Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” (Gen. 1:29)
In Ruth Krauss’s classic book The Carrot Seed, a silent little boy disregards all naysayers, patiently watering and weeding around his plant until at last a great carrot sprouts up, “just as the little boy had known it would.”
Though famous for how its simple drawings transformed the genre of pictures books, Krauss’s story also tells us something profound about our relationship with nature. Even children know that the tiniest pip contains what George Bernard Shaw called “fierce energy”—the spark and all the instructions needed to build a carrot, an oak tree, wheat, mustard, sequoias, or any one of the estimated 352,000 other kinds of plants that use seeds to reproduce. The faith we place in that ability gives seeds a unique position in the history of the human endeavor. Without the act and anticipation of planting and harvest, there could be no agriculture as we know it, and our species would still be wandering in small bands of hunters, gatherers, and herdsmen. Indeed, some experts believe that Homo sapiens might never have evolved at all in a world that lacked seeds. More than perhaps any other natural objects, these small botanical marvels paved the way for modern civilization, their fascinating evolution and natural history shaping and reshaping our own.
We live in a world of seeds. From our morning coffee and bagel to the cotton in our clothes and the cup of cocoa we might drink before bed, seeds surround us all day long. They give us food and fuels, intoxicants and poisons, oils, dyes, ...
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