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Green Acre #395: The Seeds of Knowledge


By Stephanie Cavanaugh

LAST WEEK I wrote an aside about making crackers in the midst of an article about—what was it I was writing about?  Oh yes, growing wild cyclamen. 

More than one person thought this was a strange thought to have while rhapsodizing about tiny pink ballerina flowers nestling under the new draped leaves of a willow tree. My Prince, in fact, wondered if the editor might go back and remove it. I don’t know why it disturbed him so—my mind does swoop about, and something had suggested crackers to me, though I can’t think what, now. 

What I said, more or less, was that it had never occurred to me to make crackers. They’re crunchy things that come in boxes. You put cheese or pâté, maybe a spot of fig jam, on them. Why would you bother baking them when you can just buy them? [Editor here! LittleBird Stephanie and I may not make our own crackers, but Nancy Pollard of Kitchen Detail does! Here’s a couple of cracker recs.]

Crackers, crackers, and more crackers. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

As a city girl, there’s a lot of “why bother when you can buy it?” in my past, and puzzling over things that people who grew up with gardens know from birth. 

This reminds me of my aversion to vegetable soup, a dislike I carried well into my 30s. All those bit of things, you know. Yellow bits and brown bits and green bits and those really frightening white bits—god only knows what they could be. 

Really, what could they be, I eventually asked myself. And realized, vegetables! They’re vegetables! It was a thrilling moment.

I talk a lot about pinching this and that, sticking it in soil and watching it grow. I don’t talk about seeds, with which I have a long and fraught history. In short: For me they don’t grow. This is possibly because I forget to water, forget I planted them, forget where I planted them, get too impatient and . . . get distracted (see crackers).

I’m not going to tell you how many decades it took for me to discover that avocados grow from avocado pits. These are seeds. You eat the avocado, bathe the pit, stick four toothpicks around the body of the pit, about midway down, and rest the pit on a glass of water with one end in the air. Within a fairly brief period you will have roots growing down and a green stem growing up. When the roots are nice and tangled, remove toothpicks, transplant the pit to a pot of dirt, stick it on the windowsill, and a plant will emerge. 

I used to have a windowsill lined with avocados in my New York apartment. Never did I see a fruit. 

So, a couple of years ago, I was ambling past a small garden center and asked a guy what he was watering. It was a plant that looked suspiciously like an avocado. 

An avocado, he said. 

Oh, I said, attempting to look somewhat knowledgeable and reportorial while adopting a casual, kind of chummy stance: I’ve always wondered where avocados come from. How are they grown?

He looked at the plant and looked at me and said, From an avocado tree, like this one. 

This? I said, and went home to ponder. 

Baby read my thoughts on crackers, agreeing that stoned wheat thins are best for Brie, and reminded me that until recently I didn’t realize that oranges have seeds, and limes, and cantaloupes, and apples, for mercy’s sake, and all one has to do (more or less) is plant them.  She didn’t either, I remind her.

Perhaps this is news to you too. Be fruitful and multiply.



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