The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats
By Daniel Stone
Who knew that the life of an “agricultural explorer” could be both fascinating and suspenseful. Read this review of book, “The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats” to learn why food exploration can be exciting!
Reviewed By Valerie Rogotzke, Master Gardener
A century ago, the American table was a simpler place. Vegetables and fruit were limited to what could be grown in the home garden or found in a grocery store. Some of the items missing from that world? Kale, mangoes, avocados, seedless grapes, zucchini, soybeans, pistachios, Meyer lemons, and more.
Then along came botanist David Fairchild (1869-1954), the Indiana Jones of the plant world.
In his book The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats (2018), author David Stone uses Fairchild’s journals, letters, and photographs to document the extraordinary journeys of the man who changed American culinary life forever. This is a riveting tale of exploration and horticulture, of espionage and diplomacy, of the finest German hops and the famed cherry blossom trees of Washington, D.C.
Fairchild’s story takes him from Kansas to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he works with a meager budget assisting the American farmer fighting crop fungus. Then a chance meeting with a wealthy benefactor named Barbour Lathrop allows the young man to leave his post and travel as a private citizen, circling the globe on a mission to ship back samples of exotic plants and seeds as an “agricultural explorer,” as he refers to himself. Fairfield’s team transports both plants completely new and foreign varieties of species already known in the United States. Along the way, Fairchild and his team escape dangerous situations, face political resistance from multiple governments, and cross paths with famous figures like the Wright Brothers and Alexander Graham Bell. When Fairchild settles down at the age of 34, he founds the Office of Seed and Plant Introduction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which introduces over 200,000 new plant species and varieties to the country.
This book is highly recommended to foodies, gardeners, and history buffs alike. It can be found in the Dakota County Library system.