GAMMA GARDENS: the irradiated history of Cold War agriculture
Liberty Lawson unravels the strange, radioactive history of red grapefruits, toothpaste and dahlias on one of our favourite websites — THE PLANTHUNTER
"There is something fundamentally primal about gardening. Technology has infiltrated every corner of our societies, and yet, the garden seems far removed from the vicissitudes of modern life. When our fingernails are fringed with soil, time seems to melt away as seedlings slowly uncurl from their husks and leaves splay out to catch the sun. Gardening, if you can excuse the pun, is deeply entangled with our evolutionary roots. Sowing seeds, which we humans have been doing for millennia, rekindles both a connection with nature, and these days, a sense of nostalgia. Rarely do we see fruit on trees rather than in plastic crates, and our once-green thumbs scroll iPhone screens, but we still want our vegetables to come from gardens and not laboratories. We have qualms with transgenics and synthetic pesticides, anything that ‘messes’ with the sanctity of nature.
However, this moral weight that we ascribe to ‘nature’ is a relatively new phenomenon. The history of humans cultivating land hasn’t been nearly as wholesome as we might like to remember it. Agriculture has traditionally been the battlefield where innovation and cutting edge technologies emerged. Surprisingly, the legacy of some of the less brutal and simply bizarre attempts to modernise the industry can still be found today on our supermarket shelves, even if the stories behind them have been forgotten or romanticised away."