Thai Coconut Pumpkin Soup
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp curry powder
2-3 tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon red curry paste
2 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
2 - 15 oz cans pumpkin puree
1 - 13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
Melt butter on medium-low heat in a medium saucepan. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes to onions and cook 3 minutes.

Stir in pumpkin, chicken broth and coconut milk to onion mixture and warm throughout.

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My Baby Coconut  
Last spring I found myself at the Honolulu airport with 5 hours to kill. Not too agonizing a wait because unlike the MSP airport back home, Honolulu has a large outdoor seating area surrounded with flowering gardens, birds and trees. Poking around the typical gift shops with shells and macadamia nuts, I found a sprouting coconut with its leaves already a foot tall. It was packaged and sealed with an APHIS stamp of approval. What! I couldn't believe my luck. I handed over the $40 and stuffed it into my already too full carry-on bag, euphoric to be taking home a little piece of paradise.

The coconut ranks among the world's largest seeds. It is widespread and successful, but no one is sure where it came from. The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) achieved this feat with fruits that function as massive floating seeds. When a coconut drops from its mother tree, it usually hits the sand. Tolerance to salt, heat and shifting soil helps the wild coconut survive on tropical beaches. Once afloat, a coconut can remain viable for at least three months, and ride ocean currents for thousands of miles.

Each buoyant husk surrounds a single, fist-sized kernel that is hollow except for a nutritious liquid known as coconut water or endosperm. As a coconut seed matures, much of its liquid hardens into the familiar oily white flesh known as copra that graces not only candy bars and cream pies, but curries and chutneys. With its liquid keeping things moist and the rich oily flesh providing energy, a young coconut can grow for weeks without any inputs.

To the ancient Polynesians, every part of the coconut was used to sustain their lives. Islanders named the coconut palm the "tree of a thousand uses." Besides thirst quenching beverages and cooking oil, coconut products include buttons, soap, charcoal, potting soil, rope, fabric, fishing line, floor mats, musical instruments and mosquito repellent.

Today, one year later, my baby coconut is quickly outgrowing its space and hitting the ceiling. I always knew this day would come when I would have to say goodbye. Thank you baby coconut, for teaching me how to give, endure, grow, defend and travel. Mahalo.

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Coconut seeds ripening on the coconut palm tree. 
It's easy to spend 5 hours waiting for a plane if this is your view  

My baby coconut before planting.
Little roots are already sprouting through the husk.

Here is what my coconut looks like today. Capable of reaching 98 feet high and intolerant of cold weather means this little coconut won't make it too much longer in my kitchen or garden. 
Crack Me Up
Frost cankers and cracks on ornamental trees; wrap or don't wrap? I received a question this week on the benefit of wrapping trees to prevent winter injury, specifically the splitting of trunks. This splitting is either due to a frost canker or a frost crack.

A frost canker, sometimes called sunscald, is a shallow split in the bark and forms as a result of extreme temperature fluctuations. While these cankers are more common on the southwest side of the tree, they can occur on any side of the trunk. The problem occurs when tissue that is beginning to lose its cold hardiness is exposed to cold temperatures during late winter nights. The tender bark and cambial tissue are killed. This is most common on thin-barked trees such as fruit trees, lindens and maples, but is also stress-related. Moisture stress during the summer and fall is most often correlated to frost cankers occurring that winter. Trees that are planted too deep may also develop frost cankers.

Frost cracks, on the other hand, are deep, longitudinal cracks that appear on the lower trunks of trees. You can sometimes hear gunshot-like reports in the woods in winter as a tree suddenly cracks open. On cold nights the outer part of a trunk freeze-dries in the same way that unwrapped food desiccates in a freezer. As it dries and contracts over the still-wet center, the pressure is eventually relieved by the wood cracking open. In the spring, the crack closes and the new wood formed that summer papers over the crack, but this may not be strong enough to resist cracking next year. Several mild years are usually needed to build a strong enough bridge over the crack to prevent future cracking. Tree species such as oak crack more than others, but no species appears to be immune. Some experts see the cause of frost cracks in earlier stem injuries, such as pruning wounds, which can initiate cracking when freeze shrinkage and ice expansion generate tension stress.

Will wrapping trees during the winter help? Will painting the trunk white help? It might, but keep in mind that moisture stress and wounding are the two key factors in the formation of cankers and cracks. Wrapping with paper or plastic wrap may not prevent temperature fluctuations; in fact it may actually cause a more rapid temperature change. In addition, if the wrap is left on into the next growing season it may trap moisture, creating a favorable habitat for pests. Left on even longer it can girdle the tree.

Wrap or don't wrap? I say "Don't" since the problems of leaving it on too long outweigh the small benefit of winter protection; but do make sure the trees are receiving adequate water during the growing season and do not wound the trunk. These are best means to reduce frost cankers and cracks.

Frost canker or sunscald 

Typical frost crack.

For more information on frost cracks and sunscald.

Thanks for reading.  
Happy Planting!    


Faith Appelquist

President & Founder


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