Germination chemistry is all around

It has taken almost ten days to see the first effort of life growth from something that may appear unuseful: the avocado seed that remains from the lovely Israeli salad I had almost a month ago. Not that I’ve waited to have it in the meanwhile. So, what I’ve done was simply put the “brown egg”, as I nicknamed the avocado seed,  in a glass of water, fixing it properly with 4 toothpicks, and let officially began my “waiting time” to see this morning its primary root plunged downward.

This vision with the sunny light that came from my balcony are the first presents of the weekend. Not joking. I was proud of myself to cure this seed along for its metamorphosis.


Well, lots of you already know that I have a poetic soul and moreover a science addiction:-) So let me give you some info on germination chemistry starting from biology and history.

Germination chemistry alone involves a huge variety of reactions, as the metabolism of the seed starts to function, producing all the hormones, enzymes and other compounds necessary to transform store food into plant material. Technically speaking germination refers only to that instant of awakening between water uptake and the first cell expansion, but most of the people I know use this term broadly. I remember the day I spoke with a tuscanian friend about the work of her agriculturalist companion. She explained to me that the process of germination includes the establishment of a primary root and the first green photosynthetic leaves of the plant. In that frame, the seed’s growth is not done until all of its stored nutrition is used up. In other words, the future plant needs to arrange the resources to make in future its own food.

Questions about the process of germination raised over 2000 years ago with the studies and discoveries of Theophrastus, the father of botany. He began its studies on plants features and characteristics at the lyceum of Aristoteles, thanks to the inspiration and influence of his Master.

Theofrastus worked on everything that came under his curious eye, from chickpeas to frankincense. He described germination in detail, wondering about seed longevity as well as on differences in the seeds themselves, in the ground, in the state of the atmosphere and in the season at wich each is shown. The enhancements and specific features of the environment were familiar to him. Since then, researchers discover many of the processes guiding dormancy, awakening and growth. It is well established that germinating seed imbibe water and extend their roots and/or shoots through cell expansion. This stage is followed by rapid cell division fueled by the energy wrapped in their food reserves.

But – has lots of things present in nature – the exacts cues that trigger and coordinate these “life events” retain their aura of magic because what moves on life and its inner program is part of the mystery box we aim to open and understand properly.

Another version of this story and its nice images of growth and life strength play a great role in wheat history around the globe. Wheat permeates our life, our food passion and more broadly human societies nutrition’s habits.

It began its path in the plains of central China, moving to the Argentinean Pampas to the irrigated shores of the Middle Nile, shaping local preferences, dishes procedures and diets from millennia. Probably you already know that Japanese, Thailands and Chinese have their local words for rice, that for them have double meanings, such as meal; food; hungry:-)

Let’s go back in the path that agriculture history designed. When the prophet Ezekiel predicted famine in Jerusalem he said that God would “break the staff of bread”. By the 17th century the phrase “staff of life” had come into use for staple grains and the pasta manufacture and bread types coming from them. And nowadays, in the 21st-century life has not changed: seeds are the base of the

When the prophet Ezekiel predicted famine in Jerusalem he said that God would “break the staff of bread”. By the 17th century the phrase “staff of life” had come into use for staple grains and the pasta manufacture and bread types coming from them. And nowadays, in the 21st-century life has not changed: seeds are the base of the pyramid nutrition that all of us have clear in mind. And we love to have the on our kitchen tables when a wonderful smell and overwhelming taste came from a pasta dish (or even a bruschetta with extra-virgin olive oil? a Margherita pizza?:-) dazzling our senses. Think about it tonight thinking on which kind of restaurant you’ll go for…

The strong ties binding people and grasses, date to the roots of agriculture itself when plant gatherers began to choose and manipulate their staples from the myriad wild species around them. If you think about that, grains figured prominently in the funding of virtually every early civilisation. Time has passed since barley, wheat and rye began to settle in the Fertile Crescent (10000 years ago), and rice followed them in the moisturised land of China (8000 years ago), while sorghum and millet decided to “made economy” of the available resources in the driest lands of Africa (4000 to  7000 years ago). There are people thinking that human reliance on grains and their derivates began much earlier, but regardless of its beginning, we choose grains for their biological efficiency of growth. In fact, in order to feed our families and the animals, we needed to produce different types of proteins we were in search of something rich in starches (so to have a balanced amount of sugars) and with the fastest growth in terms of time and resources to use during the length of the process.

Grass seeds are tiny (so convenient to carry and store from one place to another) and untimely to give birth to their sprout. Important and selective traits that make grasses an ideal food crop and a dominant plant on virtually any patch of open ground.

So returning to the avocado I have in front of me now, the comparison is pretty immediate.

No toothpicks or water glasses are necessary to watch grass seeds grow, because a good terrain, with the right amount of microorganism and bio-compost as natural fertilisers, will do by themselves a good start, and the rains that precede March will have a merit in such great teamwork.










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