The Botany of Desire – on PBS yesterday

I set the time and date on my calendar. And it was a great show.

I read the book “Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan, a while ago. A very good read. And the show on PBS was very good also. Lots of exciting information and footage – for a gardening fanatic anyway.

I wrote down a few things that struck me:

“What are the chances that we’d have the same sense of beauty as a bee? Smell, color, symmetry…” Definitely true. Also taste. Not much that’s better than honey!

On tulips: “Flowers are exquisitely useless.” Now there’s a non-bee speaking. And someone who don’t need the pleasure of beauty.

I did like to hear potatoes described as “exciting”.

The Irish potato famine of 1740, caused by Late Blight spreading rapidly in Irish fields planted almost exclusively with a single variety, lasted 3 years. I hope our Late Blight episode in New England is more short-lived. And hopefully it won’t spread outside of New England. I didn’t know that the most popular variety in the US is the Russet Burbank, the variety McDonald’s prefers. Its planted almost exclusively in Idaho’s fields. The big tubers with very high sugar content make long perfect fries. Next year, I’m looking forward to trying some blue varieties. Its exciting to hear about the biodiversity of potato fields in Peru.

13 Comments. Leave new

  • Kathy – I too enjoyed the PBS show, particularly the segment on apples (Pixie loves a slice of apple in the evening). The photography was amazing. I hope the show is repeated soon.
    – Daisy

  • From Heronswood Nursary Newsletter:

    "Even lesser known is the surprising fact that, contrary to conventional wisdom, in the 1840s there were nearly two dozen distinct potato cultivars grown throughout Ireland and over fifty in the rest of Europe. Far from the popular image of a “monoculture”, potatoes grown in Ireland included a diverse group of white, yellow, pink, brown and red skinned varieties. These had been collected both in the wild and from native markets in South America and deposited in the botanical gardens of Europe over 300 years before the famine. While it is certainly true that many of these various cultivars existed within a “type” of all-purpose boiling and mashing potato, it’s also true that, out of this quite diverse gene pool, post-famine “survivors” appeared. These became the ancestors of new and resistant potato cultivars grown to this very day."

    Funny how the singularity rumor has become factual in so many references.

  • Kathy,

    Thanks for the heads up. I just looked and it is on again at 1:30 am
    on Sunday. So I will be recording it tonight. Love your Blog.


  • "Botany of Desire" is also on WGBHChannel 2 at 3:30 pm this afternoon. I plan to tey and catch it. Thank you for alerting us, Kathy.

  • Sorry for the typo. I plan to try and catch it.

  • Glad to see others who watched this, found your blog by way of Natural Gardening. I fell asleep in the middle of the tulips….good to know it is on again this afternoon!!

  • Was on here to check the pirated blog—was scrolling down and they have snatched this Botany of Desire post..word for word.

  • The show is mezmering.

    One wonders, though, if marijuana is legalized, whether Pollan will update it with an outcry against the newest commercial monoculture.

  • I really do apologize. The Michael Pollan book Botany of Desire is on Sunday afternoon at 3:30, not Sat. as I said on my previous comment. That's Sunday on Channel 2 WGBH in HD. Hope we all manage to catch it!!

  • In case anyone missed the PBS special The Botany of Desire you can still watch this increcible program online.

    BOTANY OF DESIRE is a documentary which tells the utterly original story of everyday plants and the way they have domesticated humankind. An interpretation of the relationship between plants and people. This two-hour documentary explores plant evolution and takes viewers from the potato fields of Peru and Idaho, the apple forests of Kazakhstan, and the tulip markets of Amsterdam.

    View online in it's entirety: here

    This is another related program by the same presenter on LINK TV (a cable access channel) which is timely:

    Deep Agriculture
    Traditional methods of agriculture in most developed nations have long ignored environmental concerns. Factors such as soil erosion, water shortage and the impact of chemicals on bio-systems have been overlooked in favour of massive crop yields and cheaper food. But what impact does this have on our health and our environment?

    View online in it's entirety: here


    Sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and witness the evolution of an Organic Kitchen Garden.

  • Thanks NatGreeneVeg!

    I will get the coffee and watch these soon. I like having a permalink, because I am buried in a full week of work and its nice to know I can watch these later.

  • I've read the book and am looking forward to watching my recording of the show.

    I grew blue potatoes (from Fedco/Moose Tubers) this year. They're tasty, like the velvety red potatoes. I washed & dried them a month ago; they seem to keep. I'm defintely going to grow them next year.

  • Tom, Glad to hear the Moose tubers blues were good. That's what I'm thinking of trying next year. Along with their nice Rio Grande Russets and crisp white Green Mountain. And a red variety.


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