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The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats (2018) is about David Fairchild in the early 19th century.

David Fairchild was a 25-year-old American botanist from Kansas who, from 1894, searched the world for new plants to bring back to his country, specifically new food plants, especially fruit. He thought the food in America was bland, and that there must be exotic fruits and vegetables elsewhere in the world.

His first trip was to the French island of Corsica, then across to Italy, Germany, and the Alps. In 1897, he thought Sydney in Australia was a ‘metropolis of wonder’ where he saw the richness of ‘all the grains on earth’ – wheat, rye, oats, rice, corn, barley, and millet. In 1903, his arms couldn’t hold all the dates he found in Baghdad, Iraq. 

He found the tropics to be dream locations for unusual plants, and Bavaria was wonderful for hops. In Japan, he found the glorious cherry blossom that now blooms in the American capital, Washington DC. He remembers the taste of his first durian, his first pomegranate, his first kale, his first wasabi, and in Jamaica, his first ‘lumpy, reddish fruit’ called an akee.

This true adventure tale is deliciously full of exotic places and the diversity of crops, like a global fruit bowl. 

Photographer: Martina Nicolls

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