Did you know that wine was a more common drink than water in ancient times?
That’s just one example of the long and often surprising history of common foods like fruit and vegetables that we rarely think about. Have you ever wondered about whether people hundreds or thousands of years ago were eating food just like yours?
Here are the strange histories of 5 common fruits you may already have in your kitchen!
Apples were first eaten millions of years ago in the Tien Shan mountains in what is now Kazakhstan, according to History.com. They’ve also long been portrayed in art, from Michelangelo’s Temptation and Fall to Milton’s Paradise Lost, according to National Geographic.
Apples first came to the U.S. in 1607 but were mainly used for making cider at the time. Apples at that time were more bitter than modern apples, so they weren’t usually eaten raw. Have you ever heard about the tale of Johnny Appleseed? The real-life Johnny Appleseed, John Chapman, collected seeds from cider mills and spread apple-growing to the midwestern U.S. – but the real purpose for Chapman’s apples was for alcohol. The bitter apples grown from Johnny Appleseed’s seeds were mainly used to create cider and Applejack.
Bananas are delicious and packed with health benefits, but they also have a long history.
Bananas first originated in Africa and then were brought to Europe by sailors in the fifteenth century. These early bananas weren’t sweet like the ones we know today, however – they were more like what are today known as plantains. Yellow, sweet bananas were born from a mutation of these early bananas, which were then cultivated for their sweet taste, according to Spruce Eats.
Grapes are known for their role in producing wine, but did you know that wine was actually drunk more often than water in ancient times?
“Wine, along with fermented beers, was the preferred drink in antiquity because water was not reliably safe to consume,” food historian Francine Segan told Mother Nature Network.
Grapes are possibly the oldest cultivated fruit, according to NutriNeat. They have likely been cultivated as long as civilization has existed, according to a report from the University of Missouri’s Integrated Pest Management. Grapes were first grown as early as 6500 B.C. and were often used for winemaking and religious rites. Ancient Egyptians were the first to make wine. Grape use later extended beyond religion and wine became more common in everyday culture after the 16th century.
Orange trees originated in India and were first used as far back as 7,000 years ago, according to History of Things. The sweet oranges we know today made their way to Europe in the 16th century, after Portuguese sailors began to trade with India. They later made their way to the Americas by way of Spanish conquistadors.
Now the orange is the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world, according to a report from Purdue University. Use some oranges in this Orange Cauliflower and these irresistible Orange Coconut Truffles!
Blueberries are, in terms of fruits, actually a pretty recent addition! As recently as the early 20th century, blueberries had not yet been domesticated and were harvested from wild blueberry plants. They’re also one of the few species of fruit that is actually native to North America, according to In Depth Info. Native Americans had long gathered blueberries and were considered sacred because of their blossom which has five points like a star.
Blueberries were eventually domesticated by an agricultural specialist named Elizabeth White, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. White, the daughter of farmers in New Jersey, teamed up with Frederick Coville, a botanist from the USDA, to find which blueberries had the properties that would make the most favorable for cultivation, and worked to create the world’s first domesticated blueberries.
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