You’d honestly think that reading a book about plants would be as about as exciting as, well, watching the grass grow. Fortunately, I long ago learned to expect better things from Michael Pollan. In his book, The Botany of Desire, he categorizes four plants and how human desire shaped their evolution, genetic sprawl, and guaranteed their success in the modern world.
There are apples for sweetness, tulips for beauty, marijuana for intoxication, and potatoes for control.
Basically, because each of these plants provided something that we wanted and/or needed, they ensured their own survival based on the roles they filled in human life. Pollan definitely taught me something along the way:
- Folk hero Johnny Appleseed really guaranteed the spread of alcohol (hard cider) across the US.
- A rare color strain of tulip, worth thousands of dollars to the medieval Dutch, was actually caused by a flower-killing virus/mutation.
- Potatoes are one of the first (and most successful) genetically modified crops–Monsanto having produced a type that emits its own insecticide.
I really enjoyed TBOD, and Pollan has yet again managed to be informative without being boring. He’s almost like that cool teacher you had in high school that somehow snuck learning into your curriculum without you realizing it.
4 pot leafs of 5