Botany of Desire

Michael Pollan’s fascinating book Botany of Desire has been made into a compelling documentary, scheduled for Prime Time, on PBS, October 28th. It will air at 8pm in the Boise area. Of course, check your local TV listings for the correct time where you live. If you liked the book, you’ll enjoy the show. Pollan tells how the apple’s sweetness, the tulip’s beauty, marijauna’s intoxication and the potato’s importance as a food crop has inextricably linked these plants to the life of man and civilizations. Plus, Amy Stewart’s cameo appearance rocked!

Alas, as I plant my tulips for next year, I cannot help but be amazed that empires and nations were ruined by these most humble and benign looking little brown lumps.

Take, for instance, the fall of Sultan Ahmed the Third. His extravagant tulip ceremonies were his undoing. He reigned from until 1730 yet learned nothing from the 1637 collapse of Tulipmania in Holland. I had hoped the TV program would offer some kind of photo/drawing/etching/artists rendering/depiction of the giant tortoises with candles on their backs, lighting the mirrored nighttime gardens of the Sultan where the harems frolicked and guests wore clothes to set off the colors of the tulips. And the tulips, if they had opened too wide and their anthers were exposed (heaven forbid), well, they had to be tied shut, painstakingly, by hand. Mercy.

In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I received an advance copy of this documentary for my viewing pleasure. I just happened to love it. So there.