Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nurture Your Houseplants

The next time you need to water your houseplants, why not practice water conservation, ditch the Miracle Gro and apply your own liquid fertilizer, all at the same time?

Simply save the water you use to cook vegetables to water houseplants, after the water has cooled. (If those vegetables on the stove happened to be ones you grew yourself, organically, so much the better.)

The water in which vegetables have been boiled contains minerals and other nutrients that will help your plants thrive. Cooked vegetables leach some of these nutrients in the water, even when the vegetables are steamed.

Of course, it's not a good idea to water houseplants with salted cooking water. If you're in the habit of doing this, you can still reuse this nutrient brew by freezing it for later use in soups or stews.

Interestingly, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Southerners at one time used water left over from boiling foods poured over bread or biscuits or simply drunk from a shot glass. Such water was known as "pot liquor," or "potlikker."

American slave cooks started the practice of saving the "broth" from cooking greens like collards, turnips and mustards to feed their families.

Potlikker may have been associated with a life of hardship, but many of those who became accustomed to drinking such vegetable water – it was the precursor, after all, of V8 juice - relished the distinct flavors of waters used to cook specific vegetables.

If you're a Northerner, potlikker may be an acquired taste. And while the water used to cook other foods, such as pasta or hard-boiled eggs, may not generate the same praise from Southern foodies, it can still be used to refresh your houseplants.

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