The Old World's reception of New World crops was far from regular or predictable. Some struck the European fancy and were soon successfully transplanted.... These were the exceptions, however, because until modern times, societies usually absorbed new foods slowly, clinging instead to those that were familiar, those central to their cultures."
--Nelson Foster and Linda Cordell, in Chilies to Chocolate: Food the Americas Gave the World

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What in the New World???

(Integrating old and new world foods...or, I wouldn't put that in my mouth for all the money in the world!)

Imagine: entire foods and cultures and cuisines developing independently--just a couple thousand miles apart--for thousands and thousands of years, getting sophisticated, hardened, set in their ways. Then, in 1492, Christopher Columbus takes the plunge...and turns up in the New World. He was looking for food, and boy did he find it. Just not the food he was looking for. Now, a mere 500 years later, just try to imagine:
  • Italy without tomatoes.
  • Germany and Russia without potatoes.
  • India and Indonesia without chili peppers.
  • Viennese and French pastries without vanilla.
  • Switzerland without chocolate.
  • England without rasberries.
  • Africa without peanuts.
Until after 1492--and sometimes LONG after--these foods simply didn't exist in Europe, Asia, or Africa. Simply did not exist. That's hard to grasp until you sit down with literature from the middle ages and suddenly become aware of what's NOT in it.

So here they are: the best known of our New World treasures. Please note, I'm classifying them "popularly" not botanically. Also, no tobacco.

Popular Foods from the New World
Fruits Nuts Veggies Herbs/spices/misc.
blackberries black walnuts avocado allspice
blueberries (though related bilberries occurred in the Old World) Brazil nuts white, red, and black beans chocolate
cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon--other varieties occurred in the Old World) cashews lima beans epazote
custard apple hickory nuts cassava (manioc) vanilla
grape varietals peanuts corn amaranth
guava pecans hearts of palm quinoa
papaya pine nuts jerusalem artichoke Mexican oregano
passion fruit sunflower seeds chili peppers annatto
pineapple walnuts potatoes wintergreen
rasberries, black rasberries black walnuts sweet potatoes sugar maple
passion fruit pumpkin seeds tomatoes wild rice
star apples buckeyes squash--all kinds agave