Friday, February 7, 2014

The Saving the Planet Experiment- An Introduction

by student blogger Kristin

A few weeks ago marked the beginning of my 9th and FINAL semester here at The Culinary Institute of America. As a sort of means to distract myself from the obvious nervousness and sadness of this time in my life, I have decided to pack my last semester with fun courses. While I knew that courses such as Brewed, a course on beer brewing, and Spirits and Mixology would be entertaining, I have been most pleasantly surprised by my Ecology of Food course. Admittedly, I originally signed up for this course not knowing anything about the subject matter. I did know, however, that if I wanted anyone to teach me, it would be Professor Deirdre Murphy. I had her during my 6th term and she quickly became one of my favorite professors.

As we started this semester in Ecology of Food, Professor Murphy did not fail to disappoint. On our first day of class, she explained to all of us that we were going to be performing somewhat of an experiment this semester. We were all going to be experimenting how well certain foods can grow indoors during the winter. But that was not all, at the end of the semester we were going to have a feast (or more than likely small meal) of whatever we were able to grow over the semester. We were told that we had a few weeks to really think about what it was that we wanted to grow.

Over even the first two weeks of this Ecology course, we reviewed some facts about our changing planet. While I have chosen not to get too far into details, I will tell you it began to open my eyes to some truths even about my own life. The thing that struck home for me the most, however, was that I used to be (at least in my own mind) one with nature. When I was young I was always interested in growing things and even did some gardening with my mother and siblings. Over the years though, schedules got busier, I got “cooler” and having live plants seemed to be the last thing on my mind.

Seeds purchased from Seed Savers Exchange
My quickly growing guilty conscious clouded my mind all the time to the point where I could not actively think of one thing to grow. On the day we were to choose, I was given the challenging Blue Jade Corn, a blue corn variety that reaches only 3 feet tall. Though I was thrilled with the assignment I could still not get this feeling of doubt and almost failure off my mind.

While I was tracking the first week’s progress in my seed journal, it finally hit me. I would share this experience with all of you. Although I cannot save the world all by myself, perhaps my story could inspire some other people to return to home growing. It took me admittedly way too long to realize that perhaps this blog would be the perfect place to do this. Not only will blogging about this experiment perhaps inspire people but it also represents my interest in general science and embodies the perfect example of cool things we do here at the CIA. What could be better?

For this entry, I wanted to give you all a little information about the plant I am growing. In the near future (probably tomorrow) I will be posting week 1’s progress!
The plant that I have been working with is Blue Jade Corn, or by its genus species name, Zea mays. It received its name because of the way it dyes water a “Jade Blue” color when boiled. The species was originally found in South America but is now best known in applications for things such as blue tortilla chips. I honestly have never seen or tried this vegetable fresh. I am excited that the first time I do it will be of my own hands.

Seeds Purchased from Seed Savers Exchange

While it is known to be the best variety of corn to grow inside because of its small size, there are some complications for me while going through this. First of all, this plant is used to full sun, meaning I will have to find a very sunny area during the dead of winter. Secondly, this plant prefers a lot of water and has almost no tolerance for drought. This might not sound like the biggest problem, but being a student with a busy schedule, I will have to make sure that I am on my game about checking the moisture level of my soil when I can. Thirdly, while dealing with my guilt about not being as thrifty as I could be throughout the years, I have challenged myself to try not to buy anything else to complete this project. This is an Ecology course after all. But this does bring up the issue of what to physically grow my corn in.
As of January 30th, 2014 my seeds were planted and this project begun. More on the progress and actual planting to come!

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