. They look like faceted jewels and have a refreshing, tangy sweetness and a satisfying crunch. We have an additional reason to be drawn to pomegranates: even if they can’t help us understand the seasons, deciphering the structures of the beautiful pomegranate fruit helps us understand the diversity of mechanisms plants use to entice animals, including humans, to disperse seeds. The delicious, nutritious or fibrous attractive structure is payment for the animal’s labor. As you will see in this post, there is no single anatomical recipe for creating the colorful, fleshy and/or juicy reward for a seed-dispersing herbivore, mortal or otherwise. Many of the myriad flower, fruit and seed structures are variously promoted to the role of what is colloquially thought of as “fruit.” Continue reading
Posted in Fruit, The basics, Uncategorized
Tagged accessory fruit, angiosperm, aril, flower structure, fruit, Jeanne L. D. Osnas, pomegranate, Punica, receptacle, sarcotesta, structure
Some people just cannot bring themselves to refrigerate peaches. Storing peaches lovingly at room temperature is said to coax out the best in peach scent, flavor, and texture. But treating peaches this way does take a lot of time and vigilance, as I detail elsewhere. Reliable authorities – peach packing houses and state extension agencies – recommend refrigerating peaches once they become ripe, but some people would rather risk losing fruit to rot than let them get cold. But does it matter? Can peaches be stored in the fridge to slow their decline without compromising their peak? Continue reading
Posted in Fruit, Uncategorized
Tagged eudicot, fruit, nectarine, peach, Prunus, ripening, Rosaceae, Rosales, rosid, stonefruit