May 8, 2010
History of Plants
Plants have moved through the world through the fabric of human society. Sociology shows us how and why people create communities, move on, interact either violently or cooperatively, and ultimately create an environment where humans thrive. Perhaps a good term might be sociobotany to describe the way that humans have sought after plants, often for profit, sometimes to death. I am interested in the history of plants within human society. For instance, this capsicum is one of the chile peppers developed from native South American plants. 600 years ago Europeans sent out huge exploratory ships trying to find alternative routes to the spice islands and Asian spice regions. Piper nigrum, common black pepper, was a cherished and necessary spice in early European society, both for flavoring and for making stored meats and foods edible for longer periods. The first expeditions, a la Columbus, made their way to South and Central America regions and they did NOT find black pepper, or cinnamon, or any of the other economically important spices. What they did find was chile peppers, potatoes, a cinnamon-like plant, tomatoes, corn, and many other horticultural finds that quickly made it into culinary traditions of many lands throughout the world. The chile peppers, especially, were adopted in Asia and Southeast Asia. Today, Asia is the greatest producer of some types of chile peppers and it seems as if the hot pepper has always been part of that region of the world. This chile pepper is the jalapeno, a cultivar of Capsicum annuum. What medium do you think it is? Graphite? Ink wash? Black watercolor? It is done 100 percent digitally in Photoshop.