A thousand years ago, everything in Europe depended on agriculture. From Britain and Ireland to central Europe, 80 to 90 percent of the population struggled to make a living from the soil.
Everyone, even the greatest lord, depended on a countryside farmed without machines, hybrid seed or fertilizers. Horses and oxen, even the women, hauled the plow and the harrow. Wow!
The harvest was gathered by hand, carried on peoples backs, or maybe even transported by what I’ve come to find out was called oxcart or the river barge to market.
Every farmer knew that coarse land had to be grazed and manured by animals, then rested to regain its fertility and minimize plant disease.
According to Brian M. Fagan, (The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations-1st U.S. ed. P. cm.), medieval European peasants knew the properties of different grazing grasses, the slight indicators of renewed soil fertility and the seasons of wild plant foods. I guess we could compare them to modern-day survival farmers in Africa.
Most farmers had a few head of livestock- a milk cow or two, some pigs, sheep, goats and chickens and if they were fortunate enough, a horse and maybe some oxen
He also stated that trying to make a living from Europe’s medieval soils was never easy but it could be done. Farmers in England and France grew mainly wheat, barley and oats and everyone grew vegetables.
The Cayman Islands Agricultural Show
During the month of March, the Cayman Islands will once again celebrate its annual Agricultural Show. It’s a family fun event showcasing the Island’s best animals, produce and food. There will also be activities for all the family to enjoy.
Now fast-forward with me to the 21st century where advances in modern farming technology have dramatically increased crop yields.
Agricultural experts state that most farmers use synthetic pesticides to protect their crops and may use synthetic fertilizers to boost growth. Other farmers, however, cultivate “organic foods”, those grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
Wild Flowers of Jamaica
There are a great many cultivated forms of these capsicum peppers as I have come to find out, and most of them are very hot to the taste.
The Bird Pepper shown above, with its pretty, glossy green to scarlet fruits, is widespread in the tropics, and is most common in Jamaica as a lovely doorway plant. Occasionally, it is found in ‘the wild’ from bird-dropped seeds.
They are extensively used in Jamaican cuisines, imparting a most pleasant flavor as well as their strong and spicy heat. They are often allowed to stand in sherry or vinegar for an interesting and breathtaking condiment. (Nice!)
Guess what else I found out? The Gully Bean or any of the names mentioned above is found in almost all parts of the world’s tropics and this shrub on occasion can reach a height of up to ten feet or more. Its most recognized in waste places and forest clearings with its big bold foliage, circular berries and rather pretty flowers which enhances its natural beauty.
The young shoots of this Solanum are eaten in Indonesia as a cooked vegetable, but the half-ripe green berries are considered edible only in Jamaica, where they are prized for their refreshingly bitter flavor. They are often served mixed with fish at breakfast.
Cell Culture Techniques
Another major breakthrough in the 21st century is the development of cell culture techniques. Using these techniques, scientists have been able to remove individual cells from a parent plant and grow these cells into new individuals. Wow!
Using the cell culture techniques, horticulturalists are able to produce virtually unlimited numbers of genetically identical offspring. These techniques have been particularly useful in producing plants that are slow to multiply on their own. For example, award-winning varieties of orchids are produced in this way.
The Garden Club of Grand Cayman
Speaking of award-winning, did you know The Garden Club of Grand Caymanhas been presenting a Standard Flower Show every year?
Well, I was honored to participate in their 60th Anniversary Celebration back in 2017 and learnt an array of floral arrangement techniques and classifications.
The Garden Club of Grand Cayman was founded in April 16th 1957 and has been presenting flower shows to the public since 1961. It is held at the South Sound Community Center in George Town.
The Garden Club aims to promote interest in and knowledge of gardening and all things related to the enjoyment of the natural beauty of the Cayman Islands.
To undertake projects, for themselves or in concert with others, to beautify and support the community.
They also wish to encourage the promotion of friendship and understanding among people of all races and nationalities who share their interest in gardening.
Did you also know that cell culture is also used for the commercial production of a tremendous number of plants in a short period of time-such as the chrysanthemums you may buy at the grocery store?
And while we are on the subject of grocery stores- In another article I’ve written called, “Let’s talk about trash baby…lets talk about you and me”I also touch on other needs for sustainability and why we need to avoid waste when possible.
Plants and Medicine
Plants also provide a wide array of chemicals, many of which have medicinal effects on humans.
For thousands of years, people relied heavily on extracts made from the leaves, stems and barks, roots, and other parts of plants to treat illnesses, and some still do.
Today, many countries like Korea, China and Japan use botanical products in an attempt to prevent or alleviate a variety of common health problems, including colds, fatigue, depression, and even memory loss.
According to my research, useful drugs have also been developed from plants. For example, Reserpine, which is a drug used to treat hypertension, is produced from Indian snakeroot (Rauwolfia serpentina). Or extracts of rosy periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) which have been used in two cancer fighting drugs. Wow!
It’s obvious that with all the research being done, it’s evident that scientist believe that genetic engineering techniques may revolutionize worldwide agriculture and health!