I wanted to share a neat observation from my planting this weekend. When I soaked my basil seeds they developed a sticky, gelatinous goop ball around them. The goop is mucilage – you might remember it from your primary school craft project glue. The seed surface is covered in polysaccharides, long sugary molecular hairs that tangle up water molecules and become a sticky mucus (similar to the way long chains of lactose make yogourt firm and polyglycerides make body wash slimy).

Why would a seed want to surround itself in gross plant snot? A lot of desert and Mediterranean plants, like Basil, or Chia, don’t want to be spread far and wide on the landscape – because they grow in really inhospitable areas. Better to stay close to home, where your parent plant originated, because at least you’re guaranteed a shot at growing up in its place. This sticky reluctance to travelling is called Myxodiaspory, or “mucus spreading”.

It also greatly increases the water available to the seed during germination – in areas where water may be scarce, capturing rain water and holding it close gives the seed a chance to survive short-term droughts while it’s getting a foothold into the soil.

There’s a neat paper about basil seeds here!




The gardening season starts today at our place. With three feet of snow still covering the garden, you might think it’s a bit early for starting seeds, but I have a secret weapon that I’m looking forward to revealing shortly. 🙂 (No, not the flamethrower, although that’s tempting.)

This year we’re going to focus on tomatoes and herbs, but we have a few thick greens (chard, kale) to plant inbetween. Should be good eating in a couple of months!


Dutch Baby Pancakes

The two of us got creative at breakfast the other morning and made Dutch Baby pancakes! I’m still not entirely sure about the mechanics of what’s happening in the pan since chemically the recipe is not far off of a “normal” pancake, but I think something about blending the ingredients into an airy froth encourages the batter to expand around the edge of the pan into a big curly crust. It’s so delicious – hit it with butter and icing sugar (we missed a few times) and a handful of fruit (blueberries!) and you’ve got a tasty german breakfast fit for a Ferdinand. 🙂