Kurdistan: Recovering a Garden of Paradise, Photo Gallery
Iraqi Kurdistan, a region in northern Mesopotamia, is home to mountains, steppes, and pastures that were part of the Fertile Crescent: the birthplace of agriculture—and, indeed, civilization. There, ancient farmers nurtured a wealth of crops that would become staples throughout the world. Today, after years of wars and sanctions, Kurdistan is reengaging its land. As it negotiates the challenges of a new era, native plants and crops remain a defining feature of the landscape and people—how long can the agricultural heritage last?
Many Kurdish farmers maintain traditional methods of harvesting. At the foot of the mountains, farmers cut grain with a scythe and gather bundles of barley on their backs. Cultivated and wild grains have been ubiquitous on the Kurdish landscape for a long time; wheat, barley, and lentils were first domesticated here around 8000 B.C.
Read more in our story, Kurdistan: Recovering a Garden of Paradise.
Since antiquity, local herbalists have prescribed the abundant, edible milk thistle (Silybum marianum) for many ailments. Modern Kurdish pharmacology research expands on traditional applications, identifying its seeds as an effective treatment for liver disease.
In collaboration with the Royal Botanic Garden at Edinburgh, scientists at Nature Iraq, a local environmental group, collect specimens for the forthcoming Flora of Iraq, a comprehensive guide to regional plants. A botanist with Nature Iraq dissects Centaurea regia, a native thistle, collected in the Qara Dagh mountains.