Friday, September 21, 2007

Gellin' With The Taz

It wouldn't be difficult to believe that's a photo of a delicious new drink, perfect for a hot summer afternoon on the patio or maybe for Sunday brunch instead of the usual Mimosa.

It's not.

Okay. Maybe it's a new Margarita-flavored Jello?

Nope. Not that, either.

What it is, is just about the most amazing thang I've seen in a long time. Imagine a tablespoon of little bitty crystals no bigger than the crystals of sea salt you get in the grinder bottle from Trader Joe's. In fact, that's exactly what they look like so I'd better make sure the packet is stored in a well-labeled container. I'd hate for anyone to mistakenly sprinkle them on their eggs and swallow them. They're not at all toxic but moisture does something else entirely to the little rascals.

What you do is, you put 'em in a big bowl and pour in a couple of quarts of water. Come back in a couple of hours and shake your head in utter disbelief because now the bowl is filled with what looks like rough chunks of ice and feels like gelatin. And there's no water left.

There might have been if I'd added the three quarts of water the instructions said to use, explaining that I should drain off the excess after two hours. But I didn't really believe those itty bitty granules were going to even soak up the two quarts, never mind the three. Oh ye of little faith! Now do you see why I wouldn't want anyone to swallow them? Zowie! Needless to say, the manufacturers stress you should never put them down your plumbing. House or personal.

So what am I gonna do with them? Well, for starters, house plants. These magical little crystals have been around for quite awhile, actually. You've probably heard of them before. Maybe some of you have used them. To over-simplify, they're highly absorbent polymer crystals. There are different formulations for different purposes, I understand. For me, it will be the plants first and some fun crafty stuff later.

For instance, some plants can be grown in a container with nothing but the hydrated crystals. The roots can access the moisture they need as they need it. You can include fertilizer in the water when you hydrate the crystals so the plants get that, too. Think of them as chunky little water reservoirs. As they give up their load of moisture, they begin to shrink back to the original size. Just add more water and they plump up again.

Another way to use them is to mix the hydrated crystals in with the potting soil. Not only do you not have to water as often, the expansion and contraction of the crystals keeps the soil aerated. At least, that's what they claim. We'll see. I've got all kinds of plant experiments lined up. For instance, in one small pot full of just the chunks of gel, I'm hoping to start a chunk of ginger. That may or may not take no matter how I do it so I figured, whuddahey. I've also got some assorted seeds about to germinate in those little expanding peat disc-thingies and I'm thinking to insert them in either straight gel or mixed dirt and gel once the seedlings have a little muscle to them.

The big thing I did today, though, was to repot The Taz. I haven't introduced you yet, mainly because I just met ol' Taz my own self. I was over at the feed store to pick up a bag of chow for Ralph and wandered around in the outside plant section while I was waiting. Sitting in a corner looking bedraggled and forlorn was a pot labeled Tasmania Vine-pink, or Billardiera longiflora. It had a few small pink berries on it and lots of dead vines poking out but it was valiantly trying to maintain. "Take me," it whimpered. "Please give me a home."

Well. How could I turn my back on such a pitiful plea? Taz came home with me and the cat chow and I spent an hour at the dining table, carefully clipping away the dead stuff. Then I said, "Brace yourself, Taz. I'll try to be gentle with you." Before he could object, I ruthlessly yarded him out of his pot. It was as I expected -- the poor guy was totally rootbound.

Not any more. I got his roots all worked out loose and mixed the soil with a generous helping of the gel crystals and repotted him in a nice new home. Re-tied him to his bamboo pole with some strips of sexy black panty hose and set him in the window. You know, I think he's already looking much happier. At least, that's what I tell myself. Just in case, I'm going to try to start some seeds from one of his berries, which is supposed to be easy when the berries are fresh.

I hope he makes it, though. Come spring, he's supposed to put out fragrant yellow blossoms which will turn into edible berries in late summer and early fall. Some sources say the berries taste mildly apple-like but the implication is that it's nothing to get excited about. One fellow said the berries are good fried, though. Hmmm ... Anyway, that's how the plant gets one of its names -- appleberry vine.

I won't do a full-body shot until he's looking less bedraggled but below is a closeup shot of one of his berries. They're not very big -- the largest is no bigger than a cranberry. Maybe he'll be feeling good enough next season to produce bigger ones. We'll see.


The Old Guy said...

We know someone who claims to have settled a score with a nasty neighbor by tossing a small barrel of those polymer crystals into his swimming pool. If true, I guess the victim got really absorbed in the cleanup process.

Dee said...


That's just WICKED!

Can you imagine the neighbor's face when he dashed out for a morning dip in the pool?

Hmmm ... wonder what it would be like to actually dive into something like that?

Anonymous said...

Dee, I'm fascinated by your crystals. I may have to learn more about them.

Dee said...

Aw gee, Wendy. I should have provided a link. Try this one for starters: It's one of the better sites for info and ideas. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

Strange things, those crystals. They're great for hanging baskets, that I do know.

I reckon that young Taz has fallen firmly on his roots with you, Dee, and will start to make up for lost time.

Dee said...

That's what I understand, John. Because the crystals absorb the water instead of letting it drain through so nothing leaks out. Awesome.

As for the Taz, I hope he'll be okay but since we're going into the winter season, I expect it will be a slow recuperation. Fingers crossed.

Bex said...

Very nice to meet you, Taz. I hope you grow big and strong with Dee's loving kindness.

I dare not ever bring those crystals into this house - we have a puppy who devours television clickers for snacks... I wonder what he'd do with those little things?

Anonymous said...

I bought those crystals one year for crafty stuff. Looked horrible in the bowl as I chose the wrong color of food coloring. Well maybe not the wrong. At the vendor table they have all those fancy lights to shine through them.

Can't remember but I think I stuck some philedendron in the bowl.

Dee said...

Bex, I do SO identify with living with a furkid of undiscriminating taste! What they can ingest and still thrive is unbelievable. Still, I wouldn't want to test puppy plumbing capacities.

Bonnie, you didn't say -- was the philodendron rooted? Unrooted? How did it do? More, I say, more!

Mage said...

I'm sure Taz will be full flowered because of your gentle care later. But the swimming pool. And to think I thought you were devolving into a food bloggie.