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Pierre Poivre: A stubborn dreamer

Pierre Poivre (1719-1786) was perhaps predestined by his surname to follow the road he traveled, one of research and then introducing the cultivation of spices in Europe, a rare and precious thing, little known at the time. Or perhaps he just followed the unstoppable passion he had for these plants. A passion that led him to travel the world, particularly Asia, and discover the wonders that are so common today and used in all cuisines. Poivre worked all his life and fought for this passion.


His success earned him a solid reputation, finally rewarded by his ennoblement by Louis XV, who wanted with this gesture, to recognize the benefits for France of his research, but also silence some of his enemies, jealous of his success. To cite just one example, his colleague Jean-Baptiste Christian Fusée-Aublet, director of the Ile de France ( Ile Maurice) experimental garden, to whom he had entrusted nutmeg and clove trees so that he could follow their development on this remote island with ideal climatic conditions, during his absence. The latter religiously watered the plants with boiling water so that they perished hoping to destroy Poivre's reputation. An investigation eventually revealed the misdeeds of Fusée-Aublet.



Pierre Poivre, born in Lyon into a family of modest silk merchants, was initially interested in religion and joined the missionary brothers of Saint-Joseph. He quickly declared that he wanted to dedicate himself to the evangelization of the Far East and embarked in 1741 for China. While passing through Cochinchina, he discovered his passion for agriculture, before being sent back to France by his superiors. But the travel virus had now taken hold of him and Poivre did not hesitate to return to Asia as soon as possible on board a ship of the French East India Company. During the voyage, the ship was attacked by the British and a ball tore off his right hand, which led to the amputation of his right forearm, and forced him to renounce the priesthood, because he could no longer make the sign of the cross. He also had to gave up drawing, an art in which he was very gifted.

Pierre Poivre was responsible for introducing the Kaffir lime to Ile Maurice , which was French at the time, which in turn led to French botantists growing them in Montpellier. And so kaffir lime trees arrived in Europe!


By Ephraim Conquy (1809-1843) - Scanné de Coureurs des mers Poivre d'Arvor, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3506791

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