The title does not quite capture the subject of this book. Dunmire charts the transplantation of scores of Old World domesticated plants, many of which are not Mediterranean in origin, to a region that is not quite New Spain. Instead, the analysis extends from the Caribbean and the Valley of Mexico in the south to the California missions, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in the north, with a sidelong look at Spanish Florida in the bargain. Dunmire’s chief concern is to figure out when various crops arrived where, and how their arrival altered agriculture, horticulture, and cuisine. It is, in short, the story of how this part of the Americas acquired a mestizo agroecology in the years between the conquest and 1840.

When Spaniards first came to the Americas, among their ambitions was to figure out which crops would grow well in these unfamiliar surroundings. Disappointingly, familiar ones such as...

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