The Brazil-Bolivia border

by on May 24, 2011 at 10:15 am in Food and Drink, History, Science | Permalink

Who thinks of that region as having been important for the technological progression of mankind?  Yet it was, as Charles Mann explains:

Agricultural geneticists have long argued that the area around the railroad route — the Brazil-Bolivia border — was the development ground for peanuts, Brazilian broad beans…, and two species of chili pepper…  But in recent years evidence has accumulated that the area was also the domestication site for tobacco, chocolate, peach palm (Bactris gasipaes, a major Amazonian tree crop), and most important, the worldwide staple manioc (Manihot esculenta, also known as cassava or yuca).

That is from Mann’s forthcoming book 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, reviewed enthusiastically here.

1 RR May 24, 2011 at 11:37 am

Good to know that tobacco also helped the technological progression of mankind.

2 TallDave May 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Given the difference between corn and teosinthe, I’m not too surprised about any food developed in the early Americas.

3 mulp May 24, 2011 at 1:34 pm

The Americas are the home of the most important foods craved worldwide.

And corn is the most amazing crop from a bioengineering standpoint. It can exist only from human action, and can be eaten with benefit to humans only by chemical processing, all invented in the Americas, and patentable if invented today.

4 IVV May 24, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Well, you don’t have to nixtamalize corn for it to have some nutrition, so it’s not strictly necessary, but yeah, it’s like wearing jewelry made of ore.

But yes, honestly, I would love to start a company that specializes in providing nixtamalization worldwide. Just take the stuff you already have, and I can make it a whole bunch more nutritious! Away with kwashiorkor and pellagra!

5 Newt May 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Isn’t the Brazil-Bolivia border prone to massive seasonal flooding and therefore both unstable and rich with sweet silty soil? That’s a good place to grow things. Remember that the pre-Hispanic Americans didn’t have mosquitos (a gift from Eurasia) and therefore lacked Dengue and Malaria. For centuries after the conquest that part of the world could easily kill you with diseases; before Spanish illegal immigration it was a paradise.

Also a lot of that stuff really started in Oaxaca or Veracruz. The original varieties of chocolate and chiles may have been further hybridized in South America but came from Mesoamerica.

6 Hurda May 25, 2011 at 8:09 am

America is the home for non-healty food worldwide.

7 doctorpat May 25, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Wait! So chocolate and peanut butter isn’t a new combination? They went together for thousands of years?

We’ve been LIED TO!

8 Ray Ban Eyeglasses June 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm

This shows which they last very much lengthier and thus saving you income which could otherwise are actually utilized to purchase new ones.

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