Monday, May 20, 2013

10 Plants That Shook the World, by Gillian Richardson (illustrated by Kim Rosen)

10 Plants That Shook the World
Author: Gillian Richardson
Illustrator: Kim Rosen
Publisher: Annick Press
Publication Date: February 14, 2013
I thought from the title that I would be able to guess what the "10 plants that shook the world" would be. I figured papyrus, cotton and corn would be on there (they are), and I wasn't surprised by potato, tea, sugarcane and cacao (you know, chocolate). But not coffee? Then there's pepper and rubber, which I wouldn't have thought of, but it made sense. But no wheat? No soy? And what the hell is chinchona??

Turns out I should have been paying more attention to the "shook the world" part of the title. The theme of the book is actually the top plants that changed how international trade and exploration evolved. So the plants that they talk about are ones that not only changed how we eat and live, but also how we communicate (hence the papyrus) or interact with each other. So, for example, tea, sugarcane and cacao became globally traded commodities; sugarcane and cotton sadly contributed to an international slave trade; and potatoes both doubled and halved the population of Ireland and greatly contributed to Irish emigration. 

And chinchona? It's the plant that provides the key ingredient to the malaria vaccine. While that's incredibly important for the people most at risk of malaria, it was also a major factor in the ability of Europeans to explore countries they previously had been unable to explore. See? It's a theme.

But seriously? No tomato? No chick pea? Not even a sweet pea in honour of Gregor Mendel?
Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

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