Talking more than turkey

November 4, 2011
By

Plant expert looks at Thanksgiving dinner

University of Colorado and Harvard Professor Pamela Diggle will present an up-close and personal look at squash, potatoes, cranberries and other traditional Thanksgiving produce in her lecture “The Botany of Thanksgiving” at Arnold Arboretum’s Weld Hill Research Building Nov. 16.

The lecture “grew out of a class I teach about plant structure,” Diggle said. “I invented it for my students to answer the question, ‘What does your meal look like if you look at it under a microscope?’”

She said she will likely touch on topics like the relationship between potato and carrot skins and tree bark. Turns out they are structurally one and the same. In fact, structurally, carrots are nothing but tasty wood, she said.

She could also delve into the mystery of why celery gets stuck in your teeth, why beets have rings and how pumpkins get so big so fast, she said.

She said she could also look at ethno-botany and discuss the popularity of squash and corn among Native Americans at the time or the first Thanksgiving.

And, she said, the cellular images of food captured by scanning electron and transmission light microscopes are sure to be crowd pleasers.

“We will be able to see what they look like when you look at them differently,” she said.

“The Botany of Thanksgiving,” Wednesday, Nov. 16, 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Weld Hill Research Building, 1300 Centre St. For more information or to register, visit my.arboretum.harvard.edu.