Vegetable History and Folklore
As we grow and eat more vegetables, why not also learn more about the origins, legends, and historical significance of twenty-some of the world's most popular vegetables? How Carrots Won the Trojan War: Curious (but True) Stories of Common Vegetables by Rebecca Rupp (Storey Publishing, 2011, $14.95) offers delightful and informative summertime reading while you're trying to avoid the heat. For instance, you'll discover why Roman gladiators were massaged with onion juice before battle, how celery contributed to Casanova's conquests, or how peas almost poisoned General Washington. And if you need any more motivation to eat your vegetables, perhaps the nutritional information incorporated into the text will inspire you.
Favorite or New Plant
Common Rose Mallow, Hardy Hibiscus
Of the some 200 species of hibiscus, three of them are garden favorites: rose-of-sharon ( H. syriacus), tropical hibiscus (H. rosa-sinensis), and the common rose mallow (H. moscheutus). I grow several varieties of all three and enjoy them in the garden. In the last several weeks, the varieties of common rose mallow have begun to bloom with their dinner-plate-sized flowers. Although each flower only lasts a day, they will continue to open for many weeks. The upright, branching stems bear large, maple-like leaves. Adding a bold, tropical feel to the garden, the common rose mallow is hardy to -20 degrees F. In my area, it dies back to the ground each spring, when I cut it back. By now it has reached 4 to 6 feet tall, depending on the variety. Common rose mallow thrives in full sun and any fertile garden soil with average drainage.