Sunday, June 8, 2014

An Attempt at Research

Hi everyone, this is Madeline.

I have a thing for herbs (if my last post about the pressed plants hasn't made it obvious). As I headed off to school last semester, I couldn't help but think, "My school is a large, Land Grant, research institution with a large horticulture section in the library. I bet I can find a whole bunch of information on the herbs in our herb garden there..." And thus I set out on a mission to learn about the herbs in our herb garden.

I don't know if anyone has mentioned the herb garden yet, but I, my mom, and some other volunteers planted the herb garden a number of years ago outside of the summer kitchen. The idea was to cultivate a small garden similar to what Caroline and her family might have grown. It currently houses a number of popular plants: tansy, mint, lavender, chives, rhubarb, oregano, lemon balm, catmint, ginger (coming soon!), and supposedly some Cuban oregano from my family's own, thriving stock. We have plans to revamp the garden, too.

So anyway, off I went to the library during Finals week, armed with my list of herbs. I felt pretty sure of myself, marching past the frantic, last-minute studiers, straight to one of rows in the Horticulture section. I ended up mid-alphabet, and scanned the rows for either mint, lavender, or lemon balm. Behold! A whole section on lavender! I opened up one friendly-looking book, only to discover an unbelievably long list (like over a page of normal-sized font) of subspecies of the lavender family, each with its own, subtly unique properties. I had no idea that so many varieties of lavender existed! Needless to say, I have no idea which variety is currently growing in our garden, and the books I found on other herbs were not much less detailed. In a way, it was a loss: I walked away with no more information on our herbs. I do, however, have my next little project: figure out exactly what type of plants we have before returning for research.

On the plus side, though, I got a good laugh out of finding these potato yearbooks from the mid-1900's. Talk about a random find! Upon sharing this with Erika, she informed me that we have a similar, older one of Caroline's in the Homestead for apples. I will definitely be investigating this during the summer.

P.S. A Potato-Related Historical Nugget: Did you know that potatoes are not native to Ireland, but rather South America? They were domesticated by the Native Americans and later brought to Europe. We learned in my World Crops and Cropping Systems class that the Irish Potato Famine was so bad because Ireland was heavily relying on one variety of potato, and when I say "heavily relying," I mean that this one variety of potato constituted most of the population's diet. The potato crop failed when a blight appeared, and thus the country descended into famine. The population of Ireland has still not recovered from the massive death and emigration caused by this tragedy.

Moral of the story: diversification is key in all aspects of life.