Ever wonder if Johnny Appleseed was really just a nice guy that wandered around planting apple trees? What about the tulip – did you know that this petite plant was Holland’s version of stocks in February 1637 and brought on a crash a la U.S. 2008 style.
What about Marijuana? Did you know that what is popularly smoked today is a cross between two very different marijuana plants? Finally, the potato. You might remember the great potato famine in Ireland that killed one million people. Did you know though that one of two ways to genetically modify foods, like the potato, is to shoot a gun at the plant?
“The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World,” by Michael Pollan covers some fascinating social and botanical history and answers those questions I have posed while exploring four human desires, sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control. Though Pollan’s wit is not given as much free reign in this book as in Omnivore’s Dilemma, it is still a page turner. I mean, who knew Johnny Appleseed was out to plant apple trees from seeds so that there would be some cider around!
Of course, if you would prefer something more visual rather than tactile, you can always watch the PBS Documentary by the same title, The Botany of Desire. Either way, you will discover some stories you probably have not heard before and come away wondering, “Are we manipulating the plants or are the plants manipulating us?”