Thursday, February 2, 2012

Behind the Seeds Tour

      I have visited Disney World in Florida probably five or six times in my life.  Always thought it would be neat to take a behind the scenes tour, but never had the time or opportunity.  Well, during the boat ride on the Living with the Land ride in The Land Pavilion in Epcot, there was mention of a "Behind the Seeds Tour".  I should have done it the day we were there, so it continued to bug me that I had missed another opportunity.  So on the fourth and last day of our visit at Disneyworld, I headed back to Epcot by myself, while the rest of the crew took the grand kids back for the last day at Magic Kingdom.
      After taking the boat ride again, I stopped at the tour desk and signed up for the 45 minute greenhouse tour at a cost of $18.  I joined a family of six, all teenagers plus Mom and Dad, so our tour was pretty quiet and controlled.  You walk along the greenhouses seen in the boat ride, and actually see the boats glide by.  So let's get on with the tour.

Various lettuces
       The greenhouses at Epcot are not only fun to look at, they are an ongoing research effort by Disney to increase food production.  All plants are grown either hydroponically (soiless), or grown in sand with irrigation piping in the sand delivering nutrients in the water supply.  The picture above is a neat spiral with various lettuce plants.  Much of the food grown in the pavilion is destined to be sent to the various restaurants around the park.

Peppers grown in water!

      I knew that the pansies or violas on the right were edible, but I did not realize that snap dragons were.  I will have to add them to my spring salads.  These columns of square styrofoam planters were interesting, and a simple way to plumb a hydroponic system.  The planters were stacked, with every second one spun at a 45 degree angle to the one below.  The plants are then put in the open corners.  Fertilized water is pumped from the sump at the bottom back to the top planter, then trickles down.  Would be pretty easy to make.

      You can even grow beets and onions without soil, and various herbs that you certainly would not expect to find with that much water.

Beautiful hanging kale

      Here they are growing "microgreens" on these inclined trays.  The plants grow right on the burlap sheets in the trays, then to harvest, they just pick up the burlap and slice off the greens.  The tour guide Eva said that microgreens sell for up to $43 per pound.  Sounds like my new job.  The burlap is thrown away after one use, but Eva said it was composted when I asked the question.

      From the boat ride, you see this tomato tree in the background.  There is a single trunk in the middle, then the branches are trained to the overhead trellis.

Eva underneath the "Tomato Tree"

      The tomato tree has won the Guiness World record, having produced over 32,000 tomatoes from the one plant, totaling just over 1,150 pounds!  Wow.  The tomato tree was from seed from a plant found in China, so don't expect to see this in my garden just yet.  However, I may try cutting off the lower branches of my plants to allow for some crop as an understory crop.

      Wow.  Talk about crops being grown on trellises.  Here are 200 pound pumpkins suspended in their hammocks.  How would you get them down?  The stems of the plants are seen at the left of the picture in the round planters.  Four planters, three pumpkins.  They must have harvested one.  They pinch off all but one fruit per stem to get these monsters.
    To be continued.....

    Hi, I'm back.  It is cold today at home, with a balmy high of 32 degrees expected.  A great morning to continue on my greenhouse tour.  Remember all those times I have complained about voles?  Well one crop they dearly love to eat and destroy is sweet potatoes.  You can have decent looking leaves at the surface, only to dig down and find that the voles have a huge underground restaurant scene going on.  So I thought this means of growing sweet potatoes might thwart the voles:

Sweet Potato trellis

      The mother plants grow from the white planters at ground level, and are trained up to the trellis where they branch out.  The hanging pots contain a soil medium, where the vines set the sweet potato fruits.  You can see three potatoes hanging where they have removed the hanging pot.  Do you think the voles would leave the hanging fruit alone, or would I end up with vole condos in the air?
      Moving on we have sugar cane:

A field of sugarcane would actually be a jungle
      And just to try every type of food plant, they also grow rice, which was no surprise for hydroponics growing.  But they also are working with sorghum, a look alike to corn plants.

Rice in front, sorghum behind

      Lest we not forget pineapples:

There is the ghost guy even in the greenhouse
      And finally on to the herbs and spices area:

What is this one?
      Okay, if you look closely, you might see that the label says Paprika.  Sure looks like red peppers to me.  But check out Wikipedia:  Paprika is a spice made from the grinding of dried bell peppers or chili peppers (fruits of Capsicum annuum). In many European languages, the word paprika refers to the Capsicum fruit itself. The seasoning is used in many cuisines to add color and flavor to dishes. Paprika can range from mild to hot. Flavors also vary from country to country.  There, something new to me.

      And here is black pepper.  Again from Wikipedia: Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed. Peppercorns, and the powdered pepper derived from grinding them, may be described simply as pepper, or more precisely as black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit) and white pepper (dried ripe seeds).
      I would love to try growing a pepper vine.  I read that it is easier to root a slip than to start the vine from seed.  So if anybody out there has a vine, I would really, really, really love a couple of pieces.

And licorice, you use root shavings for the flavor
A big favorite
       And then there is a favorite of mine after a leisurely breakfast, coffee.  Or if you are of British descent, maybe you prefer your tea:

       Many of you southern gardeners might think that your camelias look just like that tea plant.  In fact, the leaf known as "tea" is Camellia sinensis.  It is the species of plant whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce Chinese tea. It is of the genus Camellia , a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. White tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea are all harvested from this species, but are processed differently to attain different levels of oxidation.

Another guess?
      Did you cheat and look at the label?  This last one, yep, we are at the end, is cinnamon.  Know what those cinnamon sticks look like.  Kinda like curled up bark?  That is because it is curled up bark.  You  can cut off a branch, strip off the outer bark to discard, and save the inner bark layer.  It then curls and dries to the easily identified cinnamon stick.
     Ok, the cinnamon was at the end of the "Behind the Seeds Tour".   I am very glad that I took the time to see one of the back stage areas at Disney World.  Something I can check off my bucket list.


  1. All I can say is WOW! That was so amazing, can you imagine having that in your back yard? The hanging Kale, and the pumpkins, WOW!

  2. We try to make an annual visit to WDW and always take time to do the boat ride through "The Land." Always take a lot of photos for home gardening ideas, but after seeing your pics, I think I'm going to have to spring for the Behind the Seeds tour on our next visit. THanks!