But there's another side to the story, and Weaver meets his reader there, too: Where is food headed, and what's an individual to do?
We have seen the rise of hybrid crops in the years since World War II. They are good for the seed business because the grower can't just let a few plants grow to seed, save the seed, then plant that seed next season. Hybridized plants don't yield seed that's true to the character of the plant, so the grower has to return to the seed rack year after year. Buying seed on a commercial level is a big deal, as is growing enough of it to meet the market. A lot of tillable land in South America isn't growing food for hungry South Americans, but growing corn seed for American farmers, and the biggest use of corn in this country is animal feed. Not many hungry South Americans get to eat corn-fed American beef and pork. In one sense, he who controls seed controls food. Or, he who owns seed owns food, and the highest bidder takes all.
Heirloom seed, then, is more than a trinket or curiosity from the past. It represents the chance of survival in the future. Should an as-yet-unknown plant virus come along and take out the American hybrid corn crop (something that has in fact come close to happening), it's the genetic diversity available in heirloom, open-pollinated seeds that will save the bacon. Governments maintain plant gene banks, but individuals can do much the same, and authors like Weaver show how.
What Weaver injects into the tale is the incredible pleasure that comes of growing heirloom crops and saving seed, and of eating from a table laden with 17th- and 18th-century foods. He shares his own history and his family's history, all of it tied up in gardening and sharing and caring. This lovely book is an extension that can reach into any garden being dug today. In other words, don't hesitate with this title, whether history, science, gardening, or a rich enthusiasm for constructive ways the individual can affect the future drives your interest. --Schuyler Ingle
From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.