padThe Botany of Desire A Plants-Eye View of the World

by Michael Pollan

Could it be that certain plants have manipulated us humans for their own gain? Pollan thinks so, and he attempts to prove his point by focusing on four plants and four human desires. The apple defines sweetness, the tulip exemplifies beauty, marijuana represents intoxication, and the potato shows control. For instance, tulips were once such a passion in Holland that a man paid for a single bulb a price equivalent to the cost of an Amsterdam town house on the canal. In Pollan's investigation of the rise of apples in the United States, he offers a surprisingly un-Disney portrait of Johnny Appleseed. He reveals how most of the apples that the actual John Chapman planted were only good for hard cider—a product the pioneers welcomed but hardly the primary use of today's apples, which make up a major commodity. By blending such anecdotes with a rich tapestry of evolutionary biology, botany, and anthropology, Pollan eloquently makes a case for the myriad ways that plants have coevolved with humans.

RH, 2001, 271 p., hardcover

Botany of Desire, The

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