Hmmnnn….. Crab legs, $11.99 a pound…. Wait, on sale! $7.99 a pound
Looks like dinner tonight.
I like to spoil my wife every once in a while (Not as often as she would like, of course, but its not as special if I do it every day now, is it?)
One of her favorite foods is snow crab legs. And, I’ll tell you what, she is a pro when it comes to cracking them. She has it down to a science.
A bit about snow crabs.
Unless you live in Alaska, you’ve probably never had fresh snow (or king) crab legs.
So don’t be discouraged when you can only find frozen crab legs.
They are even cooked already.
They’re actually caught, processed, cooked and frozen on the boats (regardless of what you see on the TV show. Those guys are the last of the small, independent operators. Cherish their existence. Most crab boats are giant factory ships.).
And since they’re precooked it means that we are just heating them up again.
The best way to do this is to steam them.
I didn’t put any seasonings or salt in the water; just pure, unadulterated snow crab.
You could season them. I didn’t, for a specific reason.
Looks yummy, right?
If you’re a pro, like my wife, you can pull the meat out of the shells whole.
And the shells look like this
I’m not so good at that, as you’ll see later (I promise I’ll get to the whole point here in a minute or three)
Sated, full belly
I did not eat that many myself, thank you very much.
The next day I make a stop at a nursery and get some French marigolds (What?!)
When I get home I start to process the shells.
I don’t really want any of the meat left in the shells.
“Wait!” You say
“What in the hell does this have to do with bonsai?”
Ok, I guess I should explain.
Today’s tree is a Brazilian Raintree.
If you remember, in the last post, I spoke a bit about nitrogen fixing nodules and that their structure bears a resemblance to nematode damage.
I have a BRT with root knot nematodes and we can compare and contrast the two.
Lets define our terms:
What is a root knot nematode?
It is a microscopic (In this example. There are some large nematodes too), unsegmented, round worm. In the case of the root knot nematode, it feeds on the roots of plants, causing them to, well, look knotted. Obviously,this creates problems for the plant.
Here is a look at our roots
This last may be a beneficial nitrogen fixing nodule.
Heres a pic that I know for sure show the nodules (from the last post).
And a singular nodule. You can knock them off the root.
The two look similar but the way to tell the difference is this: the nodule will be attached to the side of the root and can be broken off without cutting the root- the nematode damage invades the root, inside, so to speak and is a part of the root. To remove it you have to cut the root off above the “knot”
The amazing thing is, the mechanism that causes the good nodule formation is exploited by the nematodes when they invade the roots.
How do we combat this insidious attack?
I’m trying three approaches.
A triple threat, ka-ching!
One involves the crab shells.
Another involves the marigolds.
And with the third I will try diatomaceous earth.
How does crab shell work?
Put simply, crab shells are made of (among other things) chitin.
There is a bacteria that eats this chitin.
The eggs and parts of the bodies of nematodes are also made of chitin.
The idea is that by increasing the food available to this bacteria (with the crab shell) you will get more bacteria. And this bacteria interrupts the life cycle of the nematode and, no more worms.
For a very detailed explanation go here.
It took me a week of Internet searching to find that page. You’re welcome.
And that explains the crab shells.
Back to the processing.
I will say this; this is truly the first time my wife, the self described bonsai widow, has been enthusiastic about helping me with my trees.
Now I have to clean and chop the crab shells. She said I was on my own there.
I am here to say, even just a scant 20 hours after cooking them, the shells stink. Really. Really stink. Really.
I want to clean out all the meat because I do not want that smell in my nursery. I pick on my friends that use fish emulsion as fertilizer. I can’t wait to hear the jokes now.
This bit above was one of my leftovers I’m sure. My wife does not let something like that happen. She is very good at handling meat.
So I cut, crush, wash and scrub these bastard shells for a few hours.
And this is all I get.
Remember, I started with this
It’s enough though.
This next pic you should print and frame
That’s the cleanest you’ll see my hands ever. Shells make a good exfoliant and scrub I guess.
So, I take my shells
Add my bonsai soil
And then add some granular diatomaceous earth.
Why the DE?
DE is very abrasive and will cut and scratch holes in the skins of the nematodes and their eggs, making them even more susceptible to the bacteria.
The idea is totally theoretical on my part.
It is sound though because it works on bugs and such. The only evidence I found as to DE working on nematodes was as an inter-intestinal anti-parasitic feed additive for animals (and people).
So it probably will help, and it can’t hurt.
Not like this next step, the risky part.
I must prune out all the infected roots.
All of them. Once the nematodes are inside the roots everything I am doing won’t have much effect at all.
Here goes nothing.
The soil the BRT was in is totally broken down gunk. Yuck.
So I wash it away and then use a saw to cut back most of the roots
Kinda scary, isn’t it. There might be a handful of feeder roots. Maybe. No more than that (when I say a handful I mean, like 5. Not as much as will fit in my hand)
In the hopes that I can stimulate some root growth I defoliate.
Cross your fingers my dear, dear readers.
Nothing to do now but pot it up
I make sure that it’s very secure in the pot. The less movement, the easier it will be for new roots to establish.
And I make sure that there are no air pockets.
And now, I plant the marigolds
What, pray tell, are the marigolds for?
First, make sure they are French marigolds (tagetes species:there’s actually a variety called Nemagold ).
The marigold (depending on who’s article you are reading) either has nematode killing chemicals or is a trap plant (which means the nematode enters the roots, gets trapped inside, and is prevented from continuing its life cycle)
Some literature says that the use of marigold is not effective until the next season.
Most old-timers, though, swear by them and still plant marigolds interspersed within their crops anyway.
I’m planting them in the pot. It won’t hurt.
I spent a lot of money on this Brazilian Raintree. I’m not taking any chances.
And here it is.
I will not jinx myself by thinking about how to style this tree yet. It has a lot of deadwood for me to carve, which is exciting. Right now, though, I just hope it can pull through.
I am cautiously optimistic. I showed the pictures to my friend Erik. He says that he’s cut back the roots even more than this and the BRT lived.
There is a commercially available product made by a company called Neptune’s Harvest that you can use instead of eating and cleaning the crabs yourself. That’s what Erik did.
There is also a chemical control that’s only available to growers so I couldn’t try it.
One last thing.
I make absolute sure that I clean my tools and my work station with bleach. The root knot nematodes can infect a plant very easily just by incidental contact.
And keep your susceptible plants off the ground. It just takes two (a male and female) microscopic worms to have a party in your pot. A pot party, so to speak.
Like I said, they are insidious.
Wish me luck.