A day in October some five hundred years ago set in motion the cultinary events that led to everything we hold to be uniquely and profoundly American, from French fries and ketchup to cornflakes and candy bars, from chili and gumbo to pizza and turkey sandwiches. In eating, if nowhere else, we celebrate the unity that comes from diversity. [Newsweek, Oct 1992, Seeds of Change]
Whatever part the overland trade routes across Asia played, it was mainly by sea that the spice trade grew. Arabians were making direct sailings before the Christian era. In the Far East, the Chinese were moving through the waters of the Malay Archipelago and trading in the Spice Islands (the Moluccas or the East Indies generally). Ceylon was a central trading point.
By the 10th century Venice was beginning to prosper in the trade of the Levant; by the early part of the 13th century it enjoyed a monopoly of the trade of the Middle East; and by the 15th century it was a formidable power in Europe. Part of Venice's great wealth came from trading in the spices of the East, which it obtained in Alexandria and sold to northern and western European buyer-distributors at exorbitant prices.
The Europeans knew the origin of the spices reaching Alexandria and, unable to break the hold of Venice, determined in the last third of the 15th century to build ships and venture abroad in search of a route to the spice-producing countries. So began the famed voyages of discovery. The Portuguese, led by Prince Henry the Navigator, were first in the race and the first to bring spices from India to Europe by way of the Cape of Good Hope in 1501. In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed under the flag of Spain, and in 1497 John Cabot sailed for England; but both failed to find the fabulous spice lands.
|Henry the Navigator||Christopher Columbus||Ferdinand Magellan|
Ferdinand Magellan took up the quest for Spain in 1519. Of the five vessels under his command, only one, the Victoria, returned to Spain, but triumphantly, laden with cloves.
For mariners it was an age of adventure, risk, hardship, disease, and death; for nations it was an age of struggle, defeat, or conquest and an age for acquiring new, near-primitive lands and colonizing and gaining dominion over civilized foreign territories. For European commercial interests it was an age of rewarding success, which broke the monopoly of Venice, overcame the Muslim domination of the spice trade, created a voluminous trade in a great variety of merchandise between Europe and the Far East, and opened up a New World.
|"the claims that there were almost entirely different groups of foods plants cultured in the Old and New Worlds in pre-Columbus times is still acceptable to historians, archaeologists and paleobotanists. There is no doubt whatsoever that no crop of one hemisphere was a significant source of food for large numbers of people of the other hemisphere before 1492."|
|"until Columbus found his way across the Atlantic, the biota of the two sets of continents on either side were markedly different, the products of what, through time, had usually been divergent evolution. Since then, the biota of both, most undeniably of the Americas, have in significant part been the product of revolution, that is the abrupt addition and explosive propagation of exotic species from the lands on the other side of the waters that Columbus crossed in 1492. The great Columbus navigated, administered, crusaded, enslaved, but above all, he mixed, mingled, jumbled and homogenized the biota of our planet."|
|Columbus obviously great failure as humanitarian; Indians "how it feels to be discovered"; also consequence of monocropping, which has left us with more impoverished gene pool; it is possible that Columbus and his successors have caused the extinction of more species of life forms|
|"He and his exploits shaped the age at its start and still, for the most part, shape it today" He was primary in shaping and transplanting the cultures of Europe to the Americas, not just under a Spanish flag but under other banners as well; his extraordinary career, very like his sailing routes, was the model for all that came after. Legacy whereby European civilization came to dominate the Americas with consequences, we now realize, involving nothing less than issues of life and death. Human kind has been able to sustain a population never before dreamed of. Our state of health is better. Better food plus attendant improvements in science and technology which have furthered additional advances in the sciences, technology and arts. Surely if not Columbus someone else would have done it. Biggest blotch of Columbus (and explorers) poor treatment of other human beings|
The beginnings of modern science and the industrial revolution contribute to accelerated changes in plant production and Horticulture
|bell pepper||Bromeliales||bucket orchid||Bumelia||calabash tree|
|canary creeper||cardinal flower||cashew||cassava||cattleya|
|leaf cactus||marigold||monkey puzzle tree||myrtle||nasturtium|
|Phacelia||pineapple||potato||star apple||sweet potato|