Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Flor de Pita, for Lent

During the penitential season of Lent, the yucca of South Texas bloom; their blossoms are a traditional food of early spring.

imageSpanish bayonet (Yucca aloifoli)

Fayette County, TX

March 13, 2010

Photo: Human Flower Project

Five and more years ago, when we were digging with special dirt-sailing tenacity for specifically Texan flower customs, we heard tell that in some parts of the state yucca flowers were eaten.  But where, by whom, when, why, how? Finally last weekend, the mystery popped.

Cristina Balli, program director of Texas Folklife, and her associate Michelle Mejía, had toodled us down to Schulenburg for youth accordion auditions at the Sengelmann Hall. As we talked (waiting for squeezers to show up), Cristina recalled, “My mom used to cook flor de pita” – yucca—“and right around this time, during Lent.”

Cristina said that her mother, Antonia H. Balli, learned how to make yucca blooms into a meal from her own mother, Quirina Cruz de Hinojosa. Quirina grew up in Jalisco but after moving to Northern Mexico encountered Yucca aloifolia, which grows abundantly on both sides of the border near Matamoros/Brownsville.

Just as the dramatic plant blooms, in early spring, practicing Catholics are looking for meatless foods in observance of Lent. The luscious white and purple flowers, blooming throughout the brushy “monte” of the region, make a fine seasonal dish. One web source we’ve found claims that yucca flowers “have a clean, mild taste somewhat reminiscent of snow peas.” Cristina’s word is “bitter.” She calls flor de pita “an acquired taste.” (The same might be said for penance.)

As we drove prattling back up Highway 77 toward La Grange, Cristina jammed on the breaks just north of the St. Mary’s turnoff. Here was a stupendous stand of yucca in full bloom.

(We’re fairly sure this is Yucca aloifoli, known in Anglo Texas a Spanish bayonet; Spanish dagger, Yucca Gloriosa is lots more common around Austin.)

Continue Reading

Posted by Julie on 03/17 at 11:04 AM
CookingCulture & SocietyReligious RitualsPermalink

Friday, March 12, 2010

There’s More to Life than Squirrels

Crocus and sweet box are blooming in Louisville. Allen Bush isn’t declaring victory but he’s out-of-doors, working with winter on its concession speech.

imageSasa veitchii, in the author’s alley garden, March 2010

Photo: Allen Bush

By Allen Bush

Cold and gray is the lonesome price of a Kentucky winter.  I pay little mind to the garden for three long months except to tap the kitchen window to shoo the squirrels away from the bird feeder.  A sweet-scented, yellow-flowering Witch Hazel, Hamamelis mollis ‘Wisley Supreme’ ignores the winter forecast and blooms triumphantly for weeks in February and early March.  I can also see bits of green that freckle the brown hued landscape of Hydrangeas seed heads and Panicum leaves. 

My wife Rose contends I have it in for evergreens, but I don’t completely disown them. I can point to two pencil-thin boxwoods, Buxus ‘Graham Blandy,’ standing at attention in the back garden, and a young Yucca rostrata nearby, with leaves—like rigid-swords—that form a lovely hemisphere.  Sasa veitchii, a medium-sized bamboo down by the back alley, has 10” lance-shaped leaves whose edges turn the palest brown after a hard autumn freeze. But none of these are the green, sculpted conifers that Rose wants so badly. The Taxus topiary hedge-in-progress, pruned to look like a big sofa, at the end of the scree garden, is my concession to green blobs.

Continue Reading

Posted by Julie on 03/12 at 11:16 PM
Gardening & LandscapePermalink

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It Looks Ready

How firmly to cut back the roses? How lackadaisical to be this spring in the garden, or how obsessive? John Levett is back at it.


“After a brief interlude of faith-loss”—it’s time.

The gardener begins again

Photo: John Levett

By John Levett

When I was young I liked going to chapel. I didn’t turn up at one on a whim; my mum sent me to Sunday School. I think she was a believer of the Pragmatist School—if there’s something in it you’ll be getting in on the ground floor of salvation; if there isn’t you’ll have a nice few afternoons listening to stories & bashing out some songs.

Not for me. I took to it wholeheartedly. I took to the chapel, the prayer meetings, the Bible study classes, the youth club, the three-times-on-a-Sunday services, the witnessing on the streets & the knocking on doors. It was all the community that I’d never had & I was accepted in totality for what I was. It became my life. Until it wasn’t any more. After a brief interlude of faith-loss I joined the Young Communist League. Different book; same routine.

Just before last Christmas I was watching David Harvey’s online lecture course on Marx’s Capital. After the last session I recalled a similar exercise in interpretation when I was a chapel goer. I’d bought a three-volume study course called ‘Search the Scriptures’ which was designed to take one through the Bible in three years. I must have started the course four or five times; never starting from where I’d left off, always starting from Lesson 1. It was a great lesson that Lesson 1; at a push I could probably recall its substance but never made it to the last volume.

Continue Reading

Posted by Julie on 03/10 at 02:55 PM
Art & MediaGardening & LandscapePermalink

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Botanical Gardens, It’s Time to Make Our Case for Plant Research

James Wandersee and Renee Clary see the economics of botanical science changing. For plant research programs to survive within botanical gardens, they may need to show profits and/or make the benefits of their discoveries better known.

imageA Louisiana first-grader studying leaf structure

Photo: Vermilion Parish Schools

By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary

EarthScholars™ Research Group

A recent Human Flower Project article entitled “Mr. Bromeliad Heads for Singapore,” presented the story of a famous Florida botanical garden that is losing some of its acclaimed research scientists, as that institution trims its budget and juggles multiple priorities. Recently, two of the garden’s orchid experts were dismissed, and now “Mr. Bromeliad,” Harry Luther, has left for a new job in Singapore.

The back-story source hyperlinked in the essay suggests that the garden’s current board is not principally interested in botany and considers plant science research to be tangential to its newly emphasized garden focus of engaging the public with plants—in aesthetic and utilitarian ways. 

From a different perspective, one of the fired scientists put it this way: “Science, I think, intimidates the board. They don’t understand it; they don’t like it; they have no interest in it.” Another said, “I don’t think they see any value in the [botanical] research.” (quoted in Levey-Baker, 2010). As a result, the garden may have lost its hard-won, international scientific reputation as an orchid and bromeliad research center.

Continue Reading

Posted by Julie on 03/07 at 05:24 PM
Culture & SocietyGardening & LandscapeSciencePermalink
Page 2 of 3 pages  < 1 2 3 >