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Did You Know? Fun Facts About Food

14 April 2022

Food is such an integral part of our day that sometimes we have a tendency to overlook how truly fascinating it is. But, lest we forget, everything we put on our plate has an origin story of how it got to us. Where a crop was first cultivated, how it came to look and taste the way it does today - oftentimes we can learn a lot about our own history through the story of the food on our plates.

You might know that a tomato is technically a fruit, not a vegetable, but did you know these other surprising facts about the food we eat on a daily basis?

1. The origin of chocolate

The fact that chocolate originated in Mesoamerica, around present-day Mexico, is well known - as is the great love that European colonizers discovered the native populations held for the cacao plant. But did you know that cacao was so precious to the Aztecs that it even served as currency? By the 15th century, cacao beans were an acceptable currency to pay taxes with in the Aztec empire. This reverence was prevalent across what is now Latin America, in fact, the name chocolate itself comes from a Mayan word.

The Mayans believed chocolate to be the drink of the gods, and brewed a speciial mixture of water, ground and roasted cacao seeds, chillies, and cornmeal. This drink was called “xocolatl”, meaning “bitter water”, and is the origin of the name we give the still-bloved food/drink today.

Chocolate in solid form owes much of its history to the 1828 invention of the chocolate press, which allowed chocolatiers to easily squeeze cocoa butter from roasted beans, leaving behind a fine cocoa powder. Once this powder was added to liquids and put into a mold - the modern chocolate bar was born.

2. Fruits in disguise

Despite what aisle you might find them in in the supermarket, many of the foods we eat on a daily basis belong to a surprising branch of the food pyramid. Most of us would take one look at an avocado and assume it’s a vegetable, however, in reality, the avocado is actually a fruit. In fact, botanists classify the creamy green toast topping as a large berry with a single seed. A berry it may be, but you won’t catch me making avocado jam any time soon.

Pistachios are another culprit when it comes to fruits in disguise. Technically, pistachios are a fleshy type of tree fruit known as a “drupe.” The seeds of these drupes are covered with a shell. When we harvest pistachio “nuts”, we actually just discard the fleshy fruit for the seed within.

3. That’s bananas

Bananas are a truly fascinating fruit and, I hate to break it to you, but they are also technically berries. Aside from this confusing fact, they’re known to improve mood and can even be effective at lowering blood pressure. Bananas have all kinds of useful purposes aside from being eaten, such as functioning as an effective polish for wood, silverware, and leather, and even healing warts. The inside of a banana peel is also an effective cure for the itching caused by a mosquito - a handy doubly purpose once you’ve finished your poolside snack.

4. Evolution of eggs

The humble chicken has come a long way since domestication. Before their farming at the hands of humans, the average chicken could expect to lay about a dozen eggs each year. Having first been domesticated around 2000BC in the Indus Valley, today’s chickens can now produce several hundred eggs a year. The most prolific egg-laying chicken ever recorded, according to the Guinness World Records, lived in Missouri in 1979 and laid a whopping  371 eggs in a single year!

5. Honey is good forever

You might think that all food has to spoil eventually, but honey is the exception here! If stored correctly, honey can in fact stay good indefinitely. It may darken or crystallise, but it will still be edible. For best preservation, honey should be stored in a clean glass jar, and sealed airtight. It’s due to honey’s low moisture content that it does not support the growth of bacteria. Honey’s ability to stay good is so impressive, that jars of the golden syrup found in Egyptian pyramids were still good to eat.

6. Poisonous tomatoes?

Back in the 1700s, tomatoes were nicknamed “poisonous apples” throughout Europe, due to the belief that they in fact carried a toxic component. This belief is said to have sprung up due to the fact that the aristocracy would often mysteriously fall ill and die after consuming tomatoes. In reality, the illness was of their own making, not the tomato’s. The acidity of the tomatoes would cause lead to leech from their tableware, which in turn would give the unwitting diners a fatal dose of lead poisoning. So don’t worry, as long as there’s no lead in your tableware, you can continue to eat your tomatoes in peace.