Friday, 29 May 2009

Viva Vavilov

For those of you who are interested in learning more about the work of N.I. Vavilov, the great Russian botanist, plant collector and geneticist, you can read more about him here: Vaviblog. Jeremy Cherfas of Bioversity International, sent me the link and I found the mix of quotes from Vavilov's diary, interspersed with comments from Jeremy and others, to be fascinating. If you're not interested in food plants and their origins, you may not find this as absorbing as I did. I humbly suggest that you never darken my blog with your presence again.

Vavilov lived an event-filled life and by rights ought to have featured in one of Eisenstein's films as a Soviet uber-hero. Unfortunately for him, he fell foul of Stalin's regime and ironically, for one who worked tirelessly to promote food security, ended up starving to death in prison.


Can we, I wonder, persuade some Hollywood movie mogul to take up the baton on Comrade Nikolai's behalf? Vavilov's life has all the elements of a drama by Sophocles, with stunning locations on five continents as a backdrop. I can see, perhaps, Brad Pitt as Vavilov and Tommy Lee Jones as Lysenko, or then again perhaps not. Putative title: No Country For Bold Men. Or I'm thinking maybe we could get Pedro Almodovar back to direct Vavivolver with Penelope Cruz as Mrs Vavilov. It's that important a story.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Radix Resurgent!

Well, maybe not quite. I'll admit that my posts seem to have withered on the vine somewhat of late. Thankfully this is not the case for most of my plants, which seem to be doing OK. The weather has been a little bit depressing, courtesy of a succession of Atlantic fronts that have brought some distinctly cool, grey and rainy weather, with unseasonably cold winds. The mauka twins seem to be doing fine in it, as Lost Crops of the Incas suggested they might. The oca seedlings are waiting patiently in pots for their own coming of age in my spud-in-a-bin meets ring culture face-off. Pictures of the whole saga will be revealed when conditions are right, that is when I can banish the SAD (sick of Atlantic depressions) syndrome that seems to be plaguing my psyche at present and get off my ischial prominences and just do it. Procrastination - 50% of the population do it and the other 50% are lying.



On the mauka front, Frank van Keirsbilck has sent me an image of a flower on his mauka. Here it is:

The similarity between mauka and the well-known ornamental four o'clock flower aka Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa) is noticeable, although mauka flowers are much smaller. As scratch and sniff technology is not yet available on this blog at least, I'll have to ask Frank whether they are scented or not.


With a bit of luck he may put Belgium on the map as the home of the first mauka seed crop in Europe. In another coup, he has managed to obtain two new varieties of this plant from that well known centre of Mirabilis research, the Czech Republic. I sent some cuttings of my two mauka varieties to my friend and phenomenal plant collector Ulrike and she reports that hers too are flowering. I must be doing something wrong as not a single flower bud has appeared on any of my plants.

Hold on, latest news from Frank (see comments below) is that it isn't his image but that of Jean-Luc Muselle of Le Potager Gourmand, another passionate plant collector located in Belgium whose website is well worth a look. (Apologies Jean-Luc).

Strange envelopes and parcels continue to arrive unbidden at regular intervals, veritable quinquiremes of Nineveh with their own exotic cargoes. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Scheldewindeke and Hythe are a couple of biodiversity hot spots that Vavilov missed. There was a man, when comes such another?
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