The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan – Book Review


First published in 2001, The Botany of Desire is still a must-read for gardeners and plant lovers alike. Oh, and if you ever eat.

We’re all accustomed to the idea that throughout time, plants have found a way to reproduce with the help of bees, butterflies, and birds – but we rarely take into account our own role in the plant world.  Michael Pollan gives us reason to find new fascination in plants through his National Bestseller The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World.

The above scenario is just one of countless examples given by Pollan that will leave any reader with a whole new perspective on the plant kingdom.  One also learns about the tulip craze in 17th century Holland when tulips became worth more than gold and almost caused the collapse of that country; and how marijuana got its start and went from a weed with only two major varieties to a booming cash crop with countless variations and strengths available.  And finally the humble potato, once thought of as food only for the poorest of the poor, eventually counted on so heavily that when the potatoes of Ireland were wiped out, so was 1/2 the population.

You may think you know these stories already, but not like this and not with such detail.  I myself have been recounting what I learned to anyone who will sit still long enough to hear how agriculture giant Monsanto managed to create a potato the EPA has registered as not a food but a pesticide (U.S. EPA Reg. No. 524-474)- and how if you’ve eaten McDonald’s french fries anytime around the late 1990’s to about 2001, you’ve eaten them yourself.  (McDonald’s finally stopped fry production using this Monsanto “New Leaf” potato.  The public didn’t see it as a favorable food selection – go figure.)  But one of the greatest wonders of The Botany of Desire is how Michael Pollan manages to fit so much jaw-dropping info into a 245-page paperback.  If you’ve ever gardened, eaten produce, or enjoyed the sight of tulips in spring, you’ve got to read The Botany of Desire.

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World was originally published in hardcover by Random House in 2001, and reprinted in paperback in 2002.  It has been a National Bestseller and can be purchased at Amazon for $10.88.

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