February 24, 2022 Joseph Banks, Steve Jobs, Joseph Rock, Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean by Claudia Roden, and Mary Eleanor Bowes


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Historical Events

1743 Birth of Joseph Banks (books about this person), English naturalist, botanist, and patron of the natural sciences.

Joseph is best known for his study of Australian flora and fauna as the botanist on board the Endeavor with Captain James Cook.
Before returning to England, Cook worried the Endeavor wouldn't make it around the Cape of Good Hope.

In a fateful decision, Cook brought the ship to Batavia, a Dutch colony, to fortify his boat. Batavia was rife with malaria and dysentery. As a result, Cook lost 38 crewmembers. Joseph and fellow botanist, Daniel Solander, became gravely ill but managed to survive. Even as they battled back from illness, they still went out to collect specimens.

As gardeners, we owe a great debt to Joseph. When he returned to England, Joseph Banks advised George III on creating the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew.

And, in 1778, when Linnaeus died, Joseph acted with haste to buy Linnaeus's belongings on behalf of the Linnaeus Society. When the king of Sweden realized Linnaeus' legacy was no longer in the country, he sent a fast ship to pursue the precious cargo. But Joseph was too quick, and that's how Linnaeus's collection came to reside in London at the Linnaeus Society's Burlington House and not in Sweden.

Earlier this month, there was breaking news that the HMS Endeavor was discovered lying at the bottom of the Newport Harbour in the United States. In 1778, 35 years after the Endeavor brought Joseph Banks and Captain Cook to Australia, the ship was sold. HMS Endeavor was renamed Lord Sandwich, and then during the Revolutionary War, the British deliberately sunk her off the coast of Rhode Island.


1955 Birth of Steve Jobs (books about this person), founder of Apple.

A lover of simplicity and elegance, Steve once said,

The most sublime thing I’ve ever seen are the gardens around Kyoto.


To Steve, the ultimate Kyoto garden was the Saiho-ji ("Sy-ho-jee") - and most people would agree with him. The dream-like Saiho-ji garden was created by a Zen priest, poet, calligrapher, and gardener named Muso Soseki ("MOO-so SO-sec-key") in the 14th century during the Kamakura ("Comma-COOR-rah") Period.

The Saiho-ji Temple is affectionately called koke-dera or the Moss Temple - a reference to the over 120 moss species found in the garden.

Steve Jobs wasn't the only celebrity to find zen at Saiho-ji - David Bowie was also a huge fan.

And when it comes to design, there's a Steve Jobs quote that garden designers should pay attention to, and it goes like this:

Design is a funny word.
Some people think design means how it looks.
But... if you dig deeper, it's really how it works.


1963 On this day, The Anniston Star out of Anniston, Alabama, published a little retrospective on the adventures of Joseph Rock, the great Austrian-American botanist, and explorer, who had passed away almost three months earlier in Honolulu at 79.

Joseph was born in Austria but ended up immigrating to the United States and eventually settled in Hawaii, where he was beloved. He became Hawaii's first official botanist. Before he died, the University of Hawaii granted Joseph an honorary doctor of Science degree.

In addition to plants, Joseph had a knack for languages. He cataloged and transcribed Chinese manuscripts and wrote a dictionary of one of the tribal languages. He had an enormous intellect and was multi-talented. In addition to being a botanist, he was a linguist. He was also regarded as a world-expert cartographer, ornithologist, and anthropologist.

From a gardening standpoint, Joseph Rock introduced blight-resistant Chestnut trees to America. He also brought us more than 700 species of rhododendron. Some of his original rhododendron seeds were successfully grown in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Joseph spent much of his adult life - more than 20 years - in southwestern China.

There were many instances where he was the first explorer to enter many of the locations he visited. Joseph became so embedded in the country that there were many times that his counterparts in other parts of the world thought that he might have died in the Tibetan or Yunnan ("YOU-nan") mountains.

And so it was on this day that The Anniston Star shared a few of Joseph's most hair-raising adventures, including this little story called Night Amid Coffins.

Two of Dr. Rock's expeditions (1923-24 and 1927-30) were sponsored by the National Geographic Society. Reporting on the first of these in September 1925. National Geographic Magazine. Rock [was] trapped by bandits in the funeral chamber of an old temple in a small settlement north of Yunnanfu. While the small army he had hired for protection kept the brigands at bay, the explorer (Rock) sat amid coffins, with two .45 caliber pistols (one in each hand), and his precious plant collection nearby. By morning, the bandits had disappeared, though Dr. Rock noticed several heads hanging from poles outside the village.


Grow That Garden Library™ Book Recommendation

Claudia Roden's Mediterranean by Claudia Roden

This book came out late in 2021, and the subtitle is Treasured Recipes from a Lifetime of Travel.

A legendary cookbook writer, anthropologist, and regional cuisine expert, Claudia Roden ("Roe-din") began traveling the Mediterannean when her kids left home. She traveled extensively through the area and fell in love with Mediterranean food. And in this book, Mediterranean means favorites from France, Greece, Spain, Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco.

Claudia knows the slight differences that make the flavors of these regions. Listen to how the ingredients - like herbs, vegetables, and citrus - get used in different places.

Claudia writes:

Despite the similarities, there are distinct differences.
Where the French 
use cognac, Sicilians use Marsala, and Spaniards sherry.
Where Italians use mozzarella, Parmesan, pecorino or ricotta; the French use goat cheese or Gruyère ("groo-yair"), and the Greeks Turks Lebanese and Egyptians use feta or halloumi ("huh-loo-mee").
Where an Egyptian or Syrian would use ground almonds or pine nuts in a sauce, a Turk uses walnuts.
Crème fraîche is used in France, where yogurt and buffalo-milk cream are used in the eastern Mediterranean.
In the northern Mediterranean, the flavors are of herbs that gow wild;
in the eastern and southern Mediterranean, they are of spices, flower waters, and molasses.
In Turkey they flavor their meats with cinnamon and allspice, in Morocco they use cumin, saffron, cinnamon, and ginger.
While a fish soup in the French Midi includes orange zest and saffron, in Tunisia it will have cumin, paprika, cayenne, and cilantro leaves.
It's as if the common language of the Mediterranean is spoken in myriad dialects.


Claudia grew up in Egypt. She was born there in 1936. She also spent lots of time with extended family in France and Spain. The cookbook shares some of her personal stories as well.

Claudia's dishes are a little bit of everything - simple to sophisticated. But the recipes take center stage and speak for themselves - magnified by spectacular photography.

Recipes range the gamut from appetizers to desserts and include:

  • Focaccia
  • Tapenade
  • Fresh Goat Cheese with Herbs and Olives
  • Roasted Cheese Polenta Cubes
  • Green Olive, Walnut, and Pomegranate Salad
  • Yogurt Soup with Orzo and Chickpeas (Perfect For Summer!)
  • Hot Chilled Cream of Beet and Yogurt Soup
  • Citrus Salad with Greens
  • Winter Arugula with Pancetta and Grapes
  • Roasted Celery Root Sweet Potato and Carrot with Tarragon Vinaigrette,
  • Potato Omelette
  • Chicken with Grapes
  • Chicken with Apricots and Pistachios

This book is 320 pages of what Josep Pla called cooking: the Landscape in a saucepan

You can get a copy of Claudia Roden's Mediterranean by Claudia Roden and support the show using the Amazon link in today's show notes for $25.


Botanic Spark

1749 Birth of Mary Eleanor Bowes (books about this person), English Countess of Strathmore, grandmother of John Bowes, and ancestor to the late Queen Mother.

After her father died when she was 11, she became the wealthiest and most educated woman in England. After the death of her first husband, she was tricked into marrying a man who abused her nearly to death more than once. But before this torturous time in her life, she loved learning, she loved collecting, and she loved botany.

Her father created an amazon garden at the family's beloved Gibside estate in Northumberland. For Lady Eleanor, botany was not only a genuine passion but a way to stay connected to her father and his legacy.

Lady Eleanor was very interested in plant exploration and the latest plant discoveries. She had hothouses installed at Gibside and at Stanley House in London near the Chelsea Physick Garden.

She hired the Scottish botanist, William Paterson, to collect plants on Cape of Good Hope in South Africa during four expeditions between 1777 and 1779.

Lady Eleanor came up with some unique ways to showcase her love of botany.

Around 1780, she commissioned an extraordinary mahogany botany cabinet that featured long drawers on the side of the cabinet for dry specimens and live specimens. The side of the cabinet flipped down to create a little desktop and to make it possible to access the drawers. The front of the cabinet was adorned with holly swags and seven medallions with the heads of great men like Shakespeare, Theophrastus, and Alexander Pope.

The cabinet also had a bottom shelf that would have had a lead-lined tray for plants. The lead-lined legs of the cabinet had taps and would have held water. The water could have been used for the live plants sitting on the tray or perhaps the humidity somehow helped preserve the dried specimens. Obviously, the combination of water and wood never works well, but nonetheless, that was the original design idea. Up until the 1850s, the cabinet was known to hold some of her most prized herbarium specimens, but after Lady Eleanor's death, they were lost to time when the cabinet was sold.

The other unique botanical element Lady Eleanor enjoyed was an adorable little plant theatre at Gibside. The theater was essentially a little alcove or niche recessed into the brick wall that wrapped around the garden. The niche was then filled with prized potted plants. Today there is an adorable pale blue painted wooden frame around the alcove with the words "Plant Theatre "written across the top of the frame.

During her disastrous and tortured second marriage, which lasted for nearly a decade, Lady Eleanor was forced to give up her botanical endeavors and almost everything she enjoyed in life. In the end, one of her maids helped her escape her husband.

Lady Eleanor became the first woman to keep her property after divorce. Shortly thereafter, she signed her properties over to her eldest son - including her most precious possession: her beloved Gibside and its garden - her father's legacy.


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