I never thought I would find myself regaling my family and friends with tales of apple seeds, tulip mania and the merits of marijuana around the dinner table.
I never thought I would chat with friends over a glass of wine about Prohibition, cider production and Johnny Appleseed.
The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World is more than a simple discussion about four common plants and their relationship to human beings. It’s about the impact we’ve had on each other – how we’ve adapted to the plant and how it has adapted to us. We meet the apple, the tulip, marijuana and the humble potato. It sounds scientific, and it is, but mainly it’s just plain fascinating.
There are times within each of the four sections where Pollan suddenly shines out as a master storyteller. His language soars to new heights and for a brief while I forget that I’m reading a non-fiction book about the cultivation of food and its impact on the environment, humans and history. For a moment I’m spellbound by story!
Try it; you wont be disappointed.
Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers’ genes far and wide. InThe Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires—sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control—with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato.
In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. And just as we’ve benefited from these plants, we have also done well by them. So who is really domesticating whom?