Category: Crazy Useful Thing of the Day

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Esparto

Esparto grass

The name “esparto grass” refers to two species of perennial plants in the grass (Poaceae) family, Stipa tenacissima and Lygeum spartum. Both species are native to the Western Mediterranean, primarily North Africa and the southern Iberian Peninsula.  Both are cultivated for the leaf fiber,… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Esparto”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Nutmeg

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) is a species of evergreen tree in the nutmeg (Myristicaceae) family, native to the Moluccas (formerly known as the Spice Islands) of Indonesia, but now widely cultivated throughout the tropical regions.  It is the best-known member of the Myristica genus, as… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Nutmeg”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Borax

Twenty mule team borax wagon

Borax (Sodium borate) is a white crystalline compound found in volcanic regions, and in arid regions on the bed of evaporated salt lakes.  The small town of Boron, in California, is home to the U. S. Borax Boron Mine, an enormous open-pit mine that… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Borax”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Indigo

Seed pods from Indigofera tinctoria.

Indian indigo, also known as true indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) is a species of shrub in the pea (Fabaceae) family, of unknown origin.  It has become widely naturalized to tropical and temperate Asia, as well as parts of Africa.  It has a long history of… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Indigo”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Bambara Groundnut

Bambara groundnut

The Bambara groundnut, also known as the Congo goober (Vigna subterranea), is a species of annual plant in the pea (Fabaceae) family, native to tropical Africa, but now cultivated in many tropical regions; it is particularly important in West Africa.  It is closely related… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Bambara Groundnut”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Kapok

Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra). Nassau, Bahamas.

The kapok, or silk-cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra) is a species of tropical tree in the mallow (Malvaceae) family whose native range is thought to be Central and South America.  It is now widely naturalized to and cultivated in the tropics, particularly Southeast Asia.  Kapoks… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Kapok”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Sorghum

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor)

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), also known as great millet or durra, is a domesticated species of cereal crop in the grass (Poaceae) family.  It is the single cultivated species within the genus Sorghum.  Wild sorghum is native to Africa, where it was originally cultivated and… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Sorghum”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Cod

Image of cod

Cod is a name that refers to the two species of fish in the genus Gadus, in the Gadidae family. They are the Pacific cod (G. macrocephalus), and the Atlantic cod (G. morhua).  Of these, the Atlantic cod is by far the most intensively… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Cod”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Mangosteen

Purple mangosteen

The mangosteen is a species of evergreen tree in the Clusiaceae family, native to Southeast Asia, but now cultivated in several other tropical areas.  It is cultivated for its edible fruit, the purple mangosteen.  It is the most widely cultivated species within the Garcinia… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Mangosteen”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Alunite

Styptic made with alunite

Alunite (hydrated aluminum potassium sulfate) is a naturally occurring mineral containing alum.  The name “alum” is used for several different compounds, but usually refers to the double sulfate salt of aluminum and either potassium, ammonium, or sodium.  Most commonly, it refers to potassium alum.… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Alunite”