Every year at this time, we haul out our stack of Johnny Appleseed books. I am almost immediately annoyed at the whole concept of Johnny Appleseed as presented to young children because as any gardener knows, apples don't come true from seed. I've spent years and years wondering what is behind this story from a botanical perspective. Was there a particular variety of which I was unaware that did come true? Was it all a big lie? Were his apple trees planted in vain?
Little did I know that all these questions would be answered in Michael Pollan's book, The Botany of Desire, that I just happened to begin last week. He approaches the story of John Chapman from a botanical and historical perspective, which is what I've always wanted. Now, his was the most thorough work I had read about Chapman and apples on the whole, but I didn't feel as if it went quite far enough. For instance, I wish Pollan had actually visited Kazakhstan, the apple's presumed birthplace. Anyway, the issue of the apple's method of reproduction is just the tip of a fascinating, multi-dimensional iceberg and I'm looking at the subject in a whole new light. Seriously good stuff.
I found his chapter on the tulip fascinating, but less so. And honestly, Pollan's use of sexual imagery in the garden annoys me. It is not misplaced, but graphic and heavy handed, imo. He also doesn't seem to see beauty in many things I find beautiful and note worthy - the spores on a fern frond for example. This is fine. But he takes it for granted that the reader agrees with him and I definitely do not - spores are incredibly beautiful.
I skipped the chapter on cannabis, because it's just not my thing. Though, I wish! As a stay at home mother/gardener, I sometimes fantasize about supplemental income and have the urge to grow just about everything, despite time/space constraints or threat of imprisonment.* I'll probably read it later. For now, the potato chapter is up next! I shall review on Friday!
Postscript! Postscript! So I did end up starting the cannabis chapter last night and was highly amused to see that Pollan grew it at one point just to do it.
To another gardener, this will not seem odd, for we gardeners are like that: eager to try the improbabble (if only to harvest a good story)...
This is why I enjoy Pollan.
*I'm really, really not growing pot.