Behind the Seeds

I’ll admit it: I unabashedly love the Living with the Land boat ride at EPCOT. I find the trip through the greenhouses fascinating, and I enjoy seeing the different growing techniques in action (I’m also sure there’s a healthy dose of nostalgia thrown in). My wife, though, finds the experience a bit boring.

On our last visit to the park, my wife and I decided to go beyond the boat ride and take the Behind the Seeds tour. It would be a way for me to see even more of the attraction, and maybe it would help her gain an appreciation of it as well.

This roughly hour-long walking tour takes guests through the Living with the Land greenhouses, giving them an in-depth look at the processes Disney uses to grow the plants seen on the boat ride. It turns out that the tour is inexpensive as well; when we went last year it was only $20 per person (though of course prices can fluctuate). We had booked our slots ahead of time, but it looked like some people were walking up to the tour desk and were able to get into the tour right then. Granted, it was February, so things were a bit quieter than they would be during a busier season, so I’d still recommend reservations if this is something you want to do. Also, it was pouring outside, so the tour gave us something to do that didn’t involve getting soaked.

After we checked in at the tour desk–located near the entrance to Soarin’ in the Land pavilion–and the rest of our group had arrived, we were escorted into a small room by our tour guide. The young woman, August, explained the basics of what we’d be seeing and went over the safety rules. Then it was time to really get going!

The tour started in a small area filled with glass tanks for various types of insects. The guide talked about some of the different kinds of beneficial bugs, and then asked for a volunteer. A young boy was chosen, and given a small container with some ladybugs inside. The guide explained that, when she asked him to later on in the tour, he was to let the ladybugs go so they could help keep harmful bugs away from the plants.

Moving on, August led us into the greenhouses.

Early on, we got to see inside some of the labs (through thick windows).

Behind the Seeds lab

While we didn’t see anybody in there at this time, these are working labs in which scientists do all sorts of science-y things with plants.

Behind the Seeds lab sign

Signs in some of the windows explained what sort of science was happening in the labs. These small containers were on a plate that was gently shaking them. For science.

Behind the Seeds lab Mickey

So, is this machine always set up like this? Do they have to only put test tubes into it in this exact shape when they need to use it?

As we moved further into the greenhouses, we got to see all sorts of plants and the tour guide stopped frequently to talk about them. What’s particularly cool is that most of the food that’s grown in the attraction is used in the Sunshine Seasons restaurant in the Land.

Behind the Seeds brussels sprouts

August, talking about the brussels sprouts. Also, every now and again a boat from the Living with the Land ride would go by.

Behind the Seeds cassabanana

I had never heard of a cassabanana before, but they are apparently a thing and they were on the tour. The guide held one up to each of us so we could smell it, and it had a weird but sweet aroma.

Behind the Seeds demonstration

In addition to talking about the plants themselves, the guide also went into detail about different sorts of growing techniques and explained the science of how they work.

Behind the Seeds strawberry

The boat ride’s narration touches upon a few of the different techniques used in the greenhouses, but the walking tour showed more and we could see them up close. Also, of course, we had a tour guide rather than a recording so we could ask questions.

Not far into the tour, the volunteer from earlier was asked to open the vial and release the ladybugs onto a nearby leaf. The ladybugs would eat harmful bugs, which help to keep the plants healthy.

Behind the Seeds ladybugs

Go, little ladybugs, go! Defend these plants against evil!

We also got the opportunity to try a sample of something grown right there in the greenhouse. The tour information suggests that this sample can change, and on our tour we were offered seedless cucumber slices. I’m not that big on cucumbers, but I tried one anyway, and it turned out to be not too bad. For a cucumber.

We walked on, passing from one greenhouse to the next and learning about many of the different plants that were being grown there. Our tour guide really knew her stuff and was able to share cool information about what we were seeing and answer many different questions from the group.

Behind the Seeds Carolina Reaper

This is the Carolina Reaper pepper, an extremely hot pepper that the guide said is less for human consumption and more for use in pepper sprays. I’ll admit that I really want to try eating one.

Behind the Seeds 9lb lemon

We got to see the famous “nine pound lemon” which they grow here at the Land. You know what they say: if life gives you nine pound lemons, make a lot of lemonade.

Behind the Seeds winter melons

Winter melons are really large melons.

Behind the Seeds tomato trellis

As a fan of the boat ride, getting a closer look at some of the plants–and being able to stop for a moment to appreciate them–was really cool. Like this tomato trellis.

Behind the Seeds amaranth

It’s not all fruits and veggies. We learned a bit about different sorts of grains and got to see what amaranth plants look like.

One really cool part about the Behind the Seeds tour was getting to see things that are visible on the boat ride but tough to really appreciate because you pass by them without stopping.

Behind the Seeds EPCOT logo

Standing still, and from further away, I was able to get a shot of this cool EPCOT/Mickey logo. I’ve seen it from the boat plenty of time but it’s hard to really stop and appreciate it for a moment.

We moved from greenhouses into an aquatic area where we got to see fish farming facilities.

Behind the Seeds tilapia

We didn’t spend as much time in this area as we did in the greenhouses, but we did get to see a tilapia farm.

Behind the Seeds Mickey hose

I’ve actually seen this “hidden Mickey” before, but it’s set back and at a tough angle to get a photo of from the boat. When you’re standing right next to it, though, it’s easy to stop and snap a shot.

Behind the Seeds gator

These baby gators are not for eating, but are being cared for/rehabilitated at the facility. When they’re older they’ll be sent to a wildlife reserve or released (away from Disney property).

Behind the Seeds shrimp

You can see these shrimp tanks from the boat, but to really get a closer look you need to be on the tour.

After passing through the aquatic area, we walked back into another greenhouse.

Behind the Seeds Mickey pepper

I’m going to go ahead and assume that all black pepper grows just like this on every farm everywhere, and also in the wild.

Behind the Seeds tea garden

This neat little garden featured various herbs that you might find in a cup of tea.

Behind the Seeds dragon fruit

Dragon fruit plants are really weird looking. I had never seen one before. Now I have.

Behind the Seeds vanilla

Vanilla is probably one of my favorite flavorings, so it was cool to see how it actually looks in its “still growing” state.

Shortly after this last section of greenhouses the tour came to an end, and we were escorted by our guide back into the main area of the Land pavilion.

To me, EPCOT has always been about science and education, so seeing those themes in action was very cool. The walking tour was a really great way to get a much more in-depth look at what’s going on in the Land greenhouses, seeing things that aren’t necessarily as visible from the boat ride or may not be explained on the recorded narration. I really enjoyed getting a closer look at everything and learning more about what’s happening behind the scenes at the EPCOT park, and even my wife had a good time and found it interesting.

stanley

This plant, which the tour guide calls Stanley, is pretty shy. Gently touch its leaves, and they close up (they do reopen a little while later). It’s something that you’d never be able to really see from the boat, and it was one of my wife’s favorite bits of the tour.

So if you’re someone who’s interested in plants and growing techniques and you want to go beyond the Living with the Land boat ride, the Behind the Seeds tour could be worth checking out.

Behind the Seeds horseradish

Every year, my wife and I go visit her family for Passover and horseradish is an important part of that. Now I can say that I’ve seen what it looks like well before my brother-in-law turns it into a face-searing concoction.

Behind the Seeds banana

Here’s a picture of bananas. I’ve been trying to come up with some clever comment (maybe about monkeys) but so far nothing’s been… a-peel-ing to me.

 

Behind the Seeds cacao

Someday, little cacao plant, your cocoa beans may make the chocolate coating of a Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar.

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One Response to Behind the Seeds

  1. Pingback: Defending Disney | Magic & Misadventures

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