Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Blessing of Deviation

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to be “deviant” is to stray or deviate from an accepted norm. When we think of someone being deviant, it often leads us to think of someone who is trying to cause trouble or who is simply up to no good.

How many carosello cucumbers do you see? (Answer at the end)

With plants, it is a bit different. There is often a deviation, much like a statistical deviation, that can either be greater or lesser, depending upon how different from each other a specific plant’s parents and grandparents were from itself. Most modern agriculture looks at deviation as a very negative thing. Since the early 1900s, the growing agricultural industry has worked to develop vegetables that are more and more uniform so that when you go into the grocery store you know you will get a completely round, red, average-sized tasteless slicing tomato.

Carosello Tarantino

Carosello Tarantino, cut to expose inside flesh.

However, deviation was not always viewed as such a negative thing. If it were not for deviation, most of the plants that we eat from the brassica family would never exist. In fact, it was the very fact that plants like wild mustard have some degree of variance that allowed early farmers to select and cultivate otherwise unproductive plants into the many vegetable varieties we have.

What will these female flowers from the same plant become?

So, how much variance should we tolerate, as gardeners and food consumers? Though this is a purely hypothetical question, it is one that continues to pit dedicated gardeners and scientists (who desire to preserve unique plant varieties) against big agriculture that promotes and sells consistency (though they take advantage of huge amounts of deviation in order to continue to develop their products). As for me, I prefer a small amount of deviation so that I do not have to wonder about the size, shape, color, and flavor of the fruit along with the growing habits of each cucumber plant each time I plant a seed. That being said, deviation can be incredibly good for even the less-tolerant gardener. For example: what if the one plant that looks a little different from your other plants survives a devastating blight? All of a sudden the plant that was a nuisance is now the only one you want to save seed of.

Will they look like the Meloncella Fasciata?

Or will it look like this?

The main reason why I bring this topic up is because each seed saver and home gardener should really think about what they value in the crops they grow so that they will ensure that they and those who follow will be able to continue to have food and variety. Perhaps God made plants and animals to have some amount of deviation so that they could thrive and bless the world with majestic beauty. Perhaps a healthy dose of deviation is truly a blessing.

And the answer is....        6!


  1. I so agree!! I love to watch what is the mini ecosystem that is my 20x40 garden. Last summer some of my oriental purple eggplants were a golden yellow!! And I with you all the way with God created beauty and diversity. All I can do is plant and water a seed. I cannot make it grow. Its a wonderous mystery. BUT...
    Squirrels are the bain of my existence right now-eating all my peaches figs and one of two meyer lemons on my precious and pampered tree.
    Any advice?!

    1. Dear Blessed,

      Good question. You could get netting, a dog to chase after them, or encourage your neighbors to plant something that the squirrels like even more than what you are growing.

      When I was younger, I used a rat trap to relocate some especially pesky squirrels, but I don't thin I would do that now, unless I tried some other things first.

      We should always count our blessings! I don't care much for the stray cats that wander through my yard and use my garden as their litter box, but the cats do a fantastic job of deterring the squirrels.

  2. Dear Jay,

    The sentence "Perhaps a healthy dose of deviation is truly a blessing" is the right final sentence to end a perfect post.


    1. Once again, thank you for everything my friend!

      I am sorry to hear that things are not as productive as you would have liked. I tried some ground up basalt and humic acid along with some EM-1 on my Carosello Tondo Tarantino plants. They quickly went from growing slowly to all of a sudden growing very quickly and setting lots of female fruit. I figured that they needed the soil to be a little more fertile.

      Though I cannot make promises on what will grow to maturity, I can promise that once seed is saved this season, I will let you know what I have managed to harvest for you to choose from.


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I look forward to learning more about gardening with you. Your comments help me recognize that gardening is a life-long journey.

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