Surely when biting a juicy slice of watermelon we could not imagine that in the past it did not look so appetizingly red and that its taste was not at all as sweet and refreshing as it is now.
And it is that most fruits and vegetables that we eat today seem very little to their original, especially in terms of its taste.
THE BANANA, ONE OF THE OLDEST
Possibly one of the oldest fruits is the banana, it is believed that it already existed 10,000 years ago in the Neolithic in the indomalayas regions of Southeast Asia in Papua New Guinea . From Indonesia they spread to other areas of Malaysia and the Philippines , reaching Hawaii and Polynesia .
Some historical documents show that as early as the third century BC . we have news of this fruit in Europe , but it was not introduced until the 10th century . Later in the 16th century from West Africa the Portuguese took it to South America .
The wild banana had two native wild varieties, the Musa balbisiana and the Musa acuminata , from the latter come the current bananas .
The Musa acuminata , the old banana had large and very hard seeds, its peel was also hard and difficult to remove. Research shows that the seed of the Musa acuminata possibly mutated more than 2,000 years ago, changed from having 3 copies of each chromosome to having 2 like the current ones. Today there are about 500 varieties .
THE WATERMELON , A WATER RESERVE
Although there are some controversies about the exact place of its origin, it is believed that it was in the Kalahari desert, but other investigations determine as the ancestor of watermelon, the Citrullus lanatus, a variety of colocynthoides, originating in northeast Africa. Anyway, all agree that it was always in Africa.
Many ancient documents revealed the existence of watermelon , the ancestor of our modern watermelon in Egypt more than makes 3000 years ago. It is even said that in the Tomb of Tutankhamen , seeds of this fruit were found in an oval shape like the current ones, so it is believed that it was already cultivated in that time and had already evolved, since the original had round seeds.
In fact, there are many Egyptian tombs where watermelon seeds have been found, it is believed that they were used as a water reservoir for the afterlife. It was usually done in other countries with very hot seasons, such as in Sudan that used them as a water reserve for the dry months.
Surely for this same reason, archaeologists investigating a settlement of more than 5,000 in Libya found watermelon seeds with other fruit remains.
In no way did they like it because of its bitter taste and hard texture , they really did not look appealing, but in return they were a valid water supply . Its thick and hard shell provided a good insulator against blows and kept it fresh and suitable for longer consumption unlike other fruits.
It is believed that the Egyptians started their cultivation selectively with the intent to modify its unpleasant taste, thing that happened relatively easily, as it had only one dominant gene causing the bitter taste.
From there, its cultivation extended to the Mediterranean and to all of Europe .
Over time also its yellow–orange color associated with the bitter taste was changing as its sugar content increased until it obtained its characteristic red color today.
THE NEW “ORANGE” CARROT
It is believed that the place of origin of the ancestors of carrots was Central and South– Eastern Asia , the old Persia and Asia Minor, present-day Iran . The Greeks and Romans took it to Europe.
A subspecies Dancus carota is the origin of the current carrot. Possibly its cultivation for consumption began approximately in the 10th century.
Probably at the beginning they were white or purple with a bifurcated and thin root . Over time it lost its pigmentation and began to be yellow . Its flavor was accentuated. Later they were transformed little by little changing their biennial cycle in an annual one, becoming bigger, of a single root and of more pleasant flavor.
But orange carrots like the ones we know today appeared for the first time in the Netherlands in the 17th century . On the occasion of an event for the royal house of Oranje . They were so successful that they have been cultivated with that tonality until today.
MULTIFUNCTIONALCORN , MORE THAN FOOD
Corn is possibly one of the foods that has undergone the most transformations to adapt it better to human consumption. It existed already 10,000 years ago but it was very small and very hard , besides it had few sugars .
This plant was cultivated in central Mexico for the first time already in the Neolithic, according to research by anthropologist Richard Stockton Macneish in the valleys of Tehuacán and Oaxaca . Where he found other corn plants remains and paintings, prints and sculptures of the same plant in the galleries of the pyramids.
It is believed that in 2,500 a. C . its cultivation was extended to the rest of America and later it was introduced in Europe after its contact in the XV and XVI centuries.
Its great adaptation to various soils and its great resistance to different climates earned it to spread rapidly to the rest of the world and become in some cases the base of the food of many communities .
The various manipulations to obtain a larger corn and with greater sugar content has meant that we can now enjoy the current one in different food varieties such as flour, oil and as the fermentation base of the famous bourbon whiskey, but also for non-food use, for example as biofuel or the already known bioplastic, a corn-based polymer that aims to replace oil also for the manufacture of textiles.
It began its cultivation for consumption 4,000 years BC. The peach Prunus persica comes from a tree native to Afghanistan . Also very popular formerly in China and Iran . The Romans introduced it to the West , since they first met it in ancient Persia and were initially called “persica“.
The native wild peaches were small like cherries so they had little pulp. Its flavor was slightly salty and earthy texture . Not at all similar to the actual peach, big juiciness and sweet texture.
THE EGGPLANT, AN ALLIANCE OF HEALTH
The eggplant Solanum melongena is native to Southeast Asia , from the Assam area in northeastern India specifically, it was also known in Burma and China . It has been known for more than 2,000 years . In the Middle Ages it was introduced in Europe by the Arabs in Andalusia.
Initially it was believed popularly toxic, perhaps because of the consumption of some other variety not suitable for food. In Europe it was not consumed for a long time and was only used as an ornament for fear of causing diseases such as epilepsy and even madness.
Quite the opposite of reality since its antioxidant properties are recommended for the prevention of degenerative and cardiovascular diseases . Its properties help reduce cholesterol and prevent arteriosclerosis and it is even good as a balm for sunburn, because it helps the skin to regenerate .
However the belief that raw food eggplant is toxic continues in the memory. And of course, like all plants, also the eggplant has some defense molecules, the famous alkaloids that are toxic. In its case it is the glycosylated alkaloid , called solasonine , it is toxic, but it is present in such a minimal amount that it can not be harmful to health at all, even if it is eaten in exaggerated amounts.
With the time eggplant was losing the disreputable fame, as well as its abundant thorns and not at all smooth and uniform texture. The color was also changing along with its shape. From white, blue, yellow and the most common purple .
Today we can enjoy an eggplant of different colors and shapes but always with a fine texture, with few soft seeds and a pleasant flavor.
TOMATOES, AN EXTRAORDINARY GENE
Not at all the tomatoes were originally the way we enjoy them now. They were small and darker . Given their resemblance to some poisonous berries, Europeans feared them for a long time.
The current tomato of the Solanum Iycopersicum species is native to South America , from Ecuador , Peru to northern Chile and the Galapagos Islands , where the wild ancestor of the current tomato is found.
In their origin they were smaller , yellowish green and when they matured they became darker until they became black .
This original species constitutes a genetic resource of enormous importance for the optimized cultivation of this fruit. The genes it possesses can resist various biotic and abiotic factors. In other words, they have greater resistance against pests and diseases and also resist water stress and saline , all very convenient advantages that undoubtedly increase the quality of the fruit.