stressing out (plants) and strength12 Aug 2016
the phenomenon i’m about to describe has been a part of farmer knowledge for centuries (probably). it turns out that certain types of stress improves certain aspects of plants and crops.
examples that i’ve heard of:
- apples that go through one or two hard freezes get sweeter
- some veggies (carrots, kale, beets) get sweeter with light front
- tomato plants that are starved for water put more nutrients into their fruit (which means more delicious tomatoes)
the knowledge of this has been spreading (even to tech-farmers like the ones at mit)!
why does this happen? protection. here’s how it works in the freeze examples. when water freezes inside of plants, it creates ice crystals. ice crystals slice through plant cells and cause damage to the plant, sometimes killing it. however, plants have learned (yes, plants learn, it’s just slower than humans) that converting water to sugar prevents crystals from forming. so now at signs of cold, some plants create sugar to protect themselves and live a little longer.
not only do i love this phenomenon, but i know (from experience) that it has some direct implications on human development. thich nhat hanh said something similiar in a recent onbeing episode:
“It’s like growing lotus flowers. You cannot grow lotus flowers on marble. You have to grow them on the mud. Without mud, you cannot have a lotus flower. Without suffering, you have no ways in order to learn how to be understanding and compassionate… Suffering and happiness, they are both organic, like a flower and garbage. If the flower is on her way to become a piece of garbage, the garbage can be on her way to becoming a flower… That is why you are not afraid of garbage. I think we have suffered a lot during the 20th century. We have created a lot of garbage. There was a lot of violence and hatred and separation. And we have not handled — we don’t know how to handle the garbage that we have created. And then we would have a sense to create a new century for peace. That is why now is very important for us to learn how to transform the garbage we have created into flowers.”
— thich nhat hanh, onbeing: being peace in a world of trauma
of course, one shouldn’t seek struggle. but when it comes (and it will come because suffering is the way of the world says buddhism), know that it’s possible that it will make you stronger.