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Eating is the second favorite activity of many people, and for some it is the first. This lively book recounts the intriguing story of the plants and animals that stand between humans and starvation. Charles Heiser, preeminent botanist, writes with great verve about questions of where, when, and how humankind’s food plants and animals were domesticated. In narrating his tale, the author traces the intricate patterns of food use and distribution that have developed from prehistoric times to the present.
The bulk of the book examines basic food plants and animals: meats, cereals, legumes, sugar, starchy staples (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams), oils, and other plants used for beverages and spices. Heiser provides many captivating details, enhanced by some 100 photographs, about a range of topics from archaeology to ethnobotany.
This new edition contains completely updated dietary information, additional background on the origins of maize in the light of new findings, a critique of the increasingly popular ”pseudocereals” such as Amaranthus, and a balanced appraisal of seed and gene banks. The book ends on a somber note with an even-handed assessment of our present and potential food supply, and includes recommendations for improving our cultivation and production of food sources. This book is must reading for anyone interested in the problem of feeding the world’s teeming millions over the next half century.