Native American foods eaten by the rest of the world.

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

The Indigenous Agriculture of the Americas

Part Two of the Series

An astonishing percentage (something like 70%) of the vegetables and fruits cultivated on the Earth today, originated in the Americas.  This fact was generally ignored until pointed out in Charles C. Mann’s bestselling book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, which was published in 2005.  It is an immeasurable gift to mankind for which all indigenous American descendants can take pride.

Gardeners throughout the United States are now experimenting with the original varieties of plants developed Native Americans, because they seem to have more resistance to extreme weather conditions, particularly droughts.  These experiments are particularly practical in the Southeastern United States.  Virtually all indigenous crops of the Americas can be grown successfully in SOME part of the landscape, south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Did you know that cranberries are grown commercially on the Delmarva Peninsula, east of the Chesapeake Bay?  

The only major exception is Northern Wild Rice.  However, Southern Wild Rice, with equal nutrition, thrives in the wetlands of the Southern Coastal Plain.  

Indigenous vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and flavorings of the Americas

What would civilization be like today without these American agricultural gifts to world?  Dinner time would certainly be as boring as the diet of Medieval Europeans, but such crops as maize (Indian corn) have made possible substantially higher populations in both the New and Old World.

Tropical and Sub-tropical Fruits: Avocado, pineapple, papaya, guava, mango, passion fruit, prickly pear, (Prickly pear & passion fruit also thrive in warm temperate climates.) cherimoya, guanabana,  guarana berries, anon (Sugar Apple), araza (Amazon pear), badea, starfruit,  feijoa, lulo, sapote, mountain papaya, pitata,

Vegetables: black bean, navy bean, pinto bean, white bean, red bean, butter bean, green beans, cranberry bean, lima bean, wax bean, pole bean, tomato, white potato, bell pepper, summer squash, winter squash, pumpkin

Grains and Seeds: chia, sunflower, American amaranth, maize (Indian corn), popcorn, little barley, northern wild rice, southern wild rice, lambs ears

Tubers:  Andean potato, sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke, peanut, cassava, jicama, arrowroot, yucca

Vine Fruits:  Concord grape, muscadine, Catawba grape, fox grape, Dixie strawberry, blackberry, dewberry, black raspberry, blueberry, huckleberry, beach plum, cocoplum, buffalo berry, maypop (North American passion fruit)

Leaf Vegetables: chives, wild garlic, ramps, American watercress, agave

Tree and Bush Fruits: American persimmon, mayhaw, crabapple, Mexican purple plum, red plum, yellow plum, pigeon plum, hog plum, cranberry, elderberry, black cherry, red mulberry, wintergreen berry, pawpaw, gooseberry, strangler fig

Nuts:  pecan, American chestnut, black walnut, butternut, white walnut, hickory nut, hazel nut, chinquapin nut, live oak acorn, American beechnut, cashew nut, Brazil nut, Maya breadnut, coconut, gingko nut, pinyon nut,  

Beverages: cacao, ginseng, yaupon holly, yerba mate, sassafras tea    

Herbs and Flavorings: vanilla, sage, salvia, American peppermint, sweet grass, allspice, annatto, boldo, canella, chilli pepper, cayenne pepper, chipotle pepper, cilantro, epazote, huacatay, paprika, pink peppercorn, nettle, paracress 

Processed foods from MesoAmerica: tortilla, tamale, enchilada, salsa

Processed foods from the Creek Indians of the Southeastern United States: grits, hushpuppies, corn fritters, fry bread, brunswick stew, batter-dipped-deep oil fried poultry and fish, smoked poultry and fish


  1. During the portion of my fellowship, when I was able to dine with Maya and Soque families, I became aware that the central feature of their cuisine are meat and vegetable stews. There is not a whole lot of information out there about traditional Creek meals, but I strongly suspect that they were very similar. The only difference was that fresh fruit was not available year round, so they ate dried fruit. Drying fruit was a very important part of my grandparents annual food production cycle. I will do a separate articles on stews and dried fruit later on in the summer.

    Liked by 1 person

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