Gardening facts to wile away snowy day

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By Cheryl Steenerson

I was never a straight A student, but I loved to learn and could always be counted on to offer up some strange, fun fact.
Trivial Pursuit was my favorite game. As we wait out the winter, I thought it would be fun to expand our knowledge into the plant world, along with a few human tidbits, as well.
Next time you’re walking around the farm with friends and family, try adding a little science to the conversation. Did you know that we have the rose family to thank for all of our apples, pears, plums, cherries, almonds and peaches? Bet you thought they only gave us flowers, right?  
Here’s a multiple-choice question for you. If I gave you a list of potatoes, squash, beans and cucumbers could you pick out the fruit? It’s the cucumbers. Fruits are really weird when it comes to facts. The cucumber skin has more nutrients than the insides. There’s a marketing fact the pickle makers could use.
One of my favorite fruits is the pineapple, but a pineapple is not a single fruit. It’s actually a group of berries fused together. Strawberries are the only fruit with its seeds on the outside, averaging 200 seeds per fruit.
You’ve probably heard the saying “breaking wind” before, usually after a sour smell came wafting to your nose. Next time think mushrooms. Some mushrooms can make their own wind to blow their spores out into the air.
Speaking of air, did you know that one tree can produce enough oxygen to keep a family of four breathing for a year? True. An apple is actually about 25 percent air, which is why it floats on water, though apple bobbing at Halloween is a long gone tradition.
A tree gets 90 percent of its nutrients from the air, and only 10 percent from the soil. Around the world, we use most of our soil to grow tomatoes and potatoes, but it is the onion that is the most widely used vegetable in the world.
One of my most favorite snacks is carrots dipped in peanut butter. Strange but true. Now think on this tidbit. Carrots were originally purple and peanut butter was consider a delicacy served in only the most exclusive tea rooms of New York in the early 1900s.
If you’re trying to quit caffeine as part of your New Years’ resolutions, you might try an apple. It has the same effect in waking you up. At night, instead of a sleeping pill, you can eat onions as a sedative to help you get to sleep. I’d brush your teeth before crawling under the covers, though.
If you want a food that will cheer you up then eat a banana. It contains a chemical that makes you happy. Keep the peel. It will stop the itch from a mosquito bite when rubbed on the bite and you can bury it under the rose bush to fertilize the plant.
See, I’ve just filled your brain with all kinds of interesting facts. Your brain can take it. It actually is busiest when we are asleep. Kind of like a grocery store clerk stocking shelves at night, the brain organizes everything we took in during the day, during the night.
That way we can find it again on another day, though some of us may wander the aisles for a bit.
Now, let me close with one final fun fact. A “butt” was originally a unit of measure for wine, used in medieval times. A “buttload” was 126 gallons, of wine, but over time the term found much wider use.  So, before we start planning our spring gardens, let me caution you on planting too much of one thing. You really don’t need 10 zucchini plants, unless you want a buttload. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is the gardening columnist for The Anderson News. She can be reached via email at paysteen@shelbybb.net.