Exploring The Origins of Plant Life & History of Food || Thor Hanson

Food, nutrition and the cycle of life begins from one place: seeds. In this show we explore the fascinating ways plants, animals and humans evolved together all the way from beginning of time to our modern day. Strap on for this joyride of a podcast!


Author and biologist Thor Hanson is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Switzer Environmental Fellow, and winner of the John Burroughs Medal. His books include The Impenetrable Forest, Feathers, The Triumph of Seeds, and Buzz (due in July 2018), as well as the illustrated children’s favorite, Bartholomew Quill. Thor’s work has been translated into more than ten languages and earned many accolades, including The Phi Beta Kappa Award, the AAAS/Subaru Prize, and two Pacific Northwest Book Awards. His many media appearances have included NPR’s Fresh Air, PRI’s Science Friday, Book Lust with Nancy Pearl, and The Current on CBC. Hanson lives with his wife and son on an island in the Pacific Northwest.


6:28 – How did you get into research about seeds?

8:21 – How do you conduct research?

10:08 – How seeds form main part of many cultures

12:31 – How did seeds and plant life begin?

17:50 – When did animals and insects start consuming plants?

20:07 - Why did plants developed chemical defenses?

22:42 – When did humans start consuming plants and seeds?

25:25 – The transition between hunter gatherer to agricultural revolution

27:08 – How have the seeds changed from hunter gatherer times all the way to modern times

30:53 – Has taste, chemical & nutrient composition of seeds changed over time?

32:59 – Does bitterness correlate with toxicity?

35:40 – Have humans domesticated plants or plants have domesticated humans?

37:04 – The domestication of dogs

38:22 – Has architecture and physical structure of seeds changed as well?

39:30 – The curious case of the avocados

41:33 – How did human agriculture impacted the plant kingdom?

45:07 – How extinction of wild plant species could lead to a global catastrophe

48:22 – Why do crunchy foods such as nuts taste good?

53:20 – Why can I consume seeds and nuts but not the entire plant?

1:00:32 – How did our ancestors figure out if a plant or seed is safe to consume?

1:02:07 – How long do seeds last?

1:07:08 – How so seeds combat extreme environments and decay?

1:08:48 – What gives seeds its hard structure?

1:11:20 – How do you know a seed is dead or dormant?

1:13:20 – Why do seeds have different fats, carbs and proteins and has it changed over time?

1:16:34 – Is there plant intelligence and communication between plants?

1:17:51 – What came first: plant or the seed?

1:19:02 - What paradoxes did you come across while writing the book?

1:21:45 – Final Plugs & books written