Sep 27, 2018
by Ron Skaar
Thousand of years ago, high in the Peruvian mountains, ancient Incas were cultivating quinoa and potatoes. They developed potato varieties suitable to every local, from high altitude to the more tropical climates.
A common bean cultivated around 7,000 years ago in South and Central America is the predecessor of most of the dried beans we eat today. Pumpkin and squash also originated in Central America thousands of years ago while corn has been cultivated there and in southern Mexico since at least 3,400 BCE.
Tomatoes are a native South American plant with seven different species that grew from Chile to Ecuador. Birds are believed to have carried their seeds northward, spreading the fruit throughout Mexico around 800 BCE.
The Olmec cultivation of maize, beans and squash in the Veracruz area, sparked the establishment of sedentary cultures in aboriginal Mexico. Their ancestors, the Mayans, built a highly cultured civilization around growing these and additional crops, including tomato, avocado and cacao.
The Aztecs, the last of the great pre-Colombian native civilizations adored the avocado and made “bitter water” from ground coca beans and spices. They incorporated the areas older and newer cultures, along with their agricultural methods, in the mid-15th century.
When Columbus landed on the Bahamian Islands in 1492, he was greeted by the native Arawaks. Their indigenous diet thrived on maize, beans, squash and seafood for protein. Other regular crops included cocoa, potato, tomato, peppers, pumpkin, peanuts, guava, papay and pineapple.
Columbus brought these foods back to Europe and Africa, where they spread like fire. The colonists love of pineapple meant shiploads of the live fruit rotted on route back until they brought back the slips, suckers and crowns from the plant instead.
Christopher brought back wheat, chickpeas, radishes, melons and livestock on his return voyages. These drastically changed the culture and ecology of the America’s. Before 1492 those friendly Arawaks numbered 250,000 people. By the early 1500’s, only 15,000 remained after being devastated by European diseases.
It took 300 years for the potato to be deemed edible and 400 years before the peanut made its way back to North America by way of the Africans. Tomatoes, thought to be poisonous, took years to be considered edible. A New Jersey man, in 1820, stood on the crowded courthouse steps and downed a tomato, to prove it was safe to eat!
Indigenous Peoples Day has switched places with Columbus Day in four states and many municipalities. It began has a counter-celebration held on the same day but has evolved into a celebration of the Native Americans shared history and culture.\
Flour or whole-wheat flour tortillas
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow or orange bell pepper
1 large avocado, halved, seed removed, each half cut into six slices
Make fresh tomato salsa by mixing 1 cup diced tomatoes, 1/3 cup diced onion, 1/2 minced jalapeño pepper, a pinch of cumin and 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice.
Wrap flour tortillas in foil and place in a preheated 250 degree oven. Heat large skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté onions and peppers until tender. Remove one tortilla and fill with sautéed peppers and onions, avocado slices, cilantro and salsa. Embellish with black or refried beans and sour cream. Makes 6 tacos.
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