The Atlantic: How the ‘Golden Age’ of Travel Transformed American Cuisine At the turn of the 20th century, one adventurous botanist brought kale, mangoes, and thousands of other plants to the U.S.



You’ve probably never heard of David Fairchild. But if you’ve savored kale, mango, peaches, dates, grapes, a Meyer lemon, or a glass of craft beer lately, you’ve tasted the fruits of his globe-trotting travels in search of the world’s best crops—and his struggles to get them back home to the United States.

When David Fairchild was growing up in Kansas in the 1880s, the United States was a very different place. The average North American diet was relatively bland—most of the astonishing variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains that we expect to find in our grocery stores today were simply not available, even seasonally, let alone year round. Americans ate plenty of meat, dairy, corn, and potatoes, but almost none of the crops we now take for granted, such as cashews, avocados, and broccoli. In part due to this lack of crop diversity, the United States was in the midst of an agricultural depression.


Thanks for this post. The podcast was quite interesting. I was aware of Fairchild by way of the botanical Garden in Coral Gables which was named in his honor. But I had no idea the incredible depth of his explorations and the impact to our farms and kitchens.