From the category archives:

History of Food

Apples, a Fruit Rich in History and Taste

Apples are one of the United States’ most popular and widely cultivated fruit.  In 2010, the US was second behind China in apple production and well ahead of Turkey, Italy, India, and Poland in the race to grow the most apples. Apples are native to the Asian and European continent and are believed to have arrived with early European explorers.  Since their induction, there are now more than 69 million apples grown worldwide with over 7,500 different cultivators to meet the different tastes and demands of consumers.  Apples can grow wild from seeds but most are grown by grafting.  Grafted apples tend to be used for cooking, eating, and cider. Apples are a popular ingredient in many dishes, including apple crumb bars. Apple Cinnamon Crumb Bars (recipe courtesy of the Food Network) Ingredients Cooking spray 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter 1 box yellow cake mix for two 9-inch rounds 1 large egg 1 cup apple butter 1/2 cup unsweetened instant or quick-cooking oats 1/4 t ...

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Pumpkins, a Traditional Part of Fall

Nothing says “fall” better than the pumpkin.  As a member of the squash family, pumpkins are native to North America and are routinely used in both food and recreation.  As one of the most popular items in the United States, over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are grown each year.  Illinois lays claim to being the top pumpkin producer in the US followed by Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. Eighty-five percent of processed pumpkin, including canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling, is made by Libby’s at their plant in Morton, Illinois.  Libby’s is part of Nestle. Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (recipe from Original recipe makes 18 muffins ·         1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese ·         1 egg ·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract ·         3 tables ...

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Peaches, a Delicious Slice of History

 History tells us that the first society to cultivate what is now known as “peaches” was the Chinese as early as 2000 B.C.  The Chinese were followed by the Greeks and Persians.  By the mid-1700s, peaches were so common in the United States that botanists considered them “native” to North America.  It wasn’t until more recent that individuals learned of peaches’ journey through China, Greece, what was then called Persia, Italy, throughout Europe, and finally North America. Modern peaches now fall into two distinct categories, clingstone peaches and freestone peaches.  Clingstone peaches are traditionally used for processed food or are dried, prepared as baby food, or concentrated for fruit juices.  With clingstone peaches, the flesh “clings” to the “pit”. Freestone peaches are larger, juicer, and firmer than clingstone peaches.  In freestone peaches the flesh easily separates from the pit.  Freestone peaches ...

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A Snack as Old as America, Herself

Second only to strawberries, blueberries remain one of the most popular berries consumed in the US.  In addition to popularity, blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which aid the body in combating free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA. In addition to popularity, blueberries are one of few fruits that are native to North America and were first enjoyed by Native Americans. Blueberry Peach Muffins (recipe from Ingredients: 3 cups of all-purpose flour ½ cup of white sugar ½ cup of brown sugar 1 tablespoon of baking powder Pinch of salt 3 eggs 1 cup of milk ½ cup of melted butter 1 cup of blueberries 1 cup of peeled and diced fresh peaches 2 teaspoons of white sugar 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg 2 tablespoons of melted butter Directions: 1.      Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease muffin tins, or line with paper liners. 2.      In a large bowl, stir together the four, &frac ...

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Summer Time in the Midwest

Also called sugar corn and pole corn is a variety of maize with a high sugar content.  Dent corn, which is typically fed to animals or used for ethanol or corn starch and popcorn are other varieties of maize.  Several more varieties of maize exist; however, sweet corn, number two dent corn, and popcorn are the most common. Unlike its relative dent corn, sweet corn is harvested with the kernels are still immature and are in the milk stage then consumed as a vegetable.  Sweet corn is consumed almost worldwide.  In Brazil it’s soaked in milk before being made into curau, a pudding-like dessert.  In Europe and Asia, corn is used as a pizza topping or in salads. Like its relative dent corn, sweet corn was grown by several Native American tribes.  After the Iroquois gave sweet corn to European settlers in 1779 it quickly spread and became a popular food in the southern and central regions of the United States. Alma’s Sweet Corn (recipe from Ingredients: ...

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Strawberry Goodness

Strawberries, famous for their characteristic aroma, bright color, juicy texture, and sweetness were first bred in Brittany, France in the early 1750s.  Common uses of strawberries include preserves, juices, pies, ice cream, milkshakes, and chocolates.  Even strawberry aroma has been added to air fresheners, cleaning products, and perfumes.  Strawberry-Lemon Cake (recipe from Ingredients 2 cups of flour 1½ cups of sugar ½ teaspoon salt 3 large eggs ¾ cup whole milk ½ cup vegetable oil ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice Strawberry-lemon filling 1½ cups whipping cream 6 tablespoons sugar Preparation Line a lightly greased 15x10-inch jellyroll pan with lightly-greased parchment paper. Combine the flour and the next three ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and the next five ingredients in a medium bowl until blended; whisk in dry ingredients until ju ...

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Asparagus: A Spring Time Favorite

Once considered a member of the lily family, like the Alliums, asparagus is now classified as a vegetable, all on its own.  Asparagus is a late spring flowering perennial that is native to most of Europe, northern Africa, and Western Asia.  Asparagus dates back to 3000 BC where it’s pictured as on offering on an Egyptian frieze.  In ancient times, Greeks and Romans consumed it fresh or dried it for use in winter. Modern asparagus is consumed in many different ways, including stir-fried in Asian-style cooking or fried with chicken, shrimp or beef in Cantonese-style restaurants.  Asparagus can also be grilled or added to stews and soups.  Oven Roasted Asparagus (recipe from Ingredients: 1 bunch thin asparagus spears, trimmed 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 ½ tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional) 1 clove garlic, minced (optional) 1 teaspoon sea salt ½ teaspoon ground black pepper 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional) Directions Pr ...

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Grapes, a Food Growing Deep in America’s History

Grapes are a fruiting berry that grows on the woody vines of genus Vitis.  The growing and harvesting of grapes first began in the Near East between six and eight thousand years ago.  North American grapes originally grew wild across the continent and were original cultivated by Native Americans; however, early European colonists considered North American grapes to be unsuitable for wine.  Colonists began importing cultivars for wine making, marking the beginning of North America’s trek into the wine trade. Modern grapes are now eaten raw or used for making wine, jam, juice, jelly, grape seed extract, raisins, vinegar, or grape seed oil. Carmel Grapes (recipe from 2 cups of sour cream ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract 5 cups of green seedless grapes 1 cup of butter 1 cup of brown sugar Directions 1.      In a large bowl, mix together the sour cream, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla.  ...

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Carrots not just for Rabbits Anymore

Home originally to the more temperate regions of the world, lays wild carrots, the ancestors of the domestic and frequently dined on carrot.  Wild carrots were originally domesticated for herb and medicinal purposes. Through domestication, the wild carrot turned from a relatively small, thin, white, heavily divided, and strong flavored taproot into the large, orange, smooth, good flavored root that we know today.  Modern breeders have further refined the carrot and have made significant improvements in disease and pest resistance. Curried Carrot Soup from Ingredients: 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 onion, chopped 1 tablespoon curry powder 2 pounds carrots, chopped 4 cups vegetable broth 2 cups water, or as needed 1.    Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Sauté onion until tender and translucent.  Stir in the curry powder.  Add the chopped carrots, and stir until the carrots are coated.  Pour in the vegetable broth, and s ...

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Potatoes, a Favorite of Many

Very few foods can claim responsibility for a quarter of the growth in the Old World population and urbanization between 1700 and 1900 BCE, but the potato can.  After domestication in 8000 BCE in the region of modern-day southern Peru and far northwest Boliva, potatoes quickly spread around the world.  Europeans met the potato after the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire.  The potato soon became a staple crop in Europe after somewhat resistant farmers began cultivating the plant.  Early cultivations included a select number of potato varieties. Since early urbanization, potatoes quickly insinuated themselves into the American diet.  Through favorites like mashed potatoes, hash browns, French fries, and baked potatoes, potatoes have quickly become an American staple. Cowboy Mashed Potatoes (recipe available at Ingredients: 1 pounds red potatoes 1 pound Yukon Gold (yellow) potatoes 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced 12 ounces baby carrots 4 cloves garlic 1 (10 ounce) ...

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