The holiday season is officially in full swing. Many folks may celebrate by popping a cork or two.
Cork grows on trees. The cork layer covers the bark protecting the trees from heat and fire. But most cork used commercially comes from one kind of tree, the cork oak, which has a thicker cork layer than other trees.
The cork oak is an evergreen, Quercus suber, that is native to the western Mediterranean region. Most cork is produced in Spain and Portugal where it is illegal to cut down a cork oak tree.
(Photo: Cork oak in the Amsterdam botanical garden, with Ann's husband, Paul, in the background.)
When a tree is 30 years old the cork layer is removed for the first time. This layer is of very poor quality. Subsequent cork growth is harvested every nine years. Cork is used for shoe soles, flooring, lifebuoys, and insulation as well as for sealing wine bottles.
Master gardener Ann Bartlett faithfully produces a gardening column jam-packed with useful information every Saturday--except when there are more than four of them in a month. On fifth Saturdays, she figures enough is enough, and produces these "tidbits" to tide her faithful readers over until the next week.