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Seeds of Change KIRK ANDERSON, GARDEN COLLECTIONS MANAGER


Man’s ascension to the throne of his kingdom (if we dare to momentarily indulge in the hubris that man is indeed the master of his realm) came on the backs of his fellow kingdom’s subjects – the plants.


As the last ground sloth steaks and mastodon burgers were being grilled over the fi re, some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, the earliest Americans must have felt the need for fi nding alternate food stuff s, and an increased reliance on plants as a major component of their diet resulted. T e seeds of modern agriculture in the Americas were thus sown in the wake of the extirpation of the Western Hemisphere’s megafauna. T e transition from a hunting/gathering existence to an agrarian based society brought with it a more sedentary lifestyle. As crops were refi ned and a systematic approach to agriculture developed, fewer people were needed in the day


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to day securing of sustenance. T e carrying capacity of the land multiplied exponentially with regard to the human population. Specialization in crafts and trades followed. Temporary dwellings gave way to more permanent and intricate architecture. T e great civilizations of the Aztec, the Maya and the Inca fl ourished on the food crops nurtured in their terraced fi elds as did other Native American societies with methods of crop production.


T e Americas are home to over 150 native plants and thousands of their cultivated varieties that are now commonly used for food; among them are: sunfl ower, maize (corn), squash, tomato, pumpkin, pepper, common bean, tepary bean, chili, sweet potato, wild rice, potato, peanut, avocado, chocolate and tobacco. T e three most important crops in traditional Native American agriculture are maize, beans and squash. T ough the


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