Is it only the grape-like bunches of violet blossoms that we get to enjoy? Do we look forward to the leaves and petals that we have to rake up at the end of spring? From the flowers will grow the pods that will eventually split and shoot their seeds and their hard skins all over the yard. Hardly the yard work we look forward to doing! Yet this last image--the seed pods--gives us a clue to the answer to the question of how this plant freely gives.
The wisteria belongs to the legume family--the pea family. If you go for protein drinks or buy powdered protein for yourself or your pet, you've noticed the pea protein ingredient. In the days of yore it was soy--tofu, seitan, TVP (textured vegetable protein). Pastas are now ingeniously made with legumes like lentils. There is wide variety in our sources of vegetable protein.
Legumes are nitrogen-fixing which means that they transform nitrogen from the air to make nitrogen that is bio-available and ready for the soil and other plants to use. The plant stores the nitrogen in the roots and produces a lump on the root called a nitrogen nodule. The soil underneath the wisterias I've planted is always rich and plentiful.
Legumes make great companions for us. In vegetable gardens and typical Native American cuisine when beans accompany corn and squash they are known famously as the Three Sisters. They are the plants that work synergistically in the soil and after harvest are the three staples to provide a nutritionally complete meal.
The corn shoots up fast, so it naturally becomes the trellis for the beans to twine around. The beans convert the nitrogen to enrich the soil for both the corn and the squash. The squash vines can crawl quite a distance to give the other two their space; large leaves provide the shade for the squash fruit.
On one squash plant you can see the complete growth cycle. Way out at the tip of the vine is the ruffled orange squash flower. Closer in toward the plant are the wilted blossoms and closer in yet again are the successfully pollinated baby squash buds with petals still attached. Farthest in is the swollen ovary--the ripe fruit! What a journey!
The Three Sisters grow well together and after harvest, the three make a rich and nutritionally balanced meal for humans--carbohydrates from the corn, protein from the beans, vitamins from the squash.
What an amazing and freely given gift! We can feel respect and gratitude for the gifts Mother Earth bestows upon us. She is so plentiful surely the bounty will continue if we continue to cherish her, nurture her, participate in her care by exchanging gifts with her.
I wonder if there's at least one way to reciprocate? Can you think of one?
"A gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it; we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us."-Lewis Hyde
Be well. Thanks for looking. See you next week!
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