Paul Zelinsky writes:
As you probably know, the story of Rapunzel begins with a mother craving
a salad plant called rapunzel. But rapunzel is not an English word; as
my long note from
the book will tell you, it is the German name for the plant, and we know
it only because the Grimm brothers wrote their renowned story in German.
An exact translation into English would have called the plant by its English
then the girl and the story would have had to be called Rampion as well.
I had no intention of calling my book, or its heroine, Rampion. And when
I bought seeds to help me make illustrations for
the book, growing the plant on the roof deck of my apartment
building, my family and I naturally called the herb rapunzel. The
plants served as both models and food.
We enjoyed several summers of rapunzel salads.The plant (Campanula rapunculus,
a member of the bellflower family) is a biennial, so it should last only
two years, though ours
seemed to stick around for three or four. Growing in flower pots, they
never produced the thick, crunchy root that could well have been what
craved, more than the leaves.
Recently I bought some fresh rampion seeds. You can do this, too. I ordered
them from the same
English catalog where I found them when I was beginning work on Rapunzel, although recently they ran out of stock. You can also try here.What follows is an account of our growing rapunzel
in the summer of 2009. Click here to skip to the latest entry,
if you want to scroll upwards from the end to the beginning.
This is a single seed, sitting near a penny so that you can see
how incredibly small it is:
After about ten days, tiny sprouts started peeking up from the
After two more weeks, the sprouts have become bigger. The
baby leaves are round, very different from what their grown-up shape
My wife puts them in a bigger container, on our roof where they'll
get more light. After they are bigger, we will be able to spread out the
many little plants.
About a week has passed. The plants experienced some shock from
the repotting, and haven't grown much.
The plants are about a month old. The
leaves on the healthiest ones are growing long, rather than round,
with a little ruffling of the edges. See how big they are now compared
to the penny?
Still doing fine! The weather has been cool and rainy. Look at
the penny and remember the seed this plant grew from. Although...
another pot of rampion, which went
up to the roof a little later, is struggling.
But after another week, the growth in
the window box really needed to be thinned.
In early July, about two months after
it first sprouted, the rapunzel had a visitor: Miss Bindergarten
herself! The famous border collie kindergarten teacher brought
along her illustrator friend, Ashley
Wolff. Miss Bindergarten is wearing a necklace from the trip to
Africa that the two of them took last year. Miss Bindergarten
has a Facebook fan page; if you belong to Facebook, you can
find it here.
Early in the summer, the rampion thrived.
Some plants were contributed
to the Midtown West school's garden, the story of which you can read
by clicking on the
link at the bottom of this page. A few were kindly taken
in by Bruce ("Magic
School Bus" et
al.) Degen and his wife Chris, and planted in their Connecticut garden.
There they grew big and thick, as you can see in this picture:
The plants remaining at the
Zelinskys' continued to thicken, then struggled along, growing
thinner and weaker, but finished the summer with a considerable comeback.
our first batch years ago, no flower stalk shot up at the
end of the season.
Sadly, the leaves on these plants tasted almost nothing
like the ones from the first batch, which were rather rich-flavored
with a bite like watercress. These were almost flavorless.
If our plants survive into the next year, we will hope for some nice
blooms. The Degens' plants, in the ground rather than in pots, stand a better
chance of making it.
Follow-up on Bruce Degen's rapunzel: it seeded itself, and the next year's crop is thriving, and quite beautiful!
Go to "Planting Rapunzel, Page 2"
to read how Rapunzel went to school!
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