Sankofa Gardening Homes
“Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.” – Gerard De Nerval
Spring has sprung! After the cold of winter, the warmth of spring brings the ritual of renewal and rebirth. Trees, grass, flowers and plants that all seem to have died, experience resurrection as the sun shines brightly on them and release the dormant life within.
The release of this new life is no better witnessed than in the flowering process. All across Mother Earth we witness the beautiful blossoming of flowers of all colors, shades and shapes. They seem to echo to us that nature is not dead, but has only been waiting to rise again with the coming of spring. Together with birds, bees, hibernating animals and yes, human beings huddled in homes, spring ushers in the renewal of life.
During this season, I would normally write about preparing to plant by Good Friday as many of our “Africans who Built America” ancestors did. This year, Good Friday comes on April 19 – which is also my birthday – rather than March 30, like last year. The reason is because Easter is determined by the phase of the first full moon of spring and so varies from year to year.
I encourage you to reference my article, Planting by Good Friday’s Moon, printed in The Dallas Examiner, April 12, 2018. There you will be able to read how to prepare for planting by Good Friday.
In this edition, I want to share the joy I have experienced in letting my collard greens grow to their full flowering stage. We do not often see collard greens in this stage because we focus on the picking and eating of the leafy green part of the plants and never see the beautiful bright yellow flowers they produce.
As winter began to come to an end, I noticed that my collard greens, as always, began bolting. Bolting is when the warm weather encourages the development of flowering stalks in leafy vegetables. Leaves diminish in size and grow bitter and are inedible as energy flows to flowers and stalk.
You can prevent the bolting process by removing the flowering stalks and stems as they emerge to encourage more production of leaves. If you don’t, flowers will begin growing.
As I noticed yellow flowers growing, I began noticing bees in my collard greens garden. The presence of the bees excited me because I know the value of bees and pollination. Pollination is important for the production of healthy vegetables and plants. We need the bees for the pollination process. However, due to the use of insecticides and the loss of green space, we are seeing a reduction of bees and the pollination process. So rather than cut my flowering stalks, I chose to let them grow and encourage the pollination process.
As the flowers began to bloom, my yard became a welcoming card of springtime. Like the blue bonnets that usher in spring, my yellow collard greens flowers seem to shout, “It’s spring!”
Not only have I enjoyed them, but neighbors both walking and driving by have commented on how beautiful the flowers are. They have become for me and others the subject of many photos and videos. I have enjoyed cut flowers in my kitchen window for days as the blooms brighten the early mornings. Like the blue bonnets, they are only for a season. I am treasuring them, knowing I must wait until next spring to experience these beautiful spring flowers.
While beautiful, I know the real purpose of the flowers is the pollination process. The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service in their article, What is Pollination, describes the process:
“Pollinations is the act of transferring pollen grains from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma. The goal of every living organism, including plants, is to create offspring for the next generation. One of the ways that plants can produce offspring is by making seeds. Seeds contain the genetic information to produce a new plant.
“How does pollen get from one flower to another? Flowers must rely on vectors to move pollen. These vectors can include wind, water, birds, insects, butterflies, bats and other animals that visit flowers. We call animals or insects that transfer pollen from plant to plant ‘pollinators.’”
In the article, Bees: A Honey of an Idea, the writer describes the importance of bees in pollination:
“The most important thing that bees do is pollinate. … When a bee collects nectar and pollen from the flower of a plant, some pollen from the stamens – the male reproductive organ of the flower – sticks to the hair of her body. When she visits the next flower, some of this pollen is rubbed off onto the sigma, or the pistil – the female reproductive organ of the flower. When this happens, fertilization is possible, and a fruit, carrying seeds, can develop.”
As a result of letting my collard greens flower, I am also able to harvest new seed after they have dried – a new generation of collard greens ready for planting.
While you can enjoy the beautiful colors of collard greens flowers and create opportunities to enhance the process of pollination, you can also enjoy them as a seasonal delicacy.
Pinch a few of the flowers off. Pour some virgin olive oil in a skillet – cast iron preferably – and sauté for 5-10 minutes on medium heat. Plate and season with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Now enjoy a nutritional meal of collard greens flower! Bon appétit!
Until next month, happy Sankofa home gardening!
The Sankofa Gardening Homes column is provided by Clarence Glover, known as Professor Freedom of Sankofa Education Services, for the purpose of “taking the chains off our brains, so our minds can work.” He can be reached at email@example.com.