Category: Crazy Useful Thing of the Day

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Silver

Silver is a metallic element that has the highest electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, and reflectivity of any metal. Since antiquity, it has been considered a precious metal in many different cultures.  It has many uses, including but not limited to: bullion coins (such as… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Silver”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Amaranth

The amaranth (Amaranthaceae) family encompasses a surprising and diverse number of useful plants that you see everyday, but probably would never guess are this closely related. For example: Beets (Beta vulgaris) The beet is presumed to have originated in the region around the Mediterranean,… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Amaranth”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Cashew

The cashew (Anacardium occidentale) is a tropical evergreen tree in the sumac (Anacardiaceae) family, native to northern and western South America and Brazil, but now widely cultivated in tropical areas around the world.  It is cultivated mainly for its edible seed (the cashew), as… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Cashew”

Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Yeast

Yeast cells

Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a species of fungus in the Saccharomycetaceae family that has been instrumental in human food production for millennia.  It occurs naturally on the skin of some fruits, such as grapes and plums.  It is believed that it was first used… Continue Reading “Crazy Useful Thing of the Day: Yeast”

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”