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To care for a plant individual

May 2, 2010

A visitor to Dokmai Garden, a farmer and a vegetarian, remarked that our garden is so different from farming. Our visitor had never cared for a plant individual, just focused on crop production, and of course praised the taste of a crop as a collective. He said that to him it was a mind-changing experience to hear proud stories about how a certain plant was acquired, and how the plant’s growth progressed, like talking about a child.

Sometimes I think plants are too noble to be eaten. In general, they are quiet, independent, they usually smell good and they are relaxed, while animals are loud, parasitising, smell bad and never sit still. It is like comparing a mother and a three-year-old child. A plant embryo inside a seed is usually equipped with a picnic bag of carbohydrates, and we the humans and the insects rob the embryo from that picnic bag. Quite often the mother plant protects its flower-child by stuffing the seed with poison, but thanks to cooking humans can destroy many chemical defences. The enslaved plants, i.e. the domesticated plants, have been selected for lack of poisons and bitter compounds, making them possible to eat without cooking, while their free cousins still know how to defend themselves. Sometimes I think it is better to kill and eat a barbarian shit-eating pig, than a sleeping beauty, nurtured by sunlight.

Anyhow, as we romantically refer to the plants as the driving force of life on Earth, thanks to their photosynthesis, we are actually unaware of the real rulers of Earth: the cyanobacteria. It was the cyanobacteria that invented photosynthesis, which changed the atmosphere into an oxygen-rich environment. This in turn, enabled the presence of multicellular organisms such as trees, but also sharks, worms, bugs and humans. The cyanobacteria were engulfed by unicellular organisms, but in one case the cyanobacterium survived and reproduced inside the host, and that was the first plant. Today’s land plants are green, because they contain green chlorophyll, which is essential in the formation of sugar using sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. The chlorophyll is located in chloroplasts inside the plant cells, but these chloroplasts are just modified cyanobacteria, with their separate DNA (the DNA is the blueprint for making an organism).

In conclusion, a plant is a vehicle for the cyanobacteria, which have domesticated the gardener to care for their protection and their water and mineral supply, ensuring they can reach reproduction. The many forms of vehicles (around a quarter of a million plant species) are just different models to ensure the conquest of every possible (light) corner of Earth. The drivers are virtually the same rulers since 3 billion years.

Eric Danell

Green peas contain babies too!

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