Saturday, 25 July 2020

Scientific Illustrations but Also Grow Romanesco Broccoli.

What is Scientific Illustration? 

Host of Real World Gardener radio show Marianne, speaks with Sydney Botanic Gardens Scientific Illustrator, Catherine Wardrop
Catherine Wardrop
 1.    Scientific illustration is one of many aspects of botanical research to aid plant identification and conservation at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.  How does it help?
2.    Why do botanists still use drawings instead of photographs?”
a.    Simply put, scientific illustrators create images of plants by referencing recent and historic herbarium collections. Catherine says "In my role, I use my artistic skill to translate the taxonomy, interpret microscopic botanical details, omit the unnecessary, document the essential and (hopefully) describe a species so well that it never has to be drawn again."
Prostanthera lasianthos
3.    What do you need to know about a species before you start drawing it?
  •        Any knowledge of plants helps.Catherine had studied 5 years at arts school completing        an undergrad and post grad studies in visual art. Post grad was in plant and wildlife        illustration.
4.    Is there a method when approaching botanical drawing?
  •     For a full plate which includes the habit of the plant, Catherine likes to do the microscope drawings first. It also involves a bit re-constructing. Scientific illustrator will include all parts of the life cycle of the plant.

7.    Which plant species have proved challenging to draw?
  •     When you start drawing a new species that has no previous illustrations or specimens. 
8.    How long have you been doing scientific illustration?
a.    Since 1998 Catherine has illustrated native, exotic and invasive weed species at RBG Sydney and the most recent examples of her work are to be seen accompanying botanical descriptions in online publications of Telopea and PlantNET.


Which vegetable has more vitamin C than an orange?
Broccoli, Brassica oleracea var Italica or botrytis cymosa?
Earlier this year I mentioned that Broccoli heads are actually groups of flower buds that are almost ready to flower?
  •     Each group of buds is called a floret.

That’s still true, nothing’s changed.
Broccoli is of course in the Brassicaceae family of vegetables along with cauliflower, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, turnips and many of the Asian greens.
Just to remind you why should you grow any type of Broccoli if it’s available all year round in your supermarket?
  •     Firstly, supermarket Broccoli has probably been sprayed for all manner of pests whether or not the pests visited the Broccoli plant.
  •      Secondly, supermarket Broccoli stems are pretty tough to eat, when they’re supposed to be tender.
  •     Why, because that type of Broccoli transports better?
  •     Homegrown Broccoli, especially the heirloom varieties, also re-shoot after your cut of the central Broccoli stem. Plus, Broccoli is pretty easy to grow.
  •      If you just buy broccoli at the green grocer’s, the broccoli may look great but the taste may not be up to scratch. How so? They may have been picked before becoming fully-mature. Or they may have been picked at the right time but then stored too long.
  •     With home-grown broccoli, you can also be sure how it has been grown: You know exactly where it has come from, what you used to grow and protect it, unlike those sold in supermarkets and even in farmer’s markets.

Today’s Broccoli is the Romanesco broccoli or some call it roman cauliflower
You might think this lime green cauliflower come broccoli is a new invention but it’s been around since the 16th century.
  •    The reason why broccoli is making an appearance in this segment is that even though it’s called Romanesco broccoli it’s much more crunchy than either broccoli or cauliflower.The flavour is different as well, some say nutty even, while others say it tastes like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.That seems too hard to imagine.
  •      To add to the confusion, apparently the French call it Romanesco cabbage and the English called it Italian asparagus.

So it’s a mixed up vegetable if you like but the most fascinating part of Romanesco is its appearance.
Much has been said about the mathematics of this spiral pattern, a lot of which is fairly complex.
Its spiralled buds form a natural approximation of a fractal, meaning each bud in the spiral is composed of a series of smaller buds.
  •     You might’ve heard of the Fibonacci sequence?

The spirals follow the same logarithmic pattern.
Plus it’s a very attractive vegetable to be growing in the garden.

Where did it come from?
Romanesco is a unique Italian variety of broccoli with a yellowish-green dense head that forms an unusual spiral pattern.
How to grow Romanesco Broccoli?
Sow the seeds of Romanesco broccoli in from February July in arid zones, March through to August in sub-tropical areas, Spring and Autumn in temperate zones,
 And for cooler regions, you’ll have to wait until October before sowing.
  •    The plants need the same care as either Broccoli, or cauliflower and that is they’re not too choosy about the site they’re growing in but prefers to be in full sun, but also will tolerate partial shade with no problems.Growing in too much shade will reduce the size of the Broccoli head.
  •    The ideal soil is a reasonably heavy (not pure clay) which is rich in nutrients and has been well-dug. Like all brassicas, Broccoli needs a minimum soil pH of 6; but really prefers a pH of 7. Add lime if you need to raise the soil pH.
  •     Broccoli is what’s called a heavy feeder, so do add plenty of blood and bone, and decomposed manures by the bucket load before you start.
Sowing Broccoli Seed
Sow your Broccoli seed about 1 ½ cm deep, and space the seedlings about 40cm apart so they don’t crowd each other.
Once a fortnight feed your broccoli with a liquid fertilizer; seaweed, manure tea, nettle tea etc.
  •    TIP:Don’t plant or sow Romanesco Broccoli in your veggie bed if you’ve grown it before in the past 3 years. You may get a disease called Club Root that causes you Broccoli plant to wilt regardless of how much water you give it.
  •      Remember the acronym. LRLC-Legumes, root veg, leafy then Cucurbits, Brassicas.

Harvest broccoli heads when they have reached maximum size, are still compact, and before the buds loosen, open into flowers, or turn yellow.
Romanesco broccoli

  •     It will be about 70-100 days or 2 ½ -4 months, when your Broccoli will be ready if you plant it now.

When do you pick your Romanesco Broccoli?
You’ve got to time it just right, and that’s when the cluster of tight buds in the central head is well formed and before the individual flowers start to open.
Make a sloping cut (this allows water to run off), picking a piece that's about 10 cm long.
That way you’ve left a reasonable amount of the plant intact to produce smaller sideshoots or "florets," which you can pick as well.
Great for stir fries.
At this stage, don’t stop feeding and watering the remaining broccoli stem otherwise your plants will go to seed and you won’t get any side shoots.
TIP: If your Broccoli plants starts to flower it’ll going into seed production and you won’t get any more side shoots.
Why is any type of Broccoli good for you?
Broccoli contains twice the vitamin C of an orange.
Did you know that just 100g of Broccoli has two day’s supply of vitamin C (don’t overcook  or you’ll lose some).
Broccoli also a good source of dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin E, folate and beta carotene
100g broccoli has 120kJ.
Broccoli also contains magnesium and as much calcium as whole milk.
One cup of broccoli boosts the immune system with a large dose of beta-carotene. 
Great for preventing colds. Don’t underestimate the power of broccoli!

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