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Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat

by Robert N. Spengler University of California Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 392 pages
AU$72.00 NZ$75.65
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The foods we eat have a deep and often surprising past. Many foods we consume today—from almonds and apples to tea and rice—have histories can be traced along the tracks of the Silk Road out of prehistoric Central Asia to European kitchens and American tables. Organized trade along the Silk Road dates to at least Han Dynasty China in the second century B.C., but the exchange of goods, ideas, cultural practices, and genes along these ancient trading routes extends back five thousand years. Balancing a broad array of archaeological, botanical, and historical evidence, Fruit from the Sands presents the fascinating story of the origins and spread of agriculture across Inner Asia and into Europe and East Asia. Through the preserved remains of plants in archaeological sites, Robert N. Spengler III identifies the regions where our most familiar crops were domesticated and follows their routes as people carried them around the world. Vividly narrated, Fruit from the Sands explores how the foods we eat have shaped the course of human history and transformed consumption all over the globe.

A Word on Semantics
A Note on Dates
Map of Central Asia

part i. how the silk road
influenced the food you eat
1. Introduction
2. Plants on the Silk Road
3. The Silk and Spice Routes

part i i. artifacts of the silk road
in your kitchen
4. The Millets
5. Rice and Other Ancient Grains
6. Barley
7. The Wheats
8. Legumes
9. Grapes and Apples
10. Other Fruits and Nuts
11. Leafy Vegetables, Roots, and Stems
12. Spices, Oils, and Tea
13. Conclusion

Appendix: European Travelers along the Silk Road

Robert N. Spengler III is the Archaeobotany Laboratory Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, a Volkswagen/Mellon Foundations Fellow, and a former Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.