Cherishing Cherries

Cherries (Prunus avium) share their genus with plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines, and almonds. These plants are in the Rosaceae family, along with strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, quinces, apples, pears, and ornamental trees and shrubs (such as roses, meadowsweets, photinias, firethorns, rowans, and hawthorns). Cherries are native to the temperate areas of eastern Asia Minor, in the fertile area between the Black and Caspian Seas, and were […]

Going Wild Over Wild Rice

Wild rice (Zizania aquatica) belongs to the family Poaceae, along with bamboo, black rice, lemongrass, brown rice, wheat, corn, oats, barley, millet, and rye, plus many other grasses. The Algonquin, Ojibwa, Dakota, Winnebago, Sioux, Fox, and Chippewa tribes used wild rice as a staple in their diets. They called it manomin or mahnomen, after the Menominee tribe and referred to wild […]

Figuring out Figs

Figs (Ficus carica) belong to the family Moraceae, along with banyan, breadfruit, mulberry, and Osage-orange. Figs likely originated in southern Arabia. They have been cultivated for thousands of years: remnants of figs having been found in excavations of Neolithic sites traced to at least 5,000 BC. Sumerians and Assyrians were familiar with them. Figs spread slowly through Asia […]

Digging Peanuts

Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) belong to the family Fabaceae, along with common beans (green snap beans, pinto beans, heirloom beans, Great Northern beans, black turtle beans, kidney beans, and navy beans), edible-pod and mature peas, fava beans, black-eyed peas, adzuki beans, lima beans, jicama, chickpeas, carob, and licorice. The family also includes broom, gorse, and kudzu. Peanuts probably originated in what is now Peru or Brazil in South America. People in […]

Fending off Disease With Fennel

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a a member of the family Apiaceae, along with other mostly aromatic plants with hollow stems and umbrella-like flower clusters. Included in this family are anise, caraway, carrot, celeriac, celery, chervil, coriander (including cilantro), cumin, hemlock, Queen Anne’s lace, parsley, dill, and parsnip. Fennel originated throughout the Mediterranean Basin. Its Greek name, marathon, means “grow thin,” reflecting […]

Slicing Kiwifruit

Kiwifruit (often shortened to kiwi outside of New Zealand), is the edible berry of one of 60 species of woody vine in the family Actinidiaceae. The most common commercial species is Actinidia deliciosa. Kiwifruit originated in the Yangtze Valley of northern China and Zhejiang Province on the coast of eastern China. Originally called yáng táo, they were […]