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    The extraordinary story of an ‘ordinary’ fruit…

    The Extraordinary Story of the Apple by Barrie E. Juniper and David J. Mabberley 2019. Kew Publishing. Having recently read Robert Spengler’s Fruits from the sands (and Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire several years ago), I have some idea of the importance of the apple in the affairs of humankind. But, at best, those books […] More

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    When broomcorn millet swept along the Silk Road…

    Fruit from the sands: The Silk Road origins of the food we eat by Robert N Spengler III, 2019. University of California Press. In the UK we are blessed with a wide variety and ready availability of fruits all year round in our shops. So commonplace and taken-for-granted is that, I suspect we rarely give […] More

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    Tackling plant blindness: Botany by stealth…

    School lessons devoted to plants may be off-putting to those students who are already plant-averse. So, why not smuggle bits of plant information into lessons on topics as diverse as Geography, History, Art & Design, and Computing to show how relevant plants are? More

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    Does the Garden of Eden contain magic medicine trees?

    The Ethnobotany of Eden: Rethinking the Jungle Medicine Narrative by Robert Voeks 2018. University of Chicago Press. I suspect that most of us who’ve tried to impress upon others the importance of plants have at one time promoted the view that we need to conserve our green inheritance because the next cure for cancer – […] More

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    Three kinds of algae? Blooming marvellous news!

    Bloom: From food to fuel, the epic story of how algae can save our world by Ruth Kassinger 2019. Elliott & Thompson. As a Botanist, especially one who has taught an undergraduate module on marine biology for over 12 years, I like to think I know a thing or two about algae. However, having just […] More

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    Read all about it: Plants that get their own back on animals

    Carnivorous Plants by Dan Torre 2019. Reaktion Books Ltd. In the same way that it’s become something of a tradition that books about seeds should contain – and prominently – that Henry David Thoreau ‘seed quote’ * (e.g. Seeds, Sex and Civilization, 2010, by Peter Thompson; Thor Hanson’s The Triumph of Seeds, 2015), it’s seemingly […] More

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    Tirpitz and the science of conflict ecology…

    It has been said that, in war, truth is the first casualty. As understandable as it may be to tell lies, create and perpetuate falsehoods and deceptions, and spread disinformation – so as not to give any advantage to one’s enemy – the very suspicion that statements about wartime activities may not be true requires […] More

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    Primroses and primulas aplenty

    Primrose by Elizabeth Lawson, 2019. Reaktion Books Ltd. To the uninitiated, it may seem rather improbable that anybody can write 288 pages about the primrose. After all, whilst it may be understood that primrose is a corruption of the Latin phrase prima rosa, the first flower of spring, how much more could possibly be said […] More

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    Final course: ‘Coffee’… *

    Or, rather, something to ponder as you finish your meal, maybe with a coffee. Whatever your food(s) of choice, you need the right equipment – e.g. teeth – to cope with it (unless it’s a liquid or intravenously-introduced diet…). Although this item is a slightly offbeat ‘nutrition and teeth’ one, it’s a good one. Rather […] More

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    3rd course: Cereal and fern (and meat and fat…) **

    Teeth are one source of evidence for food preferences [see previous course/post], but how can you be sure that what is found in the mouth is actually swallowed into the digestive tract proper? Arguably better is the contents of the stomach. That is the source examined by Frank Maixner et al., for Ötzi, the individual […] More

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    2nd course: Cereals, nettles and conifers (and fish…) ****

    Famously, humans will have a go at eating anything, which is why they’re considered to be omnivores, and they are therefore omnivorous *. However, information concerning how such dietary preferences came to be, and when – and where – in the course of human evolution is not complete. One source of evidence that’s been exploited […] More

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    1st course: Seagrass ****

    What’s the one dietary fact everybody knows about sharks? Correct, they eat human beings – as graphically shown in the creature feature film sensation of 1975, the movie Jaws (and its various good, bad, and indifferent sequels…). As so-called apex predators, sharks are famously considered to be carnivorous, but, that’s not necessarily so. Samantha Leigh […] More

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