U.S. Botanic Garden’s ‘Cultivate’ exhibit explores changes in agriculture

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Did you know that crayons, chalk, toothpaste, sneakers and even diapers consist of elements that in some way come from corn? That just one-fifth of land in the contiguous United States is applied to cultivate crops? Or that 1 in 3 American households — whether on farms, in backyards and group gardens or on balconies and windowsills — develop some of their individual food items?

A new show at the U.S. Botanic Backyard garden (USBG) covers these subjects and more. “Cultivate: Growing Food in a Shifting World” shows how agriculture is not just an exercise that requires spot on faraway farms but something that shapes nearly each facet of our existence.

“Agriculture is part of our day to day everyday living, and it is in a large amount of everyday matters that we never thought about,” claims Amy Bolton, the museum’s supervisor of studying and engagement.

The exhibit, the most significant the USBG has ever put on, is distribute in the course of the glass-enclosed conservatory making. The entry courtyard is stuffed with species of formerly wild vegetation and trees, several from the tropics or subtropics, that people have cultivated to make them much more suitable for food items or other requires. These consist of coconuts, bananas, espresso, citrus, bamboo and cacao (pronounced kuh-KAU), a plant whose seeds are made use of to make chocolate.

The exhibit highlights some popular dishes to exhibit how even meals that do not seem to be to incorporate lots of agricultural items can nevertheless rely on farming. Just take sushi, for illustration: Though the seafood and seaweed utilized to wrap it occur from the ocean, not only the rice but also the flavorings — this kind of as soy, wasabi and ginger — appear from vegetation.

A part on the cultural factors of what we eat options 3 cooks with area connections, and it appeals to virtually all of the 5 senses. For instance, site visitors can hear to a recording of African American food historian Michael Twitty talking about cooking see and contact a re-creation of his kitchen area setup (including jars of pickled okra and scorching sauce) and scent a container of chile pepper salt. In other places, there are profiles and video clip interviews with farmers close to the globe.

Two substantial maps designed with grains and legumes exhibit which staples — these types of as rice, corn, barley, quinoa or teff — are most typical in different pieces of the planet. Yet another part looks at 5 crops, which includes wheat and sugar cane, that have transformed food items systems and economies and in some conditions formed human migration.

Exterior in Bartholdi Park, a kitchen garden showcases edible plants that grow in North America. Veggies including lettuce, Swiss chard, peppers and leeks, together with herbs these types of as cilantro, basil, dill and parsley, are now in year.

In a neat twist, some components in the exhibit had been manufactured thanks to agriculture. Most of the walls and graphics use board made with wheat straw, though the linoleum on a bench incorporates jute and linseed oil. You can sit on stools included with petals and seeds from sunflowers.

The plant-based surfaces and home furnishings are just 1 a lot more way that Bolton hopes the exhibit will expand people’s thoughts about agriculture. “Agriculture is science, agriculture is food stuff, agriculture is men and women, it’s lifestyle,” she suggests.

What: “Cultivate: Developing Foods in a Transforming World”

In which: United States Botanic Backyard garden, 100 Maryland Avenue in Southwest Washington.

When: By means of December 2023. Open each day, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For extra info: Connect with 202-225-8333 or visit usbg.gov.