Food cultures

Farming and food throughout history and across cultures

"The developments of rye, barley, millet, rice, maize and wheat are therefore among the most spectacular achievements of humankind: turning grasses – which nature seemed to have designed as the food of other, better-equipped species – into the staple fodder of non-ruminants like ourselves. Other important plants in the repertoire include buckwheat, oats and sorghum; but the big six are special because whole civilizations have relied for sustenance on each of them."

Felipe Fernández-ArmestoFood: A history

The cultivation, harvesting and processing of plants is at the core of human history. Some of the earliest surviving objects crafted by humans relate to pre-historic food and farming – containers or maize and rice gods. The search for the spice islands enticed European adventurers into the unknown, gave rise to the Atlantic slave trade and colonisation and brought tomatoes to Italy, potatoes to Ireland and chili to India. Your school garden can be a starting point for exploring this fascinating relationship between plants and people.

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Did you know?

My wild ancestors originated in Afghanistan over 3000 years ago

Read more Carrot

I originated in the South American Andes mountains

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I originated in Southern Europe and Western Asia around 2000 BC ago

Read more Leek

I am part of the rose family and native to Central Asia.

Read more Apple

I am the world’s most important salad plant.

Read more Lettuce

I come from the Andes Mountains and was first cultivated about 7,000 years ago.

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I originated in South and Central Asia dating back to 3500 BC.

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Scientists are unsure whether I originated in Central Asia, Ethiopia or the Mediterranean.

Read more Pea

I originated in Central and South America

Read more Pumpkin

My wild ancestors are fond throughout Asia and Europe.

Read more Radish

I am a delicious fruit, native to Eastern Asia, with wide culinary and medicinal uses.

Read more Rasberry

I originated in Persia (modern day Iran) and spread to China around 600AD.

Read more Spinach

My small wild ancestors are found in temperate areas all over the Old World.

Read more Strawberry

I am native to the Central Americas and was first domesticated in Mexico, by at least 2600 BC.

Read more Sunflower

I am native to the Americas and was cultivated by the Aztecs as early as 700 AD.

Read more Tomato