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Ten Plants That Shook the World

The magazine, Garden Design, had an article in early or mid 1998, entitled, "Ten Plants That Shook the World." We're not going to reprint it here, because we don't have the copyright. But it's a fascinating magazine with a fascinating article from which we post the excerpts you see below.

All Factfile Articles


Bamboo Used as food, furniture, shipbuilding materials, and medicine
Cotton Use as clothing and fiber; a real cash crop
Olives The main export of ancient Greece, and the reason for the travel that expanded Western Civilization. Also the primary lubricant of the Industrial Revolution
Papyrus Early paper--and the records we now have of ancient writings
Pepper Once the global currency
Quinine Once the only known remedy for malaria
Rubber A vegetable gum used for rubbing out pencil marks, until discovery by the auto industry
Sugarcane Brought to the west by medieval spice traders; the first African slaves came to America to work this crop , not cotton
Tea Ah, the Boston Tea Party!
Wheat Along with rice, the primary source of human nourishment

Diet tips based on the above


Let's leave cotton, papyrus, quinine, and rubber out of the discussion of food. As for the others, you can make them part of a healthful diet.

  • Bamboo. Shoots of the bamboo plant are commonly added to Americanized Chinese food such as Chow Mein. Shoots in general provide valuable micronutrients. Bamboo shoots provide fiber, as well. They also add a distinct and pleasant flavor to dishes, and if not overcooked they add good texture.
  • Olives are fatty. Many diet proponents advise not to eat them, for that reason. But this is misguided. Olives eaten in moderation add healthful fats to your diet and real zest to your meals. Olive oil in the diet is ideal for people seeking to maintain low body fat.

    Olive oil is a wonderful cooking oil, and not just because of its flavor. You should experiment with various brands and pressings (pressings are rated virgin, extra virgin, etc.) to get the richness or subtleness that's most appealing to you. Good cooks often have several varieties of olive oil on hand.
  • Pepper is a broad category. The sheer variety of peppers is staggering. The hotness ranges from almost neutral to absolutely burning. A variety of peppers in the diet helps maintain low body fat, in addition to providing many nutrients. Adding jalapenos to omelets and other dishes puts fat-burning on the fast track. Raw peppers are good sources of vitamin C; add peppers to salads and other dishes. Or pick up a sweet red bell and eat it by itself.
  • Sugar, while not generally considered a "health food" is better than many of the alternative sweeteners used in its place. For example high fructose corn syrup is far more glycemic than plain table sugar is. The main problem with sugar usage in the USA is the sheer volume. In Europe, dishes are not made into sickeningly sweet concoctions as the are in the USA. A German pastry chef, for example, uses a little sugar while an American pastry chef uses a huge amount.

    You can avoid sugar entirely, by substituting stevia in many cases and foregoing sweeteners altogether in others. Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients, but also in flavor; they do not need sweeteners. For example, add apple chunks instead of sugar to get a great flavor in an otherwise dull dish.
  • Tea has gotten a bad rap from the anti-caffeine crowd. The dangers of caffeine are grossly exaggerated, and the amount of it in tea is far less than the amount in many soft drinks. Even many people with caffeine sensitivity can drink a cup of tea before bed and get a good night's rest. In the USA, tea used to mean black tea. Now it is a much wider term encompassing many types of brewed beverages. Various teas have various benefits; it's worth looking at what's available.

    A caution on teabags. If you buy traditional Chinese tea in bags, you will notice the bags are all sewn rather than stapled. If you buy common American brands of tea, you will notice the bags are stapled rather than sewn. Stapling is not good. The staples are made of a metal that is toxic to you. When you steep the tea, you get some of this metal in your tea.
  • Wheat is widely seen as a health food. It's not, at least in the current way it's grown and used. Generally, you should avoid wheat products (e.g., most bread, pasta, and pastries). The grain-based diet is fattening and disease-inducing. The famous Food Pyramid is a prescription for dietary disaster. Replace "grain" with "green" and you fix most of what's wrong.


Here's a great clean air video.

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