Orchids are one of the most popular plants in the world. But back in the nineteenth century, orchids, specially the tropical ones, were a botanical curiosity and an exotic and expensive item only a few could afford. Those plants were extracted from the tropical jungles of South America to be sold in auctions in Britain. In this blog post, Camilo Uribe Botta shows how the networks created between Colombia, Belgium and Britain in the 1840s led to a constant supply of plants from the tropical Andes and also to new botanical discoveries and innovative methods on how to cultivate them in Britain.
What does the sweet potato tell us about sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England? We may now associate this root vegetable with Thanksgivings or modern food trends, but the sweet potato had a considerable vogue in the early modern period, one that sheds light on the international nature of English foodways and the early rise of global consumption. In this blog post, Serin Quinn argues for the inclusion of the sweet potato, and other indigenous American foods, in discussions of the trade in luxury foods in pre-modern England, and for a revision of the narrative that American foods were met with fear and suspicion upon their arrival in Europe.