One of the things I find facinating about food is the assumptions many people make about where their favorite foods originally came from. In the US, for example, we rely heavily on corn, wheat, potato, cattle and pigs, just to name a few. Yet, none came from what is now the United States. The same could be said for most of Europe and many other geographical areas.

Corn domestication occured in MesoAmerica. Wheat in the fertile crescent of Southwest Asia, potatoes in the South American Andean highlands, cattle in Southwest Asia and the Mediterranean, and pigs in West Africa and Southeastern Asia.

That one crop or animal was domesticated in more than one location is no surprise, the wild progenitors of current domesticates often had wide ranges and slightly different varieties of the same species often evolved differently in different ecological conditions. Look at all the varieties of dog or cattle, or the muscovy duck from the Andes versus the ducks in Southwest Asia. Both trade routes and natural conditions like wind and ocean currents also contributed to the spread of both wild and domesticated crops and animals.

So, where did your favorite foods come from? In the United States, it has often surprised me at how few food crops with current uses actually originated here. Sunflowers are one example. Certain berries are another. But no staples used today, such as rice, potato, wheat or corn originated here. Corn, beans and squash all were introduced to the Indians by contact with these crops moving north from MesoAmerica and slowly spread across the country. Many other foods, like the pig, were introduced by European contact with the Spanish.

Where our food came from

Where our food came from

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