In which we grow towards the light

It’s that time of year when the long winter starts to nibble away at your core. Everything feels cold, dark, and dormant, held in abeyance until better times. The festive period is a distant memory, and spring seems so far away that it hurts.

Joshua harvesting parsnips

Of course in this mild climate, the lock-down doesn’t feel quite so absolute. In our garden, a few stubborn roses still bloom on defoliated stems. We carry on harvesting vegetables despite periodic frosts. Winter jasmine shines with faint yellow stars, and the quince curling around our front bay window is lush with deep maroon flowers. The overall look is verdant, and spring bulbs pepper the muddy lawn like green Braille. But the darkness: nothing can ameliorate that, and every extra minute of daylight feels like a small victory.

The school run

Just before Christmas, we discovered two withered old potatoes that had started to sprout chits a few inches in length. I told Joshua how certain root vegetables like to grow towards the light, and sometimes they even prefer the dark; he seemed skeptical.

So after removing all but two main sprouts, we placed one spud uncovered on the windowsill, and the other we set up with an old, bent wrapping paper tube so that the sprouts were inside. Every few days we’d view the progress, and we kept track of the covered shoot’s length by marking the cardboard tube. As expected, the process of etiolation propelled the darkened shoot far more efficiently than light did; the covered shoot was much taller by the end. It was also purple instead of green, and it produced many more side rootlets. Joshua was disappointed that the etiolated shoot only managed to turn the corner, but didn’t make it to the end of the tube — at least not before the potatoes had started to rot and Richard made us throw them away (boo).

Experimental endpoint

Right now, I feel like it’s taking ages to get around that corner. But I keep telling myself that it’s only a matter of time before we will finally see winter’s end.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
This entry was posted in Domestic bliss, Gardening, Joshua, Scientific thinking, Work/life balance. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to In which we grow towards the light

  1. Tiffany says:

    I love that you found a way to turn a potato into a learning experience for your son. It was interesting to me also. Thank you for sharing.

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