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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Pollan’

I have found a source of caffeine that I can actually drink and I am suuuuperhappyaboutthat!

Ahem.

I gave up coffee voluntarily in grad school (because school was stressful enough and also when you need a giant pot to get through the day that’s your body telling you something) and then had to give up tea a few years later for digestive reasons. So I’ve been living a mostly caffeine free life for too long.

Recently, through a confluence of conversational touch points, I found myself telling my mother about yaupon, the only (known) caffeinated plant native to North America. 

LuteusCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Yaupon (pronounced yō-pon) is a branch of the holly family. The scientific name is terrible (Ilex vomitoria, um, no thanks?) but the plant and tea have nothing to do with regurgitation (ok, that’s fine then!). 

Native to the southeastern US, it was used by natives for thousands of years, and traded across North America and the Atlantic.

Yaupon: The rebirth of America’s forgotten tea – BBC Travel

When picked, roasted and boiled, the leaves yield a yellow to dark-orange elixir with a fruity and earthy aroma and a smooth flavour with malty tones. As if orchestrated specifically for the mind and body, yaupon leaves’ perfect ratio of stimulating xanthines such as caffeine, theobromine and theophylline release slowly into the body, providing a jitter-free mental clarity and an ease to the stomach.

* * *

Why am I going on about this tea? Because it’s native, sustainable, and it deserves to be thought of as more than a “pesky weed.” It’s tannin free, so unlike traditional tea from Camellia sinensis, you can steep it multiple times without that unfun bitter, astringent aftertaste.

Also, because I happen to have a bag from one of the more prominent yaupon companies, CatSpring in Texas, and I’m drinking a delicious cup with maple syrup right now. 

This caffeine stuff works, y’all;)

* * *

Speaking of, let’s just take a brief moment to appreciate the role of caffeine, “the most widely used psychoactive drug on Earth,” in human history.

Beer built the pyramids, but caffeine powered the Enlightenment. 

Whatever your beverage of choice, may your eyes remain bright and your synapses active!

* * *

Photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.com

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(today I bring you a dispatch from the wilds of suburbia)

I just mowed the front lawn. I hate mowing. We have an electric mower that’s great, it’s a small yard, no big deal, but it is not my cup of tea.

English estates popularized lawns, but it took America to democratize the things. I’ll cite a few lines from a nineteenth-century book based on Frederick Law Olmsted‘s work (via this excellent article by Michael Pollan), but the real push for lawns started in the 1950s.

“Let your lawn be your home’s velvet robe, and your flowers its not too promiscuous decoration… A smooth, closely shaven surface of grass is by far the most essential element of beauty on the grounds of a suburban house.”
— “The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds,” Frank J. Scott (1870)

Pretty? Sure, if you like uniformity. But in terms of land use, water use, and pesticide chemical use, lawns are terrible for the environment. They are also a massive time suck. Don’t get me wrong, I love Olmsted’s take on keeping nature in cities and improving society through physical design, etc. But there has to be a better way.

We planted a clover-grass mix (yes, on purpose:), but by the time the clover is tall enough to flower, the grass is twice as high and seeding. The neighbors have beautiful, chemically-induced perfections of green. They look askance at our “grass plus” mix, and at the way we wave the weed control van on when it comes around.

And so to keep the peace, I mow. Even when the clover is flowering and the bees are buzzing and can’t understand why I would take away their glorious buffet. I’m not sure why either. I ask the bees for understanding, and I mow in slow motion to give them time to leave the all-you-can-eat-restaurant-turned-food-desert and under my breath I’m asking myself “What’s the flipping point?” I mutter it as I mow the clover, the edible wood sorrel and lamb’s quarters, and the wild strawberries that spring up under the bushes.

Except I don’t say “flipping.”

We’re still looking for ways to shift our lawn to something more useful, but it’s a process. Want to save time, money, and the planet? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The back yard doesn’t get as much sun, and only patches of clover flower there. I let them grow anyway.

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