If you have any questions you would like me to address in future articles, please send them to the Lumby Valley Times at editor@lumbyvalleytimes.ca Information provided comes from various sources on the internet, gardening magazines, gardening books and articles and my own personal knowledge.
In The Beginning

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While reading a book last evening a reference was made to the fact that most vegetables and fruits that we now grow in our garden actually came from Central America and of course this peaked my interest as to who, why and when.  Not surprisingly this is true!  Most of the plants we grow in our gardens and the foods we love came from South and Central America and were introduced by various means to Asia, Europe and then to North America.  Here are a few of the most favoured and their history.

The Tomato was originally from the Andes which encompasses Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Equador.  It was domesticated by the natives there around 700 BC.  Explorers brought it home and introduced it to Europe in the 1800’s where at first it was believed to be poisonous.  This was  because of its acidic qualities that caused lead to leach from the cutlery and plates that were used by the rich, however, the poorer Europeans ate off wooden plates and therefore were not sickened and killed by the fruit and it became very popular especially by the Italians that made it a food staple and brought it to North America when they immigrated here.  It was made wildly popular as a staple on pizza and today over 12 million tons are grown worldwide.

Potatoes were originally grown in Peru and Sir Walter Raleigh was responsible for taking it to Europe, originally to Ireland in the 1500’s and 4 decades later to the rest of Europe.  It is now the 4th largest food crop grown in the world after Rice, Wheat and Maize.

Beans were originally from Mexico and although it did move north with migrating natives it arrived in 16th century Europe through explorers.

Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds were first found in Central America and migrated north to Mexico.  These were not only prized as a food source it also provided fishing floats and containers when dried out.  They were domesticated about 8000 years ago and made it to Europe in the 16th century.

Radishes are from Asia where the wild radishes were domesticated and then later came to the European world by way of the Greeks and Romans who loved them.  In the 13th century German botanist were growing radishes that weighed up to 100 pounds.

Cucumbers were grown in India 3000 years ago and were introduce to Europe by the Greeks or Romans.  In the 16th century they were brought to the New World and introduced to the native Indians.  It again is considered a fruit.

Peppers originated in Mexico and other Central American regions.  Both hot and cold peppers were grown and were introduced to Spain in the late 1400’s by explorers.  They too were considered fruit.

Corn was introduced to the world by the Mexicans and was developed into what we now know as corn about 7000 years ago.  It evolved from a grass that held a few and sporadic seeds.  It was taken to Europe in the late 1400’s and to Africa in the 16th century.  Today China is the largest producer of this staple.

The South American natives were also the first to companion garden.  This was called the 3 Sisters  where corn, squash and beans were grown.  Corn supported the beans and squash kept the weeds down and kept the moisture in the ground from evaporating.

Happy Gardening!

Samantha Nason

BS Ranch & Greenhouses

samanthanason@hotmail.com • 250 547 6567

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