Woodlands as players in human history

The great Cambridge botanist Oliver Rackham has a new book out, called “Woodlands.” Insofar as it is fair to say that the life work of such a Renaissance Man has only one subject, woodlands is it, and how trees are not “merely part of the theatre of landscape in which human history is played out, or the passive recipients of whatever destiny humanity foists on them . . . (they are) actors in the play.” There’s an admiring and knowledgeable review here.

Ancient Greek wine

Check out this interesting article on the surprising properties of some of the wines produced in some regions of ancient Greece as a result of the addition of various herbs. I wonder if there is enough information in the relevant texts to reproduce some of these concoctions.

Chia book out

There’s a new book out on “chia,” Salvia hispanica, a “forgotten crop of the Aztecs.” I haven’t seen it, but it seems pretty comprehensive. There’s a review here. Chia is interesting among other reasons because although a good source of omega-3 fatty acid it doesn’t give off a “fishy” flavour.

Greetings from Nairobi

We arrived in Nairobi a couple of days back and are still jet-lagged and trying to settle in. I’m writing this in a back alley cybercafe as it will take some time to get online in the apartment we are renting, I suspect. Anyway, in the Daily Nation this morning there was an article on the possible establishment of a potato genebank and breeding programme by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. It doesn’t seem to be online yet, but I will link to it as soon as it appears in cyberspace, as there’s a lot of interesting information on the history of potatoes in Kenya.

A tale of two farms

It isn’t just agricultural biodiversity that needs looking after; sometimes it is the agriculture itself. In my in-basket today two stories of farms saved for the future. Coincidence, I’m sure, but it is not hard to glean a single message of nostalgia combined with urban alienation from the rescue of College Farm in north London and Gellatly Nut Farm in British Columbia. I’ve often thought that we should make more of the commonalities between developed and developing countries than we do. Maybe these stories will help.