Tuesday, January 20, 2009
My Pineapple Story Jan 20 2009
Three and a half years ago I twisted the top off a pineapple and stuck it in a jar of water on the kitchen windowsill as an act of gardener’s optimism. It might grow, I thought, and to a gardener growth—the act of taking carbon from the air and turning it into pineapple tissue by the power of sunlight—is the thing. The idea of pineapple fruit was not, at this point, part of this small act of horticulture, this simple desire to witness the alchemy of growth.
August 2005, when my pineapple plant started its journey, was a low point in American history. I have never felt more frustrated to be an American than I did that summer when the great city of New Orleans suffered and we watched in effete horror and our president ended his record-breaking summer vacation.
The thing grew roots, and soon after being potted in soil, grew a strong healthy crown of leaves. It was repotted and moved to a better spot in the garden as months passed and the plant grew larger and older.
Months passed and little happened in the big world outside my garden to evidence that we had competent leadership or governance in our country. In fact it seemed like we were adrift, our minds numbed by one incomprehensible decision following another, and science, civility, nor unified planning nowhere to be found in the public discourses it seemed. Out of this void, as my little pineapple grew, people once cowed by official admonitions to “watch what you do, watch what you say” were finally stepping out into the light and growing some vocal chords, it seemed.
If I had researched pineapple culture in advance, I might have begun to anticipate in spring of 2008 a bloom. I just let nature and ignorance take its course, and as a surprise to my uninformed self, a fine flower spike arose from the plant in early August 2008.
About the time my stimulus check was absorbed and all but buried in the morass of bad bad news about the economy, about the time the pineapple flower emerged, about then a leader was winnowed from the chaff of other would-be leaders and seemed to have the tone people were looking for, to hang their hopes upon; about then an Alaskan moose hunter appeared and momentarily threatened to shoot down hopes of pineapple fruit.
After the inflorescence appeared, I read up on what to expect, in retrospect, from a pineapple top. Sunset Western Garden Book, usually impeccably correct, felt my plant had bloomed a year late, but according to Don’t Throw It, Grow It! (Peterson & Selsam , Storey Publishing, 2008) the flower spike appeared right on schedule: “When the plant is about 3 years old, it is ready to bloom.” ! I also found that everyone agrees it takes about 6 months for the fruit to grow and ripen after the bloom appears so as the 5 month milestone passed and the fruit began to turn golden, I felt confident in my plan to harvest it toward the end of January.
Americans rejected fear and elected Obama against my darkest fears of another election day shock and we started to feel good about ourselves again.
I cut my fine fruit from the stem late in the day on a sunny Jan 19 capturing a full day’s sun inside its fleshy corpus. On Jan 20 we ate the pineapple of my non-labor, the fruit of the sun and a bit of water, the fruit of a gardener’s optimism and spirit of adventure, the fruit of goodwill and patience, of listening to a bit, even if post-floriferously, of the advice of others.
The president of the united states said that we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and grow pineapples in his speech this morning; and I know that we can grow pineapple and my pineapple is a symbol of the work that must be done with a spirit of optimism, openness and goodwill, to restore the American garden, metaphorically.
I have placed the twisted-off top of my pineapple in a small jar of water. I have expectations for its fruit in about 3.5 years.
The president remarked today that, among many other tasks, we will restore science to its rightful place.
Gardening is a pursuit that relies on science; the knowledge from others who have preceded us in growing things saves time, effort, resources, frustration, and the lives of many plants in the course of developing a garden. In today’s hungry world our gardens and farms need all the science we can get to grow enough food for all without further degrading the atmosphere and so I’m happy to have leadership that embraces that need. We also need small-science (post-modern folklore?) to nurture the necessary senses of wonder, optimism and expectation for success common among people who would garden, to keep in front of our noses the demonstration of how nature works to make food, in case we tend to forget. Gardens nurture wild experimentation with oddball plants picked up at yard sales, inappropriately labeled things that grow well but larger than expected, volunteer plants blown or pooped in that end up supporting local wildlife, or volunteers seeded from existing garden plants slowly selecting themselves for a better-adapted life in that particular spot on earth; and the culture of leftovers and clippings, little bits of plant tissue with the capacity to grow. This is a friendly world; we have every right to expect things to grow given a bit of craft.
Pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a bromeliad, in fact the commander and chief bromeliad of the Pineapple Family. The plant utilizes CAM photosynthesis, gathering and fixing carbon at night and closing its stomata during daylight. This conserves water that would have been transpired while the sun shone, making the pineapple plant more drought tolerant. Sometimes you see a seed in a pineapple fruit; the flowers are mostly pollinated by hummingbirds. My fruit had one small black seed in it, suggesting that a hummingbird visited and also that a pineapple can self-fertilize. I forgot to count the spirals on my fruit, but there are supposed to be 8 spirals one way and 13 the other on every pineapple fruit.
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A hurricane is a mixed drink featuring rum, rum, rum and pineapple juice. Mix yourself one and toast the beginning of life as we know it.