Botany word of the month.

Farinaceous (syn. farinose)

If a plant is farinaceous, it sports a white, flour-like bloom on the surfaces of its leaves (and sometimes fruit and other plant parts).  This white coating is epicuticular wax (occasionally referred to as farina) found on the outer surfaces of plant cuticles. Why do plants need to be waxed, you may ask?  Well…let me tell you.  The wax helps to repel water and soil particles, which prevents nasty things like bacteria and moulds from attacking the plant.  It also limits the amount of water lost by the plant through transpiration, which is valuable if the plant is stuck in a drought situation.

If you’ve ever grown cabbages, you’ve likely noticed epicuticular wax on them. You’ve undoubtedly spotted it on some apple fruit. And if you delight in succulent gardening, you’re definitely aware of the fact that these adorable and addictively collectible plants are farinaceous.

Just to be a tad more confusing, the leaves (or other plant parts) of a farinaceous plant that have a coating of epicuticular wax are described as being glaucous.  So, that’s pretty much three botany words of the month in one post – bonus!  😉

One genus of farinaceous plants is Chenopodium, which counts lamb’s quarters (C. album) as its most notable (notorious?) member.  Many years ago, I grew magentaspreen (C. giganteum) – you can see evidence of the epicuticular wax on the leaves.

Magenta spreen

Further reading: The Botanist in the Kitchen, The Most Interesting Layer of Wax in the World.

Flowery blurbs, volume 8.

Welcome to another Flowery Blurbs…or, as it may be more appropriately titled, I’ve Got a Mountain of Randomly Scribbled Notes on My Desk and I’m Bursting to Share Some of These Ideas with You.  Not all of these Blurbs will be about growing, but they’re all about plants, in some way, shape or form.  (Think of it as a botanical mashup). So, grab a nice cup of hot tea and ENJOY.

  • A co-worker recently shared this tip with me:  if you’ve purchased a large chunk of gingerroot at the grocery store and you don’t use it all right away, pop it in the freezer.  To prep the root, leave the peel on and chop it into more manageable bits, then throw the pieces in some plastic wrap.  Shortly after I received this excellent gingerroot storage guidance, I read about another way to preserve ginger for future use:  place the root (whole and unpeeled) in a small jar, and completely douse it in vodka.  Put a snug-fitting lid on the jar and store in the fridge.  When you need the root, just haul it out and hack off a chunk, then put the remaining portion back in the vodka.  Of course, this swell idea only works if you don’t have any other plans for your booze.  😉
  • If you’re growing lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) and you’re not using it all in salads, try making a natural weed killer.  Pull a few generous handfuls of the green and pulverize it in an old blender or roughly chop it with a kitchen knife.  Add water to completely cover the mashed pieces and let the whole thing steep for several days.  Strain off the plant parts, retaining the green tea.  More than one application may be required to kill weeds, but it might be worth a try!  One further note:  if you’re adding lamb’s quarters to your own diet, make sure you don’t eat too much of it in one sitting!  The very reason that it works to kill weeds is due to its content of oxalic acid, the same toxin that rhubarb leaves contain.  Now, before you freak out, consider that spinach also has a good amount of oxalic acid in it as well – and we all know how healthy spinach leaves are for you.  “Everything in moderation,” that’s all!  (But don’t eat rhubarb leaves.  Not even in moderation.  They’re really, really poisonous).
  • I’ve been busy researching plants that are useful for dyeing wool and other fibres and I was surprised to find that beetroot is NOT a good dyestuff.  I know, I know, hard to believe, isn’t it?  Beet juice will not actually stain your clothing – it cannot fix to fibres due to the size of the molecules it is made of.  I’m not sure I want to test this theory out, however – especially not on my good white blouse!  My advice:  keep the OxyClean handy anyway!
  • Quick:  do you know what a Brix refractometer is? This space-age-sounding gadget is a tool that measures the sugar content in fruit, vegetables, juices and wines.  Using a Brix refractometer can help out a great deal when it comes to perfectly timing the harvest of a particular crop.  You may be interested in trying one out even if you’re not growing for market or u-pick (there’s something to be said for harvesting crops at their peak, after all).  Take a look at one and read all about how to use it here.
  •  If you are growing elders (Sambucus spp.) in your garden, you probably know that the berries are edible and are often used to make jam, wine, or juice.  But did you know that you can also eat the flowers?  Apparently you can make fritters out of them, among other delicious things.  This is new to me, but I’m itching to try it out, especially as I’ve found this recipe for elderflower fritters that has an accompanying Greek yogourt and honey sauce.  (Don’t get me started on Greek yogourt, I’m hopelessly addicted to the stuff!).  Have you ever eaten elderflower fritters or anything else made of elderflowers?

  • Finally, Olds College has hosted a second lecture in its “Hort Week 2012”  speaker series – this one was a fantastic foray into Residential Landscape Basics, offered by Angela Sommers.  View it for yourself here.