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 […]

Soaking up Sunflower Seeds

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are members of the the Asteraceae family, along with the herbs arnica, burdock, boneset, calendula, chamomile, cronewort (mugwort), coltsfoot, dandelion, echinacea, elecampane, feverfew, gravel root, grindelia, liferoot, milk thistle, tansy, yarrow, valerian, wormwood, and wild lettuce. The family also contains the foods artichoke, lettuce, endive, and sun chokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes). And it contains the decorative flowers asters, chrysanthemums, […]

Kicking it up a Notch With Kidney Beans

Kidney beans are a variety of common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris). They share their species with green snap beans, pinto beans, heirloom beans, Great Northern beans, black turtle beans, cranberry and borlotti beans, flageolet beans, pea beans, pink beans, other white beans, and yellow beans. These beans, along with corn (maize), and squash were the “three sisters” of Native American cuisine. Common beans share the genus Phaseolus with tepary beans, […]

Purchasing Peaches

Peaches (Prunus persica) share the sub-genus Amygdalus with almonds. They both belong to the genus Prunus, which also includes plums, apricots, cherries, and nectarines. These fruits 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). Peaches originated in China around 2000 BC, where the first wild peach trees produced small, […]

Importing Hemp Seeds

Hemp (Cannabis sativa) is the sole species in the Cannabis genus, which shares the Cannabaceae family with hops and hackberries. Hemp likely originated in the Himalayas, and from there, it was spread by humans and other animals. Hemp is among the oldest industries. By 8000 BC, hemp was woven into fabric. It grew in popularity over time on a global scale to […]