Garden life
Cheers to chrysanthemum

The Floristís Mum is one of the best plants for removing formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia from the atmosphere, writes Daksha Hathi on John Steinbeckís favourite flower

A plant for the disabled: Chrysanthemum is a friend for the visually impaired. Its deep red and purple colours are visible to the partially blind.
A plant for the disabled: Chrysanthemum is a friend for the visually impaired. Its deep red and purple colours are visible to the partially blind.

Chrysanthemum is one flower that will surprise you with its odd and enchanting mysteries. First of all it tempts you to start reading! It appears hauntingly in John Steinbeckís classic story The Chrysanthemums. In it, amazingly, Steinbeck practically teaches you how to grow this flower. It is one of the most joyous lessons in gardening you are ever likely to get for free. The story is sad but the gardening lesson is enriching.

Floristís Mum is one of the best plants for removing formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia from the atmosphere. So it should be grown inside homes, schools, offices, colleges, nursing homes, hospitals, old peopleís homes etc. Its overall rating is 7.4 on a count of 10: for the removal of chemical vapours (nine), for ease of growth (four), for resistance to insect infestation (eight) and transpiration rate (eight). (source: NASA research).

Also called Mums in England, they are good to plant inside the house at a bright sunlit spot. Robert Fortune, a plant hunter from England, on a visit to China collected many rare and unusual plants for his country and learnt the secrets of chrysanthemum culture.

How to grow: this thirsty flower loves the bright sun and must be watered regularly. The chrysanthemum can be grown in one-third red mud, one-third sand, and one-third compost. When it is growing you must provide enough water to keep the root balls slightly damp. Any standard commercial potting soil is good for this plant.

Donít plant it in wet, shady places. Keep each plant at a distance of one foot or two from the other. Florists Moms should be staked so that the branches are kept off the ground, and remove any diseased leaves or flowers immediately.

You can eat your chrysanthemum flowers and seeds too. The Chinese and the Japanese use the Mumís flowers and leaves in their kitchens. Chrysanthemum petals make your rice and salads special with their unique flavour and scent. But if you overcook them they turn bitter. For cooking them, pick the flowers and wash them well and pull off the petals. Dry these and refrigerate in a plastic bag. When you want to try out a chrysanthemum salad, take out the petals and add them to fruit, or to potato salads. For a salad, blanch the petals for a second, drain and dry, and add a pinch of honey or sugar.

Sweet potatoes chrysanthemum: take six medium sweet potatoes, half cup canned crushed pineapple, one fourth cup honey, salt and pepper to taste, two tablespoons butter, half teaspoon grated lemon rind, half cup chopped chrysanthemum petals.

Cook and mash the sweet potatoes. Add the pineapple, honey, salt and pepper, butter, lemon rind, and chrysanthemum petals. Blend well, pour into a buttered casserole, and bake in a moderate oven (350 deg. F.) for 25 to 30 minutes. To keep cut chrysanthemums longer in water, add four tablespoons of sugar to each quart of cold water you keep your mums in. With their strong smell chrysanthemums pollute the water you keep them in, so strip the stems of all their leaves before putting them in the pot or bowl of water.





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