Thursday, June 25, 2009

Going to Seed

One custom that has pretty well passed away by now is saving seeds from your garden. Of course most people don’t garden for sustenance these days, and if you do garden, then most of your seeds are probably hybrid seeds that don’t come true-no point in saving them. In fact in many cases, farmers don’t even own the seeds they plant—Monsanto does:

But that’s another discussion for another day.

If you do garden, then sometime let one of your plants go to seed rather than pulling it up when it’s quit producing, and you will see something interesting. (Don’t save any seeds that belong to Monsanto, of course) Common plants like radishes or carrots will sprout amazing flowers.

This year I let a radicchio go to seed. If you know radicchio, then you probably know it as the trendy red leaf crop with a bit of a bitter taste that cost you an arm and a leg at the grocery. Botanically, however, radicchio is a chicory, one of a large family of garden crops. Both the leaves and roots are eaten (different varieties) and the roots are ground and added to coffee or used as a coffee substitute—it’s especially popular in coffee in New Orleans.

Chicory has gone feral over much of America. Growing up in the Midwest, the roadside ditches were filled with the beautiful blue flowers of chicory, and some people collected the leaves or roots to eat. Until I let a radicchio go to seed in my garden, I had forgotten how beautiful the flowers of chicory are. It feels good to be reminded.

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