1. Choose a domesticated plant. The domesticated plant you choose could be any commercially grown food crop—there are thousands from which to choose—although there also are many non-food plants, such as cotton and indigo and tobacco, that also would be fine to discuss. And if you rather would write about a domesticated animal or microorganism, that would be OK, too, although the sources provided below are geared toward plants.
2. Research your plant, focused on the following basic questions:
- Where in the world did it originate? Where was it domesticated? What are its wild ancestors?
- Where is the crop commercially produced today?
- How is the crop used today? In answering this last question, does the crop play an especially significant role in a particular consumer product—such as indigo’s iconic use as the color of blue jeans—or in a particular dish or cuisine associated with a specific country, region, or culture group? For example, Risotto alla milanese—the classic rice dish of Milan—depends upon saffron as much as the rice itself.
3. Share what you have learned, including any questions or mysteries that came up, in an original discussion post of two or three paragraphs. As with all of our discussions, an initial post of roughly 250 words is a good starting point, to which you can add with follow-up posts.
I have given you above specific questions to investigate, but this is a flexible and open assignment. You are welcome to use any sources you find worthwhile. Cite the sources that you use, providing links when available so your classmates can check out the same sources if they are interested. In addition to Wikipedia, which is a good general reference for an assignment such as this, the websites below will help you get started:
- on crop origins: interactive website from the CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture)
- international data on commercial crop production: FAOSTAT crop data
- two searchable sources on food culture, searchable by crop/ingredient: Saveur magazine and Slow Food’s Ark of Taste