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Article: Sentimental Specimens: In the Blood

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Forum: Article: Sentimental SpecimensReplies: 2, Views: 7
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Albuquerque, NM

June 20, 2011
12:45 PM

Post #8642786

Yes, we inherit gardening tendencies---in my case, it was my mother's sense of adventure as she read the seed catalogs every January. Mother planted the usual midwestern things like tomatoes and corn and snap beans and very good they were too but---she excelled at trying something different. I think she grew the first eggplant that Altona, Illinois had ever seen. Strange, turbaned squash snaked out of the vegetable plot and over our entire yard another memorable year. Her greatest achievement was actually poisonous but so impressive that it didn't matter. She read somewhere that a castor bean border around the vegetable garden would help repel insect pests. Mom planted the beans, taking care to caution the neighbor kids that eating the beans would make them sick, and was pleased to see that the castor plants seemed to flourish. Then it began to rain. It was the wettest summer that part of Illinois had seen in twenty years, accompanied by incredibly hot temperatures. Sometimes a wet, hot fog hung over the ground for hours. The castor beans, natives of the tropics, happily lapped it all up. They reached fifteen feet tall. The stalks were so big around that I mounted my archery target on one of them. Most of the vegetable garden the beans were supposed to protect either died under the shade they cast or drowned in the repeated monsoons but it sort of didn't matter. Mother had grown the talk of the neighborhood, maybe the whole town.

Fifty years later, like Mother, I regularly succumb to the odd, the unusual, and sometimes the just plain weird. I have two American persimmons growing in my front yard. It's in the high desert. I repeated Mom's cucubit experiment, producing a Tahitian squash vine that instantly left my yard and took over my neighbor's entire patio instead. I got to feed and water it. She got the squash. Fortunately, she was a kind and generous soul and shared a few of them. I've grown beans so wild that the pods burst before the beans were mature, Hopi limas, supposedly bush types, that climbed to the top of a standard apple tree, and bitter melon that actually frightened the man next door since the melons split open when they are ripe, dripping bright red pulp and seeds on the ground. They look alive---and bleeding.

I'm thinking about a paw-paw. Since the persimmons survived (well, it took four tries but I love persimmon pudding), how hard could a paw-paw be?
Ellendale, DE
(Zone 7a)

June 21, 2011
10:56 AM

Post #8644786

I love your story. You should consider inquring at Dave's Garden as a writer. There is a place in our informational area that outlines the steps involved.
Oklahoma City, OK

June 21, 2011
4:00 PM

Post #8645437

Love the "blood and gore" of the bitter melon, too!
I had a similar experience with castor beans. My oldest son thought they were pretty awesome but my daughter thought they looked "evil".

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