The Superhydrophobicity of Kale

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Kevin is Portuguese. He grew up on salted cod fish and boiled things thrown together. Unfortunately, I dont like either of those things.  I try to find a middle ground, in the end I end up making this dish often. It is that perfect agreement between any relationship – he gets his chorizo and I get to feed him a hefty amount of kale. We both win. Spicy smoked meat combined with a veggie that is one of the nutritionally dense – with a serving containing significant amounts of vitamin c, calcium, carotenes, B vitamins, chlorophyll etcetera etcetera.

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It is also my favorite thing to grow in the garden. It grows all year long (here in Berkeley) and one plant can be harvested endlessly (or so it seems).

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These days Kale’s reign over the lesser vitamin packed veggies is known (to the point of becoming trite), but the thing that has always amazed me the most about it was the when washing it there would be little beads of water that would form and slide off its waxy cuticle. Scientific and very magical.
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This was my first encounter with Biomimicry and as I now know something called “The Lotus Effect”. It is this superhydrophobicity (as they call it) that has inspired water repelling clothing and paints. It is a natural mechanism that through a microscopic rough structure and protrusions of hydrophobic waxy nature allows a plant to self clean, which happens when the water droplets slide off effortlessly taking dirt away with them.

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This soup is a consistent hit and insanely easy and malleable to additions.
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New Bedford Portuguese Kale Soup
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Bundle or two of Kale
One Large Onion
2 Chourico or Chorizo
8 Cups of Chicken Broth
Olice Oil
6 Cloves of Garlic
Can of Cannellini Beans
Paprika or Cayenne
Salt and Pepper
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Saute onions first in olive oil and then add garlic. Add slives chourico for a minute. Add liquid and simmer for 10 minutes.
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Rinse kale and tear leafy portions from stems. Add kale. (You can add potatoes here to if you like them) Simmer for 30 minutes. Then add beans if desired.

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Plant of the Week: Achillea Ageratum ‘Moonwalker’

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My first interaction with Yarrow was almost ten years ago when an ex-boyfriend cut himself in the shower unexpectedly (don’t ask). One of my industrious friends said that we should put yarrow on it because she had done so once when diving head first into a swimming hole and her gaping wound had healed wonderfully. So we made a poultice and pressed it against the wound. At the time, it seemed very magical to gather something from the garden and use it as a medicene, which is something I had never thought of.

Yarrow or Sweet Maudlin or English Mace or Sneezewort or scientifically known as Achillea can be found all over the world, though the origins of its name is most certainly Greek. It’s name being derived from the Greek myth of Achilles. In the Iliad, Achilles soldiers use yarrow to treat their wounds.

These pictures are of Achillea Ageratum “Moonwalker” my most favorite of all the yarrows.

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Yarrows uses are prolific and varied and go back centuries and can be seen very clearly even today. The phyto-therapeutic uses of Achillea can be inspected in the many papers I was able to find that study the anti fungal, anti-imflammatory, antimicrobial (just a few of its) properties. Some of the papers having names such as,

“Cytostatic activity of Achillea ageratum L.” or ”Essential oil composition and antimicrobial activity of wild and cultivated Moroccan Achillea ageratum L.: a rare and threatened medicinal species.” or ”Study of the topical anti-inflammatory activity of Achillea ageratum on chronic and acute inflammation models.”

In the Middle Ages, Achillea Ageratum, was used as a strewing herb to repel moth, lice, ticks and to spread a generally good smell. (At that time people did not shower as often so the spreading of fragrant herbs upon the floors of a household became popular and as people stepped upon the herbs the smells would emanate and their benefits released.)

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Yarrow stalks were also famously used as traditional tools for casting the I Ching.

If divination weren’t enough, yarrow is also of use to the single woman, it is said they were used as aids to find a husband. In Ireland women would dig up the plant and place it under their pillow and supposedly would then dream of their future husband.

I have also read it to be an ancient Viagra leading to other names such as “Old Man’s pepper-pot” and “Bad mans plaything”.

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Other than being a marvelous plant with medicinal properties and a fantastic history they are EASY! I have been the laziest bum in the entire century this season and in this horrible year of drought and my insistence in not watering once, it has come back in all it’s glory, persistently and perfectly. Drought tolerant and an easy cut flower, it’s ferny foliage is delicate, hardy, and beautiful. It is beneficial to insects and makes the perfect landing pads for butterflies. Ageratum is especially beautiful in my opinion and the roundedness of each of its little flowers makes me love it.
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(P.S. This is Maggie. A lifelong friend and a clown! She is about to run off to Peru for the sixth time to join Patch Adams on one of his yearly humanitarian clown missions. The garden is also in sort of full bloom and it was a pleasure to spend some time with her. )

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Into Out There

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Susan Sontag once was quoted saying, “What I really wanted was every kind of life…..”

 With those words is my most prized trait and the pain in my side. I want so much. With occasional effort I attempt to rein it in but in the end it is the engine that moves me towards new tomorrows and impractical hobbies, so I go with it. It really is bothersome to want so many things at the same time. This weekend was no exception to my never-ending love for everything, these days though I do try to harness it into all things natural and the inherent processes of the beauty and movement of it.

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 It is so familiar to see how when one makes a decision, billions of smaller compromises follow suit, agreements not made, but consequences of said decisions. Build a house, care for a cat, make a home that strangely begins to becomes part of your identity, try to create a business that attempts to synthesizes hopeful dreams. It goes on and on, one thing building upon the other. One decision is a hidden glacier of other decisions beneath it. Decision making, if one is consistent (and all the best decisions usually are) can often be the glue that binds you to space and a specific path.  Decisions are really what make a person and define them into a form.

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Conscious decisions have bound me, and since consistency is an aim, I try, but some days I just really am all wanderlust. Why can’t we just run off for a month and hike the John Muir Trail? What if we moved to Portugal for six months? Let’s just move to Alaska so Kevin can go fishing? Trans Siberian Railroad?
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Wandering is a decision that is the anti-decision, the erratic resolutions of youth.

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We went to Yosemite and around this weekend. There we met wandering travelers, Disneyland like nature scenes, we met a woman with blue hair and cancer braid that symbolized recovery, saw ruins of abandon mining towns, proud girls traveling alone across the country, middle-aged and elderly joy seekers, soaked in sulfuric water with mud with remnants of hair, and we walked.

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Walking, the march up the mountain, gave this weekend a sense of  comprehension and spoke to me of how important it will be for me to go into out there. There, meaning this space that is quiet and a little bit dangerous but really just beautiful and tiring in the best way possible.
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And then there are plants. It is amazing to see plants in the spaces they were meant to be. I see how disconnected the words are when I see that a plant is native to a certain location and then I plant it and it becomes mine in my own space, without origins. I like discovering origins. Oh, the Wild flowers! – that are really wild and surviving in the places they fit perfectly into. Consistent, dependent, and form fitting to place.

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I made a decision this weekend that I would like to walk more. It takes away the edge off of the practically sedentary lifestyle of an urban environment. That sort of expansiveness really connects you to the whole circle and picture of why and where and how decisions are made.
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In the end, what I really want is an every kind of life, surrounded by lots of plants and views.

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From the Garden: Dill Cucumbers

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I grew up playing classical piano. In this I learned to have an essential connection between hand eye coordination, I liked this graceful hidden line between hand and eyes. There were hard and fast rules. Counting, timings, placements and everything that goes along with processing and reading a piece of music.

Then you get older and you realize there are things called jazz and classic rock and punk and crazy sounds that don’t even sound like music. There are made up rules of course there but they are all a little bit more flexible and louder than the classics. A little bit more space to breathe without an established set of standards. In my less creative moments I have often thought to myself “But blank said blank so this is so.” It’s hard to forget sometimes that there are no rules. The best ones write the rules.

I think about this a lot when I garden and when I cook. Sometimes when I do things I get caught up in this sense of order. I get busy then I forget to water the cucumbers for two days. At this point they wilt, they get stressed out. Plants get stressed out, did you know? Just like humans, they get sick. They are more likely to get aphids or get bacterial wilt. At this point I just want to throw them out. The rules have been broken, I am dissapointed but want to move on with a clean slate. Lately, I’ve been deciding to let this go. Freestyling what happens next. Water more, trim back, experiement solutions, and working with failure. I tend to forget that there is no book. Many things worth finding out have yet to be discovered. There are solutions that have not been sussed out.

I am a good menu planner, I like curating meals. Yet, I usually just find a recipe and follow the recipe and in this processing it becomes truth. Lately I have been trying to retrain my mind to reframe, rules do not exist. Kevin is good at that. I try to think to myself, What does it mean to be a dill cucumber? I wonder what people were thinking when they first decided to lacto-ferment/ferment a peice of food. How did the idea that almost rotting food is actually good for you? I know there needs to be salt, vinegar, often a little sugar, a lot of waiting. There are some sense of what is right or wrong (the science of cooking), flexible usually, and then everything else is just flare. Anything you want, within reason, maybe out of it to.

Here is the recipe I chose, it is a good base. This one is quick simple refrigerator pickle but really anything can be added to it. Cardamom, cinnamon, peppers, spices, dries berries, there are probably a million things you can add to a pickle to make it more interesting. I like to start with simple and then elaborate. Then I try to remember that there are no rules, always experiment, create your solutions.

Dill Cucumbers

4 Cups of Cucumber Spears or desired shape

3 1/2 Cups of Water

Some Dill, Fresh

A couple of cloves of Garlic

1 1/4 Cups of White Vinegar

1 Tablespoon of Sugar

1 Table Spoon of Salt

Flare to your hearts Desire

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- Combine water , vinegar, sugar and sea salt in a sauce pan. Boil and set aside to cool.

- Put cucumber spears, garlic, dill and whatever else you would like into a mason jar and pour cooled vinegar mixture over. Seal and refrigerate for at least 3 days.

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Marimo : The Love Plant

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Once upon a time there were two lovers in Japan, they lived near a lake named Akan. The young girls Father, who was the Tribal Chief, did not approve of the two lovers union. One fateful night they ran away and went swimming in the lake. It was here that they drowned and slowly floated to the bottom of the lake and became Marimo, forever to float together.

This is the story that local tribes in Japan might tell you to explain the existence of the amazing species of algae. Marimo, so named by Japanese botanist Tatsuhiko Kawakami, were “discovered” in the 1820s by Dr. Anton Sauter. They can be found in Iceland, Estonia, and a handful of places around the world. They are slow growing, growing about 5mm a year, and do so when the balls photosynthesize by floating on the lake bottom and hitting there many velvety green sides, therefore photosynthesizing with the wavelike motion. In Japan they are considered a national treasure and in Iceland they call them Lake Rollers.

Marimo, or as they can also be called Aegagropila linnaei, can live up to 100 years and have often been passed down the generations. This is not so hard to imagine because they are extremely easy to take care of. Change their water once every couple weeks (shhhh I have forgotten for weeks at a time and they have been fine) and add a little bubbly water of they look listless and Tada! you have a forever ball (well, almost). They also do not like direct sunlight so make sure to keep them somewhere with bright indirect sunlight. If it gets too hot you can put them in the fridge as long as it doesn’t go below 32 degrees.

In Japan people give them to the person they hope to spend the rest of their lives with. I like the idea of giving them to a best friend too. They are also known as the Love Plant and are said to mend relationships. They are perfect for beginners and plant killers. Put them in any receptacle that will hold water and decorate as you please, I have even seen them housed with beta fish. Terraria have two sizes in the shop right now.

WWW.VIVATERRARIA.COM

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