If you like tomatoes, cheese or steak, you're tasting umami. We've all heard that sweet, salty, sour and bitter are the only flavors and that they are the building blocks of complex tastes. But in 1909 Professor Kikunae Ikeda isolated a fifth flavor detectable by human tongues. He named it "umami," from the Japanese words for delicious.
There were some lilacs which hadn't even opened yet, a few without even a hint of a bud, and lots - and lots and lots - in full bloom on the day we went. Tall, short, skinny, or fat, lilacs are all beautiful, and most of them are at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, well-to-do widow and art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner had run out of places to put her art, sculpture, and furniture, so she built herself a museum. The center of her museum was a glass-covered courtyard filled with tropical plants which bloomed all year. And every April, for her birthday, let me tell you what eccentric and beautiful Isabella Stewart Gardner did ...
Gardeners love to grow Impatiens walleriana and its hybrids, garden impatiens. These colorful bedding annuals are available in a huge variety of colors and cultivars, with habits suitable for garden beds, hanging baskets and other containers. They thrive in shady areas (which most of us seem to have) and usually only require regular watering and occasional feeding. But Downy Mildew (Plasmopara obducens) may affect your impatiens.
Are seeds really that good for us, as humans? Obviously, seeds are what birds eat, and other critters too. But aside from those annoying sesame seeds on the sesame-seed-bun, why do people eat seeds at all, now that we have easier to eat, delicious food like refined sugar and white flour?
In the eastern and northern parts of North America, winter was awful this year. Meanwhile, I spent the winter in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, where although I personally got quite chilly a few times, the temperature rarely dipped below freezing. Everyone here got excited because there was snow on Christmas, but it was only a few flurries of stray flakes in my book. Spring means something completely different in Texas than it does in New England.
Euonymus alatus is used frequently by landscapers and homeowners in areas with cold or cool winters for its attractive fiery red fall color. However, here are six reasons you should reconsider before purchasing or planting this invasive plant.
My husband quotes his Irish mother as saying "there are two kinds of people: those who are Irish, and those who wish they were." Ireland, a country of illuminated manuscripts, Latin and Greek scholars, Celts, kings, amazing natural beauty and remarkable literature, was all but toppled by the lowly potato in the 19th century.
Is it hot chocolate? Is it hot cocoa, or just cocoa? What's the difference, anyway? When the Spanish added sugar instead of chili to the bitter hot drink they brought back from the New World, it created a sensation in the courts of Europe. Chocolate drinks were believed to have medicinal value in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it turns out, they just might actually be good for you after all! Who knew?
Cumin has been used in Indian cooking for thousands of years, and in Latin America ever since it was introduced in the late 15th century. What makes this one seasoning nearly as universal as salt? Read about cumin--its uses, its history, its growing habit and ......... how to pronounce it.
People who have heard the expression "as slow as molasses in January" may be surprised to learn that on Wednesday January 15, 1919, molasses moved at a brisk pace through the narrow streets of Boston's Italian North End. Read on to learn about the "Boston Molasses Flood" of 1919, almost 100 years ago.
When the Christmas tree comes in a box that gets stored in the garage, the cookies come hermetically sealed from a factory and the open fire appears crackling on your flat panel screen, take back the visceral connection to your holidays with the fragrance of spices.
This woman was born on December 22, 1912 as Claudia Alta Taylor in Karnack, Texas. She died nearly 95 years later as Lady Bird Johnson, one of the most influential First Ladies the United States has ever known. How did the one become the other, and how do beautification and wildflowers fit in? She brought something lovely to the role of First Lady and the country has, thankfully, never recovered.
Figgy pudding: we know we all want some, but what is it? And what was Mrs. Cratchit doing with the Christmas pudding in Dickens' A Christmas Carol? Plum Pudding and other steamed desserts ... we're not talking about sugary gooey stuff from Jello anymore.
Do you collect old and beautiful bottles, or just have a hard time throwing away pretty ones? As kids on Maine beaches, we all collected sea glass, and cobalt blue was the best. When I arrived in the south, I was delighted to discover the regional craft of bottle trees, displaying bottles in the yard or garden on sticks or on a 'tree'. It turns out that blue bottles are the most sought after for bottle trees, too. Plant a bottle tree in your yard or living room to add glitter with no watering.
The humble northern cranberry has been associated with Thanksgiving and turkey since 1620. It is said that Native Americans first taught the hungry Pilgrims how to eat this acidic berry. Now cranberry sauce is a important part of Christmas in English-speaking countries everywhere, as well as a necessary part of Canadian and American Thanksgivings. Cranberries have been touted recently with having innumerable health benefits. To me, cranberries are a local industry and a delicious easy-to-make side dish.
How did "fall" come to be? I mean, how did it come about that the more evolutionarily successful plants were those that discarded their leaves when the winter equinox approached? How did this whole arrangement get started, anyway? Not all plants lose their leaves, so what is going on?
Most of what we learned in school about Christopher Columbus wasn't true. He wasn't the first person to postulate a spherical world instead of a flat one . He wasn't the first explorer from the Eastern Hemisphere to the Western. The Italian-born Columbus, bank-rolled by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, did eventually find the Caribbean islands, although he remained convinced that he had found the East Indies. But Columbus set off an era of inter-continental exploration and settlement--and started the movement of plants and other organisms from one hemisphere to another.
Have you already gotten your first catalog of spring-blooming bulbs, to be planted in the fall? Are you drooling? It's hard not to. Take a minute to catch your breath, put away your credit card, and give some thought to your spring and summer bulb display. Planting bulbs is a traditional fall family activity in much of the world, but it pays to take a little time to plan before you dig.
Autumn means different things to different people, but everyone has a list of fall gardening chores. In New England winter comes on faster every year, somehow, and I feel less prepared every year. Maybe it's as I learn more, the list of things I feel I absolutely have to do gets longer. Here, I humbly offer the wimpy chilly person's guide to fall gardening chores.
Chenopodium Quinoa is an ancient food that is becoming more and more popular and getting lots of press as a healthy and delicious menu option. Quinoa is packed with protein and important vitamins, so even if you're a confirmed carnivore, you should take a look at this nutritious relative of spinach. Who knew? (And why did Pizarro forbid its cultivation?)
There's a contest and you haven't voted yet! It's the American Garden Award for the best new flower of 2012, and gardeners just like you have the opportunity to vote on the specific annual you think should get this prestigious award. Dave's Garden readers have the numbers to affect the outcome of this vote. Read on for more details...
"THE LANTANA GROWS IN POPULARITY" scream the headlines of the 1937 New York Times Gardening section. "Grow Lantana for Your Butterfly Gardens!" or "Best Lantana Selection in Florida!" announce current gardening resources. If you haven't grown this colorful, easy-care annual, maybe it's time to learn more about it.
Since my family's move to hot, dry Texas from cold, wet Massachusetts, water and its presence or absence have been on my mind a lot! There's plenty of trivia about water to go around: 90% of our planet is covered with it, our bodies are 60% water (depending on age, gender, and other factors), but what do we really know about it, and why does it matter so much to gardeners?
We all know people who made a killing on eBay. They decorated their house with eBay purchases (and it shows). We know people who are nearly addicted to the bidding process, for whom the chase is more important than the actual item. Then there are the sad cases of folks planning to put their child through college by buying undervalued designer purses at yard sales and reselling them on eBay. But what about plants? Is it wise to purchase them on eBay, especially when we have our own Marketplace right here?
I fell in love with Calibrachoa the first time I saw them. Of course I bought one or two. They appealed to the container gardener in me: a plant in miniature, where texture happens on a small scale and petite and perky trump brash and bold. "They're miniature petunias" I said smugly to my husband. Smugness didn't get me far with my new plants, and I didn't have my grandmother's luck with petunias (or her hired gardener). I soon concluded that "miniature petunias" and I were not to be.
Those of us with allergies are in a constant battle with those of us with none. But what do allergies say about our gardening style...does a pollen allergy mean you can't (or shouldn't) garden? How do you get around it if you just have to garden?
Many people dislike olives the first time they try them, but oh, once you acquire the taste, you become curious! Would they taste as good on a pizza as they do in that salad? (Oh, yes!) Where do they come from, what makes them so special, and are they a fruit, a vegetable, or what?
Caffeine: you can chew caffeinated gum, use caffeinated soap or even caffeinated lip balm. Cosmetics promise you will look brighter and more alert if you use their caffeine-containing creams. More plants contain caffeine than you're probably aware of, some of which you can grow and some of which are found only deep in the Amazon jungle. It is the only known psychoactive drug that can be sold with absolutely no regulation. Caffeine has been keeping humans awake for thousands and thousands of years. Exactly where does this enervating chemical occur, and how does it benefit the plant producing it?
It's Saint Valentine's Day, February 14! It's a day to give a superhero or princess valentine to everyone in first grade, or to buy your sweetheart at least one rose, if not dozens of them! It's a day to present your significant other with the biggest most ostentatious card you can find, the one that says "for all the million ways I love you...." and then lists them each in great detail (it's a big card). It's DEFINITELY a day to give that special someone chocolate (a known aphrodisiac*). But what happened to St. Valentine, and what is this article doing on a gardening site?
From mischievous gnomes to laughing Buddhas to bottle trees, we have plenty of choices of what art we put in our gardens. Why on earth would we want a statue of a medieval monk in our 21st century garden? Read more about this visionary figure...
January is the perfect month to celebrate hot tea! By January, the chill has really started to settle into our bones here in New England (and parts of the world that experience cold winters). Hot tea is the perfect antidote for the inevitable sore throats and icy feet. So lift your mug of chai, green tea, Irish Breakfast or an herbal concoction from your own garden in salute to Camellia sinensis!
Why do we have oranges in the tip of our Christmas stockings, whether it's just any old sock or a cherished, hand-made creation or maybe something store-bought? Why an orange? SPOILER ALERT: If you don't like finding out where traditions originate, read no further. You might find out more than you wanted to about Santa Claus.
Many of us put up one (or more) decorated and lighted trees, inside our homes and out in December. Lots of these trees have presents under them. Have you ever wondered why? Where, when and how did these curious customs originate?
We've all heard of sugarplums; they're part of Christmastime, right? They dance in children's heads, or do they dance in ballets? Let's unravel the confusion surrounding this historical sweet, and try to discover the true sugarplum, both in history and today . . .
On November 11, 1933, the first giant dust storm, dubbed "The Great Black Blizzard," hit the Great Plains. What caused this phenomenon and the increasingly frequent dust storms of the 1930s in the United States? Were they preventable, predictable, man-made, or flukes of nature? A look at United States history from a gardener's perspective can shed some interesting light. (NB: this is NOT your U.S. history class from high school!)
On October 31, U.S. children of all ages dress up in costumes and witches and spirits are thought to roam the earth. If you like Theme Gardens, why not consider a Halloween Garden? There are plenty of plants to fill a Halloween Garden in any climate, from "Black Magic Repellant Plant" to numerous cultivars with names like 'Masquerade' and 'Tango Halloween'. You can fill a whole garden with other scary plants and flowers, in any zone, and have a Halloween tango in your garden every summer night, not just October 31, if you're not too spooked by the idea.