sarahkeenihan

From rocks to vegetables

In March 2014 on March 24, 2014 at 11:56 am

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Sarah: Today I’m delighted to present a guest post from scientist and gastronome Dr Geoff Hudson.

From rocks to vegetables

I like a bit of order in my life.

Perhaps this is why I find comfort in the natural processes that I have observed through a career as a geologist in mineral exploration, an education and information manager in the mineral and petroleum industry, and more recently as an importer and cultivator of Italian vegetable seeds.

I love the predictable morphology and chemistry of crystals that have formed in a 1000-degree magma, or in solid state in metamorphic rocks as a result of low temperatures and pressure. Each mineral is unique in its crystal form and chemical composition, with some – such as diamond and graphite – having identical chemical composition but very different formation temperatures and pressures.

I also take comfort in the observation and interpretation of ancient rock formations, confident in the in the knowledge that – with few exceptions – they were formed by the same processes we see operating around us today. The cross bedding in a sandstone that immediately indicates that wind or water borne sedimentary processes were in play. The hexagonal cooling and contraction cracks of columnar basalt, indicating its past surface, or near surface, extrusion and rapid cooling.

When I transitioned from a career in geology to one based around vegetables, food culture and the Italian language I found surprising elements in common.

For example, the Romanesco Cauliflower (as shown above) is a highly attractive pale green vegetable with its inflorescence approximating natural fractals, and the number of spirals reflecting the Fibonacci ratio.

I also just love the systematics of the way Italians name their families of vegetables. Two good examples are:

    • Zucca (pumpkin, picked at full maturity), Zucchetta (squash, picked when not yet mature), and Zucchino (picked when juvenile);
    • Sedano (celery), Sedano di monti (mountain celery or Lovage in English) and Sedano rapa (celery root or celeriac in English).

Predictability and rules apply equally well to both geology and botany, and reflect the ways that humans understand, describe and interact with elements of their natural world.

[image of a romanesco cauliflower thanks to dailyfood on flickr]

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  1. […] with these descriptors, I like order and I like systematics (like the bloke who guest-posted yesterday), and I am a scientist. As a young uni student seeking my professional calling, I like to think I […]

  2. […] time for my growing work commitments as a freelance science writer. Guest posts from Heather Bray, Geoff Hudson, Tiki Swain (here and here), Mia Cobb and Cameron Webb have also been wonderful, adding diversity […]

  3. […] fantastic guest contributions from Kirsti Abbott, Mia Cobb, Cameron Webb, Heather Bray, Tiki Swain, Geoff Hudson, Matthew Bowie and several […]

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