A while ago I mentioned in another thread that
[quote]But sun flower is native to the Americas… Although peanuts, pineapples, chili pepper and other fruits and plants native to the Americas also gained cultural significance in Chinese culture…
So maybe you are right, I’m just not aware of what sunflower traditionally signifies in Chinese culture.[/quote]
I have been noticing a lot of plants that I take for granted seem to be brought to the world by Europeans after they colonized South America.
I have a hard time imagining India or Sichuan food without chili pepper. Thaifood without peanuts and pineapples. I always wondered why none of the food products Taiwan is famous for actually originated from Taiwan. In fact, I can’t think of a single agriculture product other than taro and perhaps aboriginal millet (which I heard actually isn’t millet) that is native to the island. Were there no food worth eating in Taiwan before it was colonized or something?
Let’s do a head count:
Pineapple is native to South America and brought to the world by probably the Spanish. Taiwan’s first record of planting pineapples is about 300 years ago. The Japanese later imported pineapple from Hawaii and cross breeding brought us the many different types of Taiwanese pineapple on the market to day.
Taiwan honestly has the best pineapples. I am not really a fan of pineapples, but I am always amazed by how sweet and not stingy Taiwan’s pineapples can be.
Guava is native to Mexico and parts of South America. So I’m gonna guess Spanish probably brought it to the rest of the world. Taiwan also seems to begin planting guava 300 years ago, but back then it was the “normal” kind, thin pink skin with lots of juicy seeds. It was the Japanese who first introduced the white skin and yellow skin variety.
Whether or not Taiwan’s “guava” tastes good depends on what you are looking for in a guava. Taiwan’s guava has a uncharacteristic thick and white outer skin with a smaller core with sweet tasting seeds. There are the so called “native guava” 土芭樂 that tastes more like guava in the rest of the world, thin outer skin with fragrant juicy seeds.
This fruit can be found from Madagascar to India to Australia with highest diversity of Jambu is found in Malaysia and Northeastern Australia. So its spread across India ocean can probably be attributed to the Austronesian, however, Taiwan, the home of Austronesian language, did not see Jambu until the Dutch imported them from Java 300 years ago. At first Taiwan’s jambu was tiny and pink-greenish. Japanese and postwar research turned Taiwanese jambu into giant dark red grenades.
Frankly I’ve not tasted Jambu outside of Taiwan. But I can safely say it’s probably the best in the world as well…
Mango originated in India and Myanmar. It was spread around the world by Indians and then everyone, Brahmans, Muslims, Mongul, Austronesian, just freaking everyone. It was again the Dutch who brought Mangos to Taiwan. The Japanese again introduced even more breeds of mango and crossbreeding gave us what we see today in Taiwan.
Honestly the best mango I’ve ever tasted was in Indonesia… Taiwan’s isn’t far behind in terms of sweetness and juiciness. It was just that one particular type of Indonesian mango was more soothingly fragrant and subtle in taste.
Called Shijia in Taiwan, this fruit is also native to South America. The funny thing about Shijia is that Taiwan is the number 1 country when it comes to sugar-apple cultivation. It was brought to Taiwan again by the Dutch.
I have not tasted it anywhere else in the world… Today’s Shijia is frankly too sweet for my taste. I recall Shijia used to be slightly tart and it was very enjoyable…
It’s a bit weird that Taiwanese often refer to themselves as Yams, but yam is actually not native to Taiwan. Or may that’s just poetic justice or something.
Yam is native to South America. Legend has it Columbus gave the Queen Isabella of Spain yams when he returned to Spain… so basically he gave her gas. The Spanish then brought it to the Philippines. The Chinese smuggled yams from the Philippines to China during Ming dynasty. Yam could have been introduced either by the Spanish themselves, the Dutch or the sea faring Aboriginals at the times.
By the way, back in the US people would add sugar to yam… why? It’s already tooth decayingly sweet…
You pretty much can find cabbage in just about every restaurant/street vendors here in Taiwan. Cabbage is native to the Mediterranean. The Dutch brought them to Taiwan.
Sugarcane is native to India and Southeast Asia (New Guinea). It was mainly the Muslims who introduced it westward, and Europeans who brought it to the rest of the world. China gained sugar making abilities slightly before Tang dynasty. So it’s roughly about the same time as the Muslims. The Dutch was the one who first saw Taiwan’s sugar making potential and began large scale sugarcane farming. Koxinga and Qing saw little benefit of sugar farming and it was the Japanese who banned all private sugar factories and make sugar their primary agricultural industry in Taiwan. Japanese’s conflicting policies later caused both sugar and rice prices to raise through the roof in Taiwan, and made Taiwanese farmers fairly well off for a brief time in the 1930s. That is until the Japanese ended all privatized sugar and rice farming shortly before WW2.
There are so many other non-native agricultural products here in Taiwan… Wish I can come up with one native plant that people eat everyday…