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Saturday, December 23, 2017


For the next few days I will focus on three of the greatest mysteries of life, especially in  space and the reality of Jesus Christ.  Today, however, I begin with some interesting mysteries not particularly universal and, perhaps, a few only mine.  But the final paragraph will astound some of you and, perhaps, change your life.  I'm in a quandary.

Let me begin with parsnips and rutabagas, two vegetables I have long ignored.  Why?  Sometimes there are mysteries in one's life that defy any logical explanation.  I don't recall ever seeing what these plants look like in the field.  It's possible they don't grow in Hawaii.  I went out of my way to purposefully not google them, until today.  Actually, I might have once tasted parsnips, but that could have been a fantasy.  I know I have never ever eaten rutabaga.

For the record, parsnips are related to both the carrot and parsley (as you can see, the green part looks like parsley).  But here is a related subtlety I just solved today.  Why parsley, cilantro, chervil and coriander?  

Or, even, celery, for the leafy part (carrots, too) is many times used in restaurants rather than throwing it away and spending on parsley, which for many, like me, is just decorative.   Someday, I'll go into them, for they are all related, but different.

So, anyway, about parsnips, they were once used as sweeteners, before the arrival of cane sugar.  This root can be cooked or eaten raw and sometimes used as a starch.  It is high in vitamins, minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and fiber.  The sap from shoots and leaves is toxic.  There is usually a second crop, when the root becomes largely inedible, but with yellow flowers.  

In some communities, roast parsnip is an essential part of Christmas dinner.  Better yet, have you had parsnip chips or Parsnip wine, which is similar to Madeira?  Oh, in Roman times, parsnips were believed to be an aphrodisiac.  However, Italians tend to avoid them in their cuisine.  Instead, this root is especially fed to pigs for Parma ham.  Traditional Chinese medicine finds use as an herbal ingredient.

The rutabaga is a complete mystery to me.  It is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage (root + bag) and is known as Swedish turnip, which once grew wild there, although in that country it is called kalrot (from kale root).

This turnip-like vegetable should not be confused with kohlrabi (right).  Both the leaves and root can be eaten, but they are widely used as winter feed for livestock.

Part of the reason I am featuring parsnips and rutabagas is that this is the Holiday Season, and both vegetables are important and popular Christmas dishes in parts of the world, especially Scandinavia.  A typical serving has mashed rutabaga with butter, accompanying salted herring, smoked sausage  or ham hock.  Hmmm...sounds like something I should try.  Also used in Scotland with haggis.  Maybe not.

In parts of Europe, like Germany and France, it is considered to be a food of last resort, because they were available during the time of food shortages during World War 1 and 2.  Thus there are unhappy memories associated with this vegetable.  Here in the USA, they are tossed into stews and casseroles as a flavor enhancer.  It has a bitter taste.  100 grams will give you 42% of vitamin C for the day.

In the United Kingdom, they are carved and placed in the window or doorsteps at Halloween to ward off evil spirits.  But this practice is dying out in favor of pumpkins.

And, ah, who can avoid going to the International Rutabaga Curling Championship, which occurs at the Ithaca Farmer's Market in upstate New York, typically on the third weekend in December.  Sorry, you just missed it.  Put December 15 on your schedule for next year.  In 2002, the winner was 8-year old David Trevaskis.

The world record rutabaga is an 85.5 pounder grown in 2011 by Ian Neale of Wales.  He broke the record of Scott Robb of Alaska.

However, Robb made a comeback, presenting at the 2012 Alaska State Fair a 138.25 pound cabbage.

My final momentous mystery has to do with cows.  Did you know they almost always eat facing north or south?

This inclination also occurs when resting.  It is speculated that these large mammals have an internal compass.  But why?

This now makes you wonder if you can sleep better lying along the magnetic path.  In India (and Chinese Feng shui), it is said that you should never ever sleep with the top of your head pointing north if you live in the Northern Hemisphere.  Dreams will be terrible and you will lose 50% of your willpower.  Something to do with hemoglobin.   Head to the east is best.

But this gets complicated, for the sense now is that this would depend if you sleep in the northern or southern hemisphere.  The affect, apparently, reverses in the N-S directions.

Okay, so much for ancient eastern medicine, but what does science say?
  • Those who sleep in an East-West position (whoops, that's me, but my bedroom arrangement would mean a complete re-arrangement), have shorter rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycles.
  • North-South sleepers got more REM sleep, which is necessary for greater health and well being.
There is then a total contradiction between science and ancient culture. My head is to the west, so do I now abandon science, or have faith in unfounded beliefs?  Which means I will still need to do some serious reshuffling, as switching to the East will be difficult.  The older I get the more trouble I have sleeping, so I'm now faced with a monumental decision which could affect the rest of my life.  I should not have examined this particular mystery.

Incidentally, Typhoon Tembin at 75 MPH has formed in an unusual spot and seems headed to miss Vietnam and strike southern Thailand:


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