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Adam Alexander is a Welsh gardener and award-winning film & television producer who brings us along his journey to collect and preserve rare and endangered heritage and heirloom vegetables.
Alexander’s passion is in engendering a feeling of connectedness to the land. He achieves this by reintroducing people to their own food culture & heritage and provides encouragement to eat more locally-produced food.
The Seed Detective is a story of “globalization, political intrigue, colonization and serendipity – describing how these vegetables and their travels have become embedded in our food cultures.”
The Seed Detective: an introduction
“Thirty years ago, I never thought of vegetables as being rare or endangered, or how they were embedded in the social traditions of their native food culture — that they had their own stories to tell.
Within a few short years I started to think of myself as a seed detective: someone on the trail of local varieties that, first and foremost, were delicious and which I could grow in my own garden.
I realized that many vegetables that were an intrinsic part of local diet were in great danger of being lost forever. They needed to be saved from possible extinction. Gradually I started to build a library of the varieties I had come across, either in a local market or from a farmer, a gardener or a chef I met on my travels.” (3)
Highlights from Part One: Vegetables from the East
A brief history of food in the east…
- Romans — food export culture through their empire
- Fertile Crescent by Herodotus, geographer with insight into food culture
- Pliny the Elder – wrote about agriculture and crops
- Dioscorides – botanist, medicinal and culinary purposes, wrote De materia medica
- Arabic thinking and innovation influence on European food culture
- Irrigation systems from Moorish conquest of Spain –> food can be grown in arid areas
- Ibn al-‘Awwām – wrote al-filā-hah (Book of Agriculture)
- European academics and philosophers
- Dioscorides – De materia medica
- Robert Dodoens – how should science classify and describe food crops?
- Influenced by Otto Brunfels, Jerome Bock, Leonhart Fuchs, Carl Linnaeus (botanist, zoologist and “Father of Taxonomy”)
- 16th century food revolution coincides with two technological innovations: invention of the printing press and woodblock illustrating
- Food now can be admired for scientific, aesthetic and cultural value
- Horticulture becomes a science
Plants discussed in this section
- Cauliflower, Krambē and Braske
Highlights from Part Two: Vegetables from the West
A brief history of food in the west…
- Agriculture dates back 12,000 years
- Hunter-gatherers lived off foraged food and small prey
- Edible plants systemically foraged
- 7,000 years ago, 10% of diet came from cultivated crops
- 3,000 years ago, people started to grow almost everything they ate
- 500 years ago foods from South America made it to the ‘Old World’ (Europe – Spain, Portugal) via European explorations & conquest of Bahamas, Mexico and Central America
- Challenges the belief that only the Greeks knew about botony
- Revolution in diet and scientific thinking
Plants discussed in this section
To purchase: https://theseeddetective.co.uk/product/my-book/