Tag Archives: #plantsgiving


By, Susan Sprout

For the past two years, the NPC blog has informed folks about an intriguing homework assignment given by Dr. Chris Martine, Professor of Plant Genetics and Research, to his students at Bucknell University. They are required to count and record the number of different plants and plant parts used to prepare their annual Thanksgiving feast. The results of this social media campaign are publicized using Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. What a great idea! In a small and personal way, the students and other people taking part in this by creating food for each other, are made more aware of the number and variety of plants they depend upon to accomplish the task. Then, perhaps, every time they cook something and eat it, they will be mindful of the great treasure we have in plants of all kinds. One hopes that public interest plus the knowledge and awareness gained from such as exercise will help us be more careful guardians of the natural world around us – its unique ecosystems and biodiversity and the connectivity of everything and everyone. It must be looked after for life now and the generations to come.

My root veggies (L to R) radishes, rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, carrots

We have to respect what marvelous survivors plants are to have overcome the challenges they met in order to thrive on dry land. Although the oldest fossil remains of land plants are 420 million years old, scientists have found evidence that pond scum first made landfall almost a 100 million years earlier. Think of the many adaptations plants have evolved over time just to be able to absorb water and minerals from dirt. We can’t do that. They have done it for us when we ingest them. They anchor themselves and stand upright, spread out sunlight collectors in order to make their food (and ours) and then store it for lean times. The fleshy, starch-filled roots developed by plants, did not go unnoticed by the early humans who began growing crops between 10,000 and 7,000 B.C. Some of their crops had roots like bulbs, or corms, or rhizomes or tubers or tap roots – many that could be stored for later use.

Taproot tips have smaller rootlets and hairs for better uptake of minerals and water

My learning curve was straight up when I began researching roots, in general. I have just recently added several that I consider edible to my past list of Thanksgiving worthy root vegetables – turnips, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, and carrots. (OK, carrots were there before.) Botanists refer to these five plants as having “true” roots. What that means is their tap roots are somewhat straight, grow directly downward, have rather tapering shapes with thickened areas for carbohydrate storage. And they do store well when we keep them in cooler places at 32 to 40 degrees F. The turnips, radishes and rutabagas are all members of Brassicaceae or Cabbage Family. Some refer to it as the Mustard Family or Cruciferae for the cross-shaped petal arrangement of their flowers. Parsnips and carrots are members of a different family, Apiaceae or Parsley Family. Some of their close relatives are the herbs you may be using to season your food – parsley, cilantro, anise, dill, cumin, fennel, celery.

Roasted root veggies. Radishes, exempt from cooking, will be used in a salad.

I must confess, as a child, I pretty much refused to eat any of the root veggies I am now preparing for Thanksgiving. Roasted together with onion slices (another type of root vegetable) and preserved lemons, they are quite delicious. The use of an acid, like lemon juice, will decompose geosmin molecules that give many root vegetables an earthy, musty smell. Give them a try and don’t forget to write “lemon” on your list of plants. I am now officially rooting for root veggies!

Underfoot: It’s #Plantsgiving Time Again!

By Susan Sprout

Last November, I was told about an interesting social media campaign in which people counted the number of plant species used in their Thanksgiving meals. #Plantsgiving creator, Chris Martine, is a biology professor at Bucknell University. He told me recently that he and his students are “getting geared up for it” again this year. Encouraging people to be mindful and count the plants used in the preparation of their family feasts, he brings attention to the large number of plants we rely on regularly and on special occasions. We should all do that as well! I love the thought, and more importantly, the act of giving thanks for everything. We don’t do it nearly enough – especially for the prodigious amounts of plants and plant products we use in our lives. What a great idea to count the blessings of plants as we make our Thanksgiving preparations!

Some of the plants and plant products Sue will use to cook a Plantsgiving feast this week!

Last year, I wrote down the 61 different species of plants I used cooking our family dinner, including all the cookies and desserts. I also grouped them based on their usage. It made me aware of the fact that many of them had performed more than one job in my recipes, and in the items I bought, too. For example, some of my “food veggies” were also used as natural dyes to make prepared and canned foods look more appetizing so I’d buy them. I discovered seven different kinds of grasses, some used for flour from their seeds, others for flavors like lemon grass, and sweeteners like sugar cane. I found gums, emulsifiers, and thickeners from Guar beans and carrageenan from seaweed, both adding body to liquids like eggnog or gluten-free products. Cellulose gum and gel made from unspecified wood or plant fiber were used to stabilize many off-the-shelf products I used. Potato starch isn’t just for mashed potatoes anymore, either! Species used as herbs, spices, extracts, and flavorings had the highest numbers. Can’t forget chocolate and vanilla. The sausage in the stuffing was even hickory smoked. Can’t believe how many oils I used – olive, sesame, safflower, and sunflower – for cooking and baking!  Then, twenty-three various fruits and vegetables and nuts upped the count. That’s before I counted beverages like coffee with flavored creamers containing soybean oil and tea, wine, fancy types of alcohol, and cider punch. 

This #Plantsgiving, think about plants beyond your mashed potatoes.

I will be counting my plant blessings again this year. Doing the count last year raised my awareness about what I eat now and made me a better consumer at the same time. I have been reading many more labels than I ever have!  And I will continue to give plants and trees my deepest thanks for being here, providing food, cover, shelter, oxygen, carbon sinks, posies, colored leaves, and more…much more! 

Thank you to Evergreen Wealth Solutions for sponsoring the blog this month!

From Underfoot to on your Table: Some thoughts on #Plantsgiving

Planning a #Plantsgiving

Given concerns over COVID-19, people all over the U.S. are making the tough choice to avoid gathering in large groups this Thanksgiving. Bucknell Professor Chris Martine, biology, and his botanical colleagues suggest that one way to still bring everyone together for the holiday is to join them in the 2020 edition of #PlantsGiving, a social media campaign in which people challenge one another to count the number of plant species used in their Thanksgiving meal. Learn more about #Plantsgiving here.

Below, Susan Sprout, shares some insight on some not-so-noticeable plants that are likely to be apart of your Thanksgiving meal.

By: Susan Sprout

I love the thought and act of giving thanks anytime. We don’t do it nearly enough. What a great idea to count the blessings of plants as part of Thanksgiving preparations! Plants provide so much to the human population of this planet and yet, we probably overlook their presence in many of the items we eat. So now is the time to take some time and to be mindful of the many unique and tasty ways in which we enjoy or eat or imbibe plants.

STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

By counting the number of different plant species used in our Thanksgiving feast and sharing the information, we are providing recognition due to all plants for their continuing support all these years. We should also look at this as a way to educate others – friends, family, students, all plant primary and secondary consumers – about their many and varied uses. This being said, you have probably guessed by now that I really love plants and enjoy telling their stories and sharing them with you. The plants that I report on most are natives or plants living here so long, everybody thinks they are natives. I would like to take this opportunity, since it’s Thanksgiving and #PlantsGiving, to tell you about some non-native plants you will probably use this week. They are spices used in pumpkin pies and muffins and breads. They are cinnamon and allspice.

My Ceylon cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum zeylandicum) and my allspice tree (Pimenta dioica) are tropical trees that live in my backyard during the warm months and inside the house the rest of the year. They are taller than I am, so the photos show their long, shiny, evergreen leaves instead of the whole tree. Cinnamon is a member of the Lauraceae Family like sassafras and bay leaves. Allspice is a member of the Myrtaceae Family like eucalyptus. Cinnamon can grow from 20 to 60 feet. I will definitely be keeping mine trimmed down to a manageable size. Some people are so surprised to find out the cinnamon powder is made from the inner bark of this tree, after it is striped off, bundled and allowed to ferment. The outer layer of bark is then scraped off and the inner bark is rolled into quills and allowed to dry. It is the second most popular spice in the USA, after black pepper. My allspice tree is native to the West Indies. Our ground allspice is made from the small green fruits that are picked in mid-summer and dried by the sun or in ovens. Its name reflects the fact that it has the aroma and flavor of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves combined.

Have a splendid #PlantsGiving. Some clues for your search:

  • Read labels, look for different types of gums in milk products and gluten-free baking mixes.
  • My favorite bread from Wegman’s has 17 different flours, seeds, and nuts. So, be vigilant!
  • Don’t forget herbs and spices.
  • There is corn starch in baking powder.
  • Check beverages for sugar and Stevia.
  • Don’t forget the wine!


Susan Sprout is the author of the recurring series, Underfoot, on the NPC blog. Catch up on past issues of Underfoot: Introduction & BloodrootTrout Lily & ColtsfootBlue Cohosh & Dutchman’s BreechesGround Ivy & Forget-Me-NotsGoldthread & Wild GingerCommon Mullein & Sweet WoodruffAniseroot & Butterfly WeedMyself Jewelweed & SoapwortAmerican Pennyroyal & Great LobeliaBoneset & Common RagweedPokeweed & Blue ChicoryPrickly Cucumber & WintergreenBeech Drops & Partridge BerryPipsissewa & Nostoc, Witch Hazel.