2013-07-24 / Front Page

Did You Know? Summer Fruit And Vegetables Trivia

By Nicole DIANE Sanchez

Hundreds of years ago on continents like Europe, people’s access to food was severely limited by climate. They only consumed what could be found or grown at certain times during the year. Nowadays, it is quite simple to eat a watermelon in the dead of winter.
International trade has served the food industry well. Let us delve into the origins of our favorite fruits and vegetables, from apricots to zucchinis.
•Apricot: Prunus armeniaca, a member of the rose family, originated in China. Alexander the Great introduced this fleshy bundle of goodness to Greece in the fourth century B.C. during his travels. The fruit was transported to the Mediterranean by the Arabs, and it then became a major crop in Italy. Franciscan friars brought apricots into American settlements in the 1800s, and they’ve thrived ever since. California produces 90 percent of U.S. apricots. Middle Eastern countries are the largest producers of apricots, with Turkey in the lead. Season: late spring to early summer.
•Corn: It is unclear when Zea mays appeared, but the earliest known specimen was found in Cuba. Its wild form is long extinct - what remains is the cultivated versions, the first of which was created in Mexico.  Christopher Columbus brought it to Spain in the late 1400s. It became a staple crop everywhere from France to the Philippines. The U.S. produces about 40 percent of all the corn in the world. Season: late spring to early summer.
•Mango: Mangifera indica is native to Southwest Asia, particularly India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Buddhists were the first to export it to Malay in the fifth century B.C.; Persian traders and the Portuguese took the succulent fruit to Europe and the Americas, respectively. It underwent a lot of changes under human selection; the small, fibrous ancestor was very different from today’s sweet, fleshy fruit. Mangos are now grown in tropical areas worldwide. Season: late spring to summer.
•Peach: Prunus persica has always been a favorite throughout the world. It was first located in China as far back as the 10th century B.C. It then went from Persia, Rome, Spain, America and finally, to England, where it was a rare treat. The peach became widespread in America, mostly due to the efforts of Native Americans; it is now the second largest fruit produced by America, apples being the first. Season: summer.
•Watermelon: Citrullus vulgaris is composed of 90 percent water. It originated in Africa and was also heavily cultivated in Egypt and India as far back as 2,500 B.C. as an important water source when all else failed. Though it’s most commonly consumed as is, it can be used to make beer, and the rinds can be pickled.
•Zucchini: Cucurbita pepo is part of the cucumber family. It has been in South and Central America for thousands of years. Christopher Columbus is responsible for bringing it to the Mediterranean and Africa. The most common type of modern zucchini was developed in Italy, however. Zucchini was a little known vegetable 30 years ago, but today its versatility as not only a side dish, but an ingredient in everything from breads and desserts to sauces and salads.  Season: summer to fall.

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