HOW HAS WHAT WE EAT CHANGED OVER THE CEN­TURIES?

History Revealed - - Q&A -

Sev­eral foods we love today were treated with great sus­pi­cion when they were first in­tro­duced. Pota­toes and toma­toes, both mem­bers of the deadly night­shade fam­ily, were con­sid­ered highly dan­ger­ous and, in the case of pota­toes, with some rea­son – the fruits of the potato con­tain high lev­els of sola­nine. Who wanted to be first to try the tomato or ‘poi­son ap­ple’, which looked just like potato fruit? Even re­branded as ‘love ap­ples,’ toma­toes got a bad rap when peo­ple fell ill af­ter eating them. It was many years be­fore the real cul­prit was dis­cov­ered to be the lead in pewter plates, re­act­ing with the acid in the toma­toes.

Run­ner beans were first in­tro­duced as or­na­men­tal plants. Other mod­ern sta­ples, such as peanuts, root veg­eta­bles, oys­ters and – in­cred­i­bly – lob­ster, were con­sid­ered food fit only for the poor.

There’s no need for us to be smug, though. For cen­turies, most coun­try folk could iden­tify ev­ery edi­ble berry, branch, root and fun­gus. Few of us would trust our­selves to gather hedgerow food today.

Sir Fran­cis Drake brought the potato back from the Amer­i­cas

Lit­tle Ge­orge Washington may well have been an hon­est boy, but his bi­og­ra­pher cer­tainly wasn’t

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