It’s a two-way highway where water and nutrients consistently travel. It can grow a blueberry or a record 2,702 -pound pumpkin. I’m writing about the humble stem.
In the past two columns, I’ve taken readers to distant places by writing about the James Webb Space Telescope. Today, it’s back to earth to consider the lowly stem—that small stick that connects a plant to leaves and fruit.
This week, I felt luxurious as I plucked tasty grapes from a cluster. “How is it,” I wondered, “that these delicious orbs form at the end of a little stick?” “How does a twig blow up a grape like a tiny balloon—containing sugar, seeds and “meat” that is encapsulated by skin?”
Then I remembered smoking grape vines while sitting aloft in a giant Magnolia tree in my family’s small forest, trying to act all cool like the adults of the day. There were little tubes in it that delivered smoke to our mouths and taste buds. The only problem was that there wasn’t a filter between the fire and our tongues, and the consequence was that it deadened our taste buds for days to come.
Anyway, that’s the way I learned that grapevines have tiny tubes within them. It turns out that those miniscule pathways are the pipelines that carry water, nutrients and programming to leaves and fruit. And parallel tubes carry water, sunshine and the necessities for photosynthesis from leaves to roots.
I once asked Jordan Kendall, who worked for me at the front desk of the counseling center in the afternoons, if she liked watermelon. She answered, “No.”
Wondering how anyone could not love the scrumptious melon, I pointedly asked, “Why not?”
She answered, “Too watery.”
I laughed about how obvious was her answer.
Come to think of it, how does the vine and stem transport so much water from dirt and fertilizer to large fruits, and it be safely drinkable without pasteurization. The world record for the heaviest melon is 350.5 pounds and was grown by Chris Kent of Sevierville, Tennessee, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
That’s enough water (39 gallons), subtracting for the rind (approximately 8 percent), to fill about seven and one-half Jerry cans. The plant moved a “ton” of water from the dirt through the stem to the fruit.
And think of jackfruit. One-hundred fruits grow on a 100-foot-tall tree and each fruit can weigh 80 pounds. Up through the trunk, through the limbs and through the stems go all the water, nutrients and programming needed to grow 8,000 pounds of fruit. Amazing!
Back in Jesus’ day, he didn’t have chalkboards, whiteboards or Powerpoint. Therefore, he taught with what people knew. Nearly all had harvested clusters of grapes from stems.
Jesus said, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. If a person remains in me and I remain in him, then he produces much fruit. But without me he can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, then he is like a branch that is thrown away. That branch dies. People pick up dead branches, throw them into the fire, and burn them. Remain in me and follow my teachings. If you do this, then you can ask for anything you want, and it will be given to you. You should produce much fruit and show that you are my followers. This brings glory to my Father.
“I loved you as the Father loved me. Now remain in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commands, and I remain in his love. In the same way, if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love. I have told you these things so that you can have the same joy I have. I want your joy to be the fullest joy” (John 15:5-11, International Children’s Bible).
History’s most precious stem was the umbilical cord that fed the embryo that became baby Jesus. From Mary’s body to the body of Jesus there flowed blood, oxygen, nutrients and programming. “Blessed art thou Mary above women,” so says the Catholic mass.
Modern scientists are busy studying stem cells taken from the blood of the umbilical cords after birth.
According to the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine: “Right now the most commonly used stem cell-based therapy is bone marrow transplantation. Blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow were the first stem cells to be identified and were the first to be used in the clinic. This life-saving technique has helped thousands of people worldwide who had been suffering from blood cancers, such as leukemia.”
Furthermore, “Research suggests that bone marrow transplants will be useful in treating autoimmune diseases and in helping people tolerate transplanted organs.”
Parting kernel of truth: During development, a soul is added, and we become conscious of our individuality. Scientists weighed a dying man on a delicate scale to see if his weight changed upon death. When he died, he was one-ounce lighter. Hence, his spirit weighed an ounce. That ounce is what we must nurture to bear fruit on our Lord’s vine.