Is Much of the Nutrition Just Under the Potato Skin?

Food, Health
The part of the potato just below the outer skin is the cortex. Just below the cortex is the vascular system. People claim just under the potato skin is its most nutritious part. Yet, the average consumer discards the skin and part of the cortex when he or she prepares the starchy tubers. To counter this, some choose not to peel their potatoes, but to wash and eat the entire potato. Anatomy of a Potato A naive viewpoint would assume the potato is simply a brown skin covering an ellipsoid of uniform, white starchy material. The potato has a number of distinguishable anatomical features, in fact. First there is the skin of a potato. It is called the periderm. Moving into the interior, we next encounter the cortex. Next is…
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Black Walnut: A Beauty and a Beast Among Trees

Nature, Plants
What comes to your mind when you think of black walnut trees? Do you visualize the tree's attractive bark hiding the beauty of its deep rich-brown wood? Or perhaps it is the green globe husk-encased nuts hanging in clusters, typically in twos and threes. Maybe it is the kernels of nut-meat that are so bitter and hard to remove from their shells? Others think of the earthy brown dye that can be produced from the hulls, or the elixir they yield that kills parasitic worms and bacteria. Finally, there are others who see the half-empty glass. They are concerned by the knowledge that some plants don't thrive in the presence of black walnut. [caption id="attachment_27121" align="alignright" width="300"] Nuts in shells; husks removed.[/caption] Juglans Nigra The Latin name for the black…
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What Factors Caused the 1840’s Irish Potato Famine?

History, Plants
[caption id="attachment_27084" align="alignright" width="480"] Great potatoes![/caption]I've already written about how one disaster led to my being alive today. Nothing less than a war – the War of 1812. Yet another disaster, worse than the first, that led up to my existence was the tragic 1840's Irish Potato Famine. I wrote of that, as well in Misfortune Gave Me Life. But what factors combined to produce the Irish potato famine of the 1840's? Irish Potato Famine: A Cause or Causes? An occurrence attributed to one particular factor is all-too-often actually results from a number of significant factors. Event X did not have a cause, it had causes. What causative factors led to the great Irish potato famine? [caption id="attachment_27086" align="alignright" width="200"] Phytophthora infestans infected potato.[/caption] A Fungus Among Us It is…
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How Much Does a Fly Hitting a Train Slow It Down?

Mathematics, Physics
[caption id="attachment_27068" align="alignright" width="480"] The Scenario: a fly hitting a train.[/caption]Say you have a train, a locomotive traveling along a straight railroad track. The atmosphere is absolutely free of every conceivable impediment except for one lone housefly. Unfortunately (for the fly), it and the train collide head-on. You have a fly hitting a train. Clearly, the fly will turn into a smear. How much does that fly slow the train down that it has hit? The train will suffer no apparent change in speed, yet it does slow down, even if there is no obvious change. How much does it slow down? Fly Hitting a Train: Specific Numbers We will attempt to use realistic numbers. We choose the following: Locomotive: 4,000 tons [a light train] Fly: 14 milligrams Locomotive Speed:…
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Differences Between Citric and Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

Chemistry
Two familiar acids, found in citrus fruit, are citric acid and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). But what are these acids and how are they different? First, consider the structure of these two food acids. Examine the Image The two acids look different, yet somehow they look similar. Each has a ring, or what almost passes as a ring, and each contains an abundance of oxygen atoms (O). There are three carboxylic acid groups –C=O(OH) are found in the citric acid molecule. On the other hand, ascorbic acid contains no carboxylic acid groups. Yet it, too, is acidic, about as acidic as vinegar. Citric acid with its carboxylic acid groups is the more acidic acid and so is more sour to the taste. But why is ascorbic acid acidic if it…
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The Indian Strawberry Vs. The Wild Strawberry

Food, Plants
[caption id="attachment_27024" align="alignright" width="480"] Indian Strawberry - Image by Kurt Stuber[/caption]The Indian strawberry, also known as the mock strawberry (Duchesnea indica) with its small yellow flowers and red fruits is often seen in lawns. It resembles a tiny strawberry, but the seed to pulp ratio is high and, despite its name, affords the eater little in the way of flavor. The Wild or Woodlands Strawberry There is another fruit that is often seen in similar terrain as the Indian strawberry. It is the Wild or Woodlands strawberry (Fragaria vesca). Differing from the Indian strawberry, the Wild strawberry offers lovely fragrance and rich flavor. [caption id="attachment_27020" align="alignright" width="380"] Wild Strawberries - Image by Ural-66[/caption] Additional differences include its small white flowers. And its seeds are not on top of the pulp,…
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Poke Salad: Popular, Free and Tasty: Is It Good for You?

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_26999" align="alignright" width="480"] Phytolacca americana berry cluster. - Image Courtesy Kyle Hamar.[/caption]In the U.S., especially in the southern states, a popular "soul food" is poke salad (also called poke sallet). Perhaps you are unfamiliar with it. What is poke salad? It is a cooked preparation of the leaves of the common Pokeweed, or Phytolacca americana. How to Pinch Your Poke Ask most anyone and they'll tell you to collect only very small leaves. It is traditional to return to the spots where it's been seen growing before. The leaves are washed, and sometimes cooked in a skillet with some onion. It may then be eaten with scrambled eggs or used in an omelet. Did I say traditional? Why there's even a song about poke salad – Poke Salad Annie...…
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The Wild Potato or Indian Potato Vine – Desirable or a Pesky Weed?

Food, Plants
[caption id="attachment_26946" align="alignright" width="480"] Ipomoea pandurata on fence. Image by Kevin Ternes[/caption]Also called the wild sweet potato or the man-root, this tuber-producing vine is viewed by some as the free source of tubers that smell like sweet potatoes and have a tasty, unique flavor. By others, it is viewed as a pesky, invasive weed. Which will it be for you? Although these "potatoes" are free, it takes a little work to gather them. Many hands make the work light. One thing about these natural treats is, they are certainly easy to identify. [caption id="attachment_26951" align="alignright" width="200"] Ipomoea pandurata root. Image by Kevin Robertson, Pebble Hill Plantation, 2015[/caption] The wild potato can grow quite large, one lone potato weighing as much as an entire 20-lb. bag of grocery-store potatoes. But, as…
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War, France, and Chicory – The Little Blue Flower Along the Road

Food, History
Perhaps you've seen along the roadside, some plants rising above their surroundings with pert little blue flowers that look like the cross of a dandelion with an aster. This is the common chicory, Latin name Cichorium intybus. They are considered weeds, and to be honest, the stalk that supports the flowers does little to improve their appearance. Yet, this unobtrusive plant is of positive interest historically. France! In France for instance, chicory, for the coffee drinker, was welcome. In his conflict with England, Napoleon wanted to wreak havoc on their economic system. He, with the cooperation of some other countries, enacted a blockade. There were ramifications that led to a shortage of coffee. [caption id="attachment_26921" align="alignright" width="400"] Amazingly large roots![/caption] It was already known that properly processed root of the…
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The Dandelion – What Is It Good For? A Lot

Beauty, Plants
When my firstborn son was very young, I took him out in the backyard and showed him a dandelion¹ gone to seed. We called 'em puff-puffs. He was awed. He was excited. We'd pick up one after another and blow them (if a neighbor had seen us, he might've been aggravated). The floating white parasols were a joy to see. Images The dandelion flower is a remarkably bright yellow, symmetrical, even beautiful. The flower can be used to make... you guessed [caption id="attachment_26899" align="alignright" width="351"] A few seeds (resembling ballerinas) hang on.[/caption] it... dandelion wine! Strange as it is, an older kid in high school once saw me on the road, hopped out of his car (drunk as a skunk) and poured some dandelion wine on my head. Ever since,…
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