It started as kind of a joke. As I was awaiting the birth of my first child, I began reading the rather wonderful Birthing From Within. There I learned that many traditional cultures bury the placenta and plant a fruit tree over it—creating a living monument to the birth of your child, and a food source for years to come. "Wouldn't it be fun to make your Dad plant the placenta!", I said to my wife.
Although taking on an extra project flew in the face of my advice on surviving the first weeks of parenthood, the idea had already taken root. Next thing I knew, I was standing in the garden the week after Lilia's birth, digging a hole in the ground for a gigantic, frozen blobby mess that looked like chopped liver. My father-in-law (or Parmie, as he is rapidly becoming known), was standing on the other side of the lawn with a skeptical expression on his face, trying to look busy. (Thanks for the help Mike! Actually, he did dig most of the hole, but ran when the gory part happened.)
Anyhow, we got the thing buried, and planted a beautiful Asian pear on top of it. In fact, we were so taken by the idea, the next week we were burying a gigantic fish head under a peach. We'll see which one does better.
But before you get digging, a few things to remember...
How to Plant a Placenta Fruit Tree
1) Plan in Advance: Let the hospital, midwife or birth center know you'd like to keep the placenta. Chances are they will have protocol for that, and will tell you what you need to do. We brought a cooler, garbage bags and ice with us, and we froze it once we got it home. It really was super simple.
2) Bury it Deep: There's a reason a placenta nourishes your baby, and can feed a fruit tree—and that's because it is chock full of vital nutrients. Animals like nutrients too, so make sure you bury the thing deep. You might even want to put some mesh or other barrier above ground to prevent digging, though I haven't seen any untoward activity yet.
3) Avoid Direct Contact with Roots: I don't have evidence to back this up, but logic tells me that raw placenta will not be all that useful to a tree. So once I had it in the ground, I buried it with a little earth before planting the tree. That way, decomposition will have set in by the time the pear is ready to suck up nutrients.
4) Give immediate Nourishment: As mentioned above, the placenta probably won't provide the tree with food for a while, so be sure to add some compost, and any other soil amendments you normally need for fruit trees. (Because our area is phosphate deficient, I add a little rock phosphate.)
5) Be Careful Who You Tell: We've had a mix of reactions to our placenta planting. From some folks who find it weird and even disgusting, through people who shrug and see it as a sensible form of recycling, through to the more spiritual response to a traditional ceremonial rite. So if you are easily embarrassed or value your privacy, consider keeping it quiet. And don't, whatever you do, blog about it on a subsidiary of the Discovery Network. As an aside, we're not alone in our odd behavior—Hollywood stars are burying placentas all over California, and Wikipedia has some fascinating information on the cultural practices related to the placenta. Check Out Rennovation Nation 2's Exploration of Permaculture Salivating over sustainable eats? Learn how to make your own with help from Emeril Lagasse in Planet Green TV's organic cooking show, Emeril Green.