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Archive for July, 2016

Bananas Are Berries?

By Greta Lorge

Oddballs of the produce stand, tomatoes and avocados are fruits, as most people know. Yet more often than not they’re found alongside vegetables in savory culinary preparations. Working on this issue of the magazine got me wondering what it is, exactly, that makes a fruit a fruit. It turns out that the plant world is full of strange cases of counterintuitive classification.

Botanists define a fruit as the portion of a flowering plant that develops from the ovary. It contains the seeds, protecting them and facilitating dispersal. (The definition of a vegetable is a little fuzzier: any edible part of a plant that isn’t a fruit.) Subcategories within the fruit family—citrus, berry, stonefruit or drupe (peaches, apricots), and pome (apples, pears)—are determined by which parts of the flower/ovary give rise to the skin, flesh and seeds.

Strawberries and raspberries aren’t really berries in the botanical sense. They are derived from a single flower with more than one ovary, making them an aggregate fruit. True berries are simple fruits stemming from one flower with one ovary and typically have several seeds. Tomatoes fall into this group, as do pomegranates, kiwis and—believe it or not—bananas. (Their seeds are so tiny it’s easy to forget they’re there.)

One might think that owing to their superficial similarities to stonefruits, avocados might be classified as drupes. But no, they’re actually considered a berry, too—with one, giant seed.

So, bananas are berries and raspberries aren’t. Who knew?

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Tomato Beds

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“The past couple of springs I’ve written about new research  on controlling tomato viruses, from Texas A & M University, and tried their recommended methods. It didn’t control all of the virus problems, thanks to an unusually wet, cool and humid spring we had last season, but I still saw considerable improvements, and will continue with their methods this year.

The methods I use for helping to control tomato virus (often called, “the wilt.”) are as follows. First, I incorporate agricultural cornmeal into the soil early in the year and again just before planting. Whether your local feed store calls it agricultural. cornmeal, or simply ground corn feed, it’s the same thing. Texas A & M has demonstrated that pulverized corn, with some cobs and husks, it’s worked into the soil and causes the growth of beneficial bacteria which attack tomato virus in the soil. I apply 2 lbs. of cornmeal and 1 lb. of dry molasses (which studies show helps the cornmeal work better) per 12 feet of tomato row, poured on top then mixed into the soil…”

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