Norman Ellstrand's informative book presents a detailed, and in places humorous, way of telling us how much of our food results from the sex acts of plants. As the title suggests, the author wants to educate while entertaining us by teaching us that many of our foods are the result of plants having sex. Sounds intriguing. He is specifically referring to fruits, seeds, and nuts as products of plant sex. Using detailed botanical terms, he explains how foods such as the tomato, the banana, the avocado, squashes, and others are produced through a plant's reproductive processes. As he presents information about plant sex, the author takes the opportunity to amaze and sometimes shock the reader with the often complex and sometimes bizarre strategies that plants use to reproduce.
For those who have not studied botany, the book explains enough about plant anatomy and physiology that the reader can follow the complexities of the widely varying reproductive processes that plants employ. In this respect, the book is a good primmer for readers who are not botanists. Most of the botanical explanations are focused on plant reproductive structures; however, the author includes other plant systems when relevant to the main topics of the book. Be prepared to learn many new anatomical terms related to plants. You may find it somewhat challenging if this is your first dive into botany.
The book is full of “fun facts” that can be used in teaching botany. For example, we learn that most of the bananas commercially grown are of just one variety – a variety that is sterile. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of other varieties of bananas growing in the wild, but they are less desirable because they have large, hard seeds that would crack our teeth if we carelessly ate one. We also learn that avocado trees are both female and male – the trees produce both kinds of flowers. There are two kinds of avocado trees: “A trees” and “B trees.” When A trees are producing female flowers, in the morning, B trees are producing male flowers to pollinate the A trees. Likewise, B trees are pollinated when the A trees are producing male flowers. Only rarely does a tree self-pollinate.
Each chapter provides little-known but detailed information about a particular plant we eat and how it reproduces. The author goes beyond discussing only reproduction by including fascinating details about each plant group, including uses by humans and other organisms, history of discovery, and other facts of interest. The author's extensive use of scientifically correct plant terminology makes this a technical read in some places. Yet, if you have the interest, it is worthwhile to take the time to learn the new terms and thereby make the book more comprehensible. As a reward, when a chapter has been read, one has a new and greater appreciation for each plant group. Overall, this book is a meaningful and enjoyable read for those interested in botany who do not have time to pursue a degree in the field.