A recent paper by Jones et al. (Food globalization in prehistory, World Archaeology, 2011, 43(4), 665–75) explores a prehistoric ‘Trans-Eurasian’ episode of food globalization characterized by the long-distance exchange of starch crops. Drawing upon a comparison to the Columbian Exchange, they emphasize the role of fast-growing crops in optimizing productivity, giving minimal consideration to other drivers. Here we re-evaluate the sequence and timing of the Trans-Eurasian exchange and give greater consideration to the social dimensions of plant translocation. We outline a model for thinking about plant translocations that highlights the way the conceptualization and use of introduced plants changes through time, with social factors frequently dominating in the early stages.