Georgofili World

Newsletter of the Georgofili Academy

Georgofili is a compound word made up of two terms, georgo and filo and means “for the love of agriculture” or “friends of agriculture”.

The academy’s emblem contains the symbols of agriculture dedicated to the goddess Ceres (an ear of wheat, an olive branch and a bunch of grapes) as well as those associated with economic activity and commerce dedicated to the god Mercury (a caduceus: a winged wand with twined snakes).

Even the motto Prosperitati Publicae Augendae (to increase public welfare) highlights how the Georgofili Academy’s activities have always been focused on the public interest.

In the mind of plants

It is not easy to be a plant. Try to imagine how difficult it is to survive in an adverse environment without being able to move. Imagine you are a plant surrounded by insects, herbivores, predators of all sorts. Moreover, you cannot escape. The only way to survive is to be indestructible, to be entirely different from an animal. In other words, to be a plant. 
To escape the problems of predation, plants have evolved by following a unique and unusual path. They have developed solutions so different from those produced by animals as to become, in our eyes, an example of diversity. They are organisms so different from us animals that they could even be aliens. Many of the solutions developed by plants are the exact opposite of those produced by the animal world. 
What is white in animals, is black in plants and vice versa: animals move, plants are still; animals are fast, plants slow; animals consume, plants produce; animals produce CO2, plants fix it, continuing up to the final difference. The most important in my opinion and the least known is the one between dissemination and concentration. For example, any function that is entrusted to specialized organs in animals is diffused all over the body in plants. It is a fundamental difference whose consequences are difficult to fully understand. Such a different structure is one of the reasons why plants seem so different. The fact that we have a certain number of fundamental organs in common with almost all animals, makes them closer and more understandable. Why have vegetables not developed the individual specialized organs that have proved to be so useful in the animal world? The answer is banal. Even if organs are efficient in performing their functions, they are a weak point. 

A safe refrigerator

The refrigerator today has almost become a synonym for food pantry because it is an important appliance for preserving the freshness of foods which can last longer if kept at a low temperature or protected against from the oxygen that causes oxidation. Frozen and deep frozen food is not considered fresh.
A refrigerator must be at the right temperature, neither too low nor too high, ranging between 4-6°C on the various shelves. Nor should it also be too full, especially if it is not ventilated. For this reason, it is best to choose a refrigerator model with a control thermometer and an external display.
If the temperature in the refrigerator is too low, foods freeze and lose their freshness. With temperatures above 7°C, foods not only lose their freshness, but the microbes that alter foodstuffs can also multiply dangerously, even causing severe food infections and poisoning. In industrialized countries, where almost all families have a refrigerator, it is estimated that only 3% of food accidents result from production whereas the remaining 97% originate in the kitchen during food handling, and is mainly due to improper storage in the refrigerator. 

Native or exotic? A widespread and often useless debate

The debate on the choice between exotic and native species has always been rather heated but often excessively simplified (native “good”, exotic “bad”). In particular, it is not supported by scientific evidence. This is especially true for parks and gardens in urban areas. The concept of native, strictly speaking, in an alien environment like that of our cities, does not make sense, therefore it seems appropriate to reconcile controversial positions and have an objective, rational approach rather than a subjective, empathetic and emotional one, as often happens.
First of all, the meaning of exotic should be made clear. In our common sense we associate this word with tropical and equatorial countries when, in fact, from the etymological point of view, the word derives from the Greek, exotikos, which in turn derives from exo, outside. It should refer to anything originating or being imported from other regions that are not necessarily warm and/or equatorial.

Broom, its use and tradition

If you were to ask teenagers today what they know about broom (Spartium junceum L.), assuming they know it is a plant, they might know that it is a lovely, bright green wild plant that lives at the edge of woods and has yellow flowers. If an experienced middle-aged farmer were asked this, perhaps he would tell us that broom is a weed, it is a bushy-shrub, with taproots, celebrated in the poetry of Leopardi and d'Annunzio, and I would also add that, during the feast of Corpus Christi, its golden yellow flowers were gathered and used to decorate the streets through which the religious procession passed.