A New World Edible Landscape

A New World Edible  Landscape
In designing an edible landscape, we can take many different approaches. One way is to mix and match the plants as we please. Another would be to create historically accurate landscapes from different historical eras, using appropriate plants. Let’s apply the latter approach to the New World and look at some suitable plants.

If there were such a thing as time travel, a trip back to a Middle Ages banquet to examine the menu would be revealing. There would be no salsa for Columbus hadn’t arrived in the New World. Neither would you be able to feast on tomatoes, potato, squash, sunflowers, or corn. And you wouldn’t even have chocolate for dessert. There would be fava or broad beans, but no green or limas.

Agriculture in the New World was very advanced by the time Europeans arrived. Natives had observatories from which they could forecast accurately the best time for planting crops. Squash and pumpkins were ones that were domesticated later. Apparently these were first grown for their nutrient-rich seeds, which contained much-needed proteins and oils. The Indians had many kinds of beans, including runner beans. They are actually perennials, and not true annuals. Husk tomatoes were raised by Indians though they weren’t as popular as true tomatoes. These husk tomatoes are usually served in salsas and sauces to bring out the full flavor. Another New World native, grain amaranth, almost disappeared from use mainly because its use was banned by Spanish conquistadors. They associated the plant with paganism since it was often made into special dishes for the pagan gods.

Tomatoes weren’t apparently grown as a crop. Instead it was a weed in corn fields, and may have come north as corn cultivation spread. Later it was recognized as a vegetable in its own right and was cultivated.

For many people, the major crop of the New World is the chile pepper. Not everyone likes them equally hot, but chiles are no slouch when it comes to nutrition. An average red-ripe chile contains more Vitamin A than most carrots.

The heat of chiles is sometimes expressed in Scoville units. The higher the number, the hotter the chile. A typical Habenero pepper has 259,176 to 442,847. Ranking at the lowest levels would be ones like the extremely mild Ancho pepper. It is all a matter of taste.

Several seed companies specialize in peppers. These include The Pepper Gal.
In pre-Columbian times, chiles were added to hot cocoa. I have made a dish, chicken mole, which includes chocolate and chiles.

The chile and other New World crops have become essential foods and flavorings in many parts of the world. These plants are very suitable choices for the edible landscape.

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This content was written by Connie Krochmal. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Krochmal for details.