“Honey, what’s for dinner?”
“Your favourite: undifferentiated plant meristem tissue, sautéed in butter.”
Mmm, mmm. Sounds delicious, no?
You might wonder how or why I got here. Read on.
This year we’re snowbirding in South Carolina, nicknamed “The Palmetto State.” Since 1939 South Carolina has claimed the sabal palmetto as its state tree. Appearing on the state flag, great seal, and state quarter, the palmetto symbolizes the defeat of the British fleet at Sullivan’s Island off Charleston during the Revolutionary War. Something about the palmetto logs used in the fort’s construction absorbing the force of the British cannonballs. I say “something” because 18th-century forts (subtopic: bombardment, unsuccessful) not being my metier.
According to Wikipedia, the sabal palmetto has many noms de plume: sabal palm, palmetto, Carolina palmetto, common palmetto, cabbage-palm, swamp cabbage, cabbage palmetto, and blue palmetto, which latter is pretty much the only blue thing not immortalized by Elvis Presley (here, here, and here).
Did you note the frequency of “cabbage” in this list? There’s a good reason for that. Read on.
The growing heart of the new fronds, also known as the terminal bud,
gives the tree its “cabbage” name,
since this is extracted as a food
and tastes like other undifferentiated plant meristem tissue,
such as the heart of a cabbage or artichoke.
(Ed’s note: Bolding added for emphasis.)
– Wiki article on sabal palmetto
And just like that I realized that I have been eating undifferentiated plant meristem tissue my whole life and never known it. Indeed, every Christmas in my memory I have eaten plant meristem tissue differentiated only by its red colour, and at this very moment I have undifferentiated-plant-meristem-tissue rolls in my refrigerator.
But what sparked my initial interest in the sabal palmetto? Read on.
Due to its aforementioned historical significance and symbolic uses, the palmetto is a familiar motif on tourist items down here. Some might say overly familiar, although who am I to judge?
It’s also widely used in home decor, especially in rental properties. Some might say over-used. On this latter point I feel that I can trust my judgement.
While providing a sense of place is a legitimate aim of interior design, I have to say that I think it’s possible to overdo things.