Friday, 4 September 2009

If it Wisnae for the Wark o'the Weeders

As I was tucking into a delicious spud-based meal, the other evening, I was thinking about the massive debt we old worldies owe to the agrobiodiversity of the New World.

Avid followers of this blog (if they exist), can't have failed to notice the preponderance of both South and North American roots and tubers featuring in my quixotic search for increased production and underground resilience in our charmingly overcrowded islands.

I seem to remember an old Scottish song titled If It Wisnae For The Wark o' the Weavers. It celebrated the contribution of the weavers to keeping people clothed -
"If it wisnae for the weavers, wa would we do? We wouldna hae clathes made o wool".

Only a brave soul would have tried living in Scotland without their woollen clothes - nae central heating dae ye ken?

Well, if it wisnae for the work of the weeders and breeders who wove the rich cloth of agricultural biodiversity in the Americas we would be without:

Potatoes
Sweetpotatoes
Tomatoes
Runner and French beans
Maize
Squashes
Chillies and sweet peppers
Cassava
Peanuts

That's not an exhaustive list by any means, but I for one feel eternally grateful that I don't have to exist on tough old turnips, mushy peas and gristly field beans, washed down with a little barley gruel as in days of yore.

As terrible as the consequences of the conquest of the Americas were to both the ecology and native peoples, the resulting biological booty has certainly improved our cuisine over here no end. So here's a heartfelt thanks to the untold millions in the western hemisphere whose crop selection, breeding and cultivation efforts have given us such a varied and tasty diet.

6 comments:

Madeline McKeever said...

I am an avid follower of your blog, and here, here, on the subject of pre columbian American farmers. Have you ever grown maca?

Rhizowen said...

Dia duit Madeline

Yes, I have tried growing maca. I found that it grew very slowly and the root did not develop properly. I have tried growing it several times and this has always been the case.

I don't think it's anything to do with daylength restrictions. I wonder whether it pines for high intensity light and low temperatures like it gets in the Andes. Sunlight feels as unfamiliar to me this summer as it would to to a cave salamander. Not good maca growing weather I suspect. Have you got any seeds?

Slan

Madeline McKeever said...

Dia is Muire duit, I have some maca growing, I got the seed from Horizon herbs, both red and yellow. they all look the same and are looking a bit sad but alive. One plant set seed, and the seedlings are growing around the parent plant. I will stick up some pics on my blog.
Slan go foil.

Madeline McKeever said...

pics up on http://brownenvelopeseeds.blogspot.com/2009/09/maca.html

Rhizowen said...

Those look very similar to the maca plants I grew. I was underwhelmed by the vigour and yield of my plants,which along with their limited ability to compete with weeds made me decide to give up growing them. Maybe selection of your best plants could lead to an Irish-adapted variety. Let me know how you get on.

Scottish Trust Deeds said...
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