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Thread: Native North American Fruit

  1. #1

    Native North American Fruit

    ok, so oranges, apples, and peaches aren't native to North America. Is there any fruit from a tree that is?
    Are North America's only native fruit berries?

  2. #2
    I can tell you that native to Arizona is the prickly pear.


    I'm not entirely sure if it's considered a fruit; it carries its seeds in the edible parts.

  3. #3
    are cactus considered a form of tree?

  4. #4
    No, but I don't think they're considered berries; the grammar of your opening post was confusing.

  5. #5
    Valued Senior Member dixonmassey's Avatar
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    American black cherry
    American crab apple
    American plum

  6. #6
    Valued Senior Member
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    Juneberry aka Saskatoon Serviceberry - Amelanchier alnifolia

    Technically a shrub, some species can get over 20 feet high.

    Amelanchier, also known as shadbush, serviceberry, sarvisberry, juneberry, Saskatoon, shadblow, shadwood, sugarplum, and wild-plum, is a genus of about 20 species of shrubs and small deciduous trees in the Rosaceae (Rose family).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amelanchier

    I LOVE the taste of juneberries! These guy ripen in mid-late june.

    We had the wild-plum variety along the road to school, and I liked their fruit better than the cultivated plum (ripened in sept). The wild plums ripened in mid august.

  7. #7
    Valued Senior Member
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    Chokecherries, paw paws, and persimmons come to mind - speaking of favorites of mine.

  8. #8
    Oh, that looks very exotic to me. I want to taste it. How does it taste? Sweet, sour?

  9. #9
    Per Bill Bryson's "Made In America" (and a few websites: here, here and here) a good portion of the modern diet throughout the world is from the Americas:
    Chocolate (my favorite), Corn/Maze (the third largest staple crop on the planet after rice and wheat), Pumpkins & Squash, Tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes (the fourth largest staple crop after rice, wheat and maze), Bell Peppers, Avocados, Green Beans, Pineapples and the Standard Strawberry that most people eat (early European strawberries were the small, button variety).

    ~String
    Last edited by superstring01; 03-21-10 at 03:49 PM.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Orleander View Post
    ok, so oranges, apples, and peaches aren't native to North America. Is there any fruit from a tree that is? Are North America's only native fruit berries?
    Since this is a place of science, we should observe the botanist's standard definition of "fruit": the structure of an angiosperm (a flowering plant) that contains its seeds. It is generally comprised of one or more ovaries at the end of their reproduction cycle. There are many different types of fruits. Some of the better-known ones are:
    • Achenes, aggregate fruits like the strawberry which is made up of many small individual fruits
    • Capsules, like the Brazil nut
    • Caryopsis, like wheat and rice--although laymen never think of grains as fruits
    • Nuts, including hazelnuts, chestnuts, beech nuts and acorns, but not everything in the produce aisle that we colloquially refer to as "nuts"
    • Legumes, seeds in pods like beans, carob, alfalfa, soy, peas and peanuts
    • Berries, including gooseberries, cranberries, tomatoes, currants, grapes, eggplants, bananas, all citrus fruits, persimmons, peppers, all gourds and melons like pumpkins and cucumbers, but ironically not all fruits that we casually refer to as "berries"
    • Drupes, including olives, coconuts, mangoes, walnuts, dates, pistachios, blackberries, and all of the Prunus species including apricots, cherries and almonds
    As you can see, the way a plant develops its fruit can be unique, not shared with its closest relatives, and conversely plants that have the same type of fruit are not necessarily related.

    All angiosperms bear fruit, but sometimes it's too tiny, tough, foul-tasting or downright poisonous for us to eat. We often eat other parts of those plants, like carrots and potatoes, or eat the flowers before they turn into fruit, like broccoli--or sometimes we use the leaves for other purposes and ignore the fruits, like cannabis. In some cases we eat the seeds without realizing that somewhere along the way somebody discarded the outer part of the fruit, like sunflowers. We eat the seed of the almond, but since the nuts inside the fruits of all the other Prunus species are bitter and poisonous, we only eat the fleshy parts.

    Many species of fruits are native to North America. However, a lot of these are related to similar species in other parts of the world, so to most people it isn't obvious that they are eating, say, an American chestnut, crabapple, grape, hazelnut, raspberry, persimmon or plum rather than one that is native to another continent. It doesn't help when the distinction is blurred by hybridization with other species as, for an obvious example, grapes.

    Some more-or-less unique fruits that are truly North American:
    • Black cherry
    • Black raspberry
    • Black walnut
    • Blueberry
    • Chokecherry
    • Cranberry
    • Huckleberry
    • Muscadine
    • Pawpaw
    • Pecan
    • Salal berry
    • Salmonberry
    • Saskatoonberry
    • Thimbleberry


    No, I've never heard of some of those fruits, much less tasted them. But perhaps some of you live in parts of North America where they're available. Peanuts, tomatoes and cocoa beans actually originated in South America, and coffee beans are Ethiopian.
    Last edited by Fraggle Rocker; 03-21-10 at 06:26 PM.

  11. #11
    oooo, I forgot about plums and apricots. Thanks Fraggle

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Orleander View Post
    oooo, I forgot about plums and apricots. Thanks Fraggle
    Apricots are Old World trees. They have been cultivated in India and China since antiquity and originated somewhere in that region.

    Plums, on the other hand, turn out to be an entire subgenus of genus Prunus. Rather than a single species of plant, there are around twenty distinct species of plum trees. Some of them are native to the New World. A few of the species that are clearly North American:
    • Prunus Americana, the American plum, also known by other names, is native to almost all of the U.S. and is a common ornamental. The fruit is not eaten but the hardy rootstock is used for grafting edible species.
    • P. maritima, the beach plum, is native to the New England and Mid-Atlantic coast. The fruit is cultivated, especially for jam. Several localities are named Plum Island, Plum Cove, etc., after this wild-growing tree
    • P. mexicana, the Mexican plum, is native to the midwestern and southeastern U.S. and northeastern Mexico. It is a hardy tree with an edible fruit and is now widely cultivated outside its original range.
    • P. nigra, the black Plum or Canada plum, is native to central and eastern Canada and the northeastern and midwestern United States. The fruit is eaten raw and used for preserves and jellies.
    • P. subcordata, the Klamath, Sierra or Oregon plum, grows in southern Oregon and northern California up into the low elevations of the Sierra Nevada. The tree resembles a cherry and the fruit is small and tart, but edible.
    Plums are extremely popular in Europe. Plum brandy or šljivovica (shliva = "plum," cognate with "sloe") is the national drink of Serbia.

    Although many of the natural species of plum trees bear commercially valuable fruit, the various species of this subgenus have also been hybridized into several cultivars that do not occur naturally.

    Hybridization is a common practice in farming to improve flavor and texture and to increase yield and hardiness in unnatural growing conditions. The DNA from obviously hybrid fruit or other plant tissue in ancient middens (trash dumps) is often the "smoking gun" evidence telling us when the technology of farming was developed in a particular region. This marks the transition from the Paleolithic Era (the "Early Stone Age," nomadic hunter-gatherer clans) to the Neolithic Era (the "Late Stone Age," permanent farming settlements), which occurred first in Mesopotamia, around 9500BCE, leaving evidence of hybrid figs. The Agricultural Revolution, as this transformation is called, is the first Paradigm Shift (a wrenching change in humans' view of the world that requires transcending our nature and acting in opposition to our instincts) in every model of our social development. The larger communities comprised of multiple clans required our ancestors to learn to live in harmony and cooperation with people they had not known intimately since birth. In other words, the overrode their pack-social instinct and began our long struggle to become an artificially herd-social species, trading the comfort of 24/7 intimacy for the comforts of improved health, security and prosperity.

    That transition is obviously not complete. The harmony and cooperation break down when individuals or entire populations backslide into Paleolithic behavior. When national leaders talk about "bombing each other back into the Stone Age," they're not kidding.
    Last edited by Fraggle Rocker; 03-23-10 at 08:42 AM.

  13. #13
    were playing prison rules huh? stateofmind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superstring01 View Post
    Per Bill Bryson's "Made In America" (and a few websites: here, here and here) a good portion of the modern diet throughout the world is from the Americas:
    Chocolate (my favorite), Corn/Maze (the third largest staple crop on the planet after rice and wheat), Pumpkins & Squash, Tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes (the fourth largest staple crop after rice, wheat and maze), Bell Peppers, Avocados, Green Beans, Pineapples and the Standard Strawberry that most people eat (early European strawberries were the small, button variety).

    ~String
    String - chocolate, avacados, pineapples (and I'm pretty sure tomatoes and peppers as well) are not native to north america

  14. #14
    Cosmic Truth Seeker
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    Quote Originally Posted by stateofmind View Post
    String - chocolate, avacados, pineapples (and I'm pretty sure tomatoes and peppers as well) are not native to north america
    Yes, but they are native to south america/central america, and are from the americas.

  15. #15
    were playing prison rules huh? stateofmind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter L. Wagner View Post
    Yes, but they are native to south america/central america, and are from the americas.
    Right, but wasn't the point of this thread "Native North American Fruit"?

  16. #16
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    Yes, but String was simply showing fruits from all the americas. expanded on it.

  17. #17
    wow, North America had slim picking til the Europeans came over then, huh?

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by stateofmind View Post
    String - chocolate, avacados, pineapples (and I'm pretty sure tomatoes and peppers as well) are not native to north america
    First off, you need to learn to read. I said, "The Americas", did I not?

    Second off, you should learn to do some digging. At least follow my links before you make a fool of yourself.

    Quote Originally Posted by stateofmind View Post
    Right, but wasn't the point of this thread "Native North American Fruit"?
    Yes, but there isn't some rigid rule that says that one cannot expound further on the point. Furthermore, you are just plain wrong about Bell Peppers and Chocolate. But, far be it from me to expect you to actually READ the links I provided when you couldn't even be bothered to acknowledge the fact that I said, "The Americas."

    Carry on.

    ~String

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Walter L. Wagner View Post
    Yes, but they are native to South America/Central America, and are from the Americas. Furthermore, you are just plain wrong about bell peppers and chocolate.
    Chocolate has been cultivated in both Central America and South America since antiquity--before the (rather recent) invention of civilization in either place. It's unlikely beyond a reasonable doubt that the populations of the two continents had any commerce in their early Neolithic Era, since north-south trade of plants and animals across climate zone boundaries is almost beyond the capability of Neolithic technology. This is what delayed the spread of the Agricultural Revolution throughout sub-Saharan Africa and is one of the causes of their late development of civilization. (The Egyptians and other North African peoples were reverse-migrants from Asia, speaking languages related to Arabic and Hebrew.)

    So it's almost certain that the cacao tree is native to both regions. Nonetheless, as we've seen right here in this thread, there are different definitions of "North America."

    In elementary school geography lessons children learn that there are only two continents in the Western Hemisphere: North America and South America. Yet most adults break the northen land mass into two continents: North America and Central America.

    Worse yet, they can't seem to agree on where the boundary is. Many people place it on the U.S.-Mexican border. This has some merit, since Spanish is the official language in every country south of that line, whereas to the north it's English and French. An additional argument in favor of this definition is that the Olmec/Maya/Aztec civilization spread through Mexico and Guatemala, but it never crossed the Rio Grande.

    However, economists and politicians put the boundary at the border between Mexico and Guatemala: Mexico is a signatory to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

    Scientists don't take sides in this debate. Since North and South America are contiguous land masses, by their definition it's all one continent, just like Africa-Eurasia.

    So anyway, since science is no help here, it's up to you whether you say Mexico is in North America or Central America. If it's in Central America, then chocolate is, indeed, not native to North America.

    I'll let somebody else do the research on bell peppers.
    Quote Originally Posted by Orleander
    Wow, North America had slim picking til the Europeans came over then, huh?
    Indeed. This is due to the continent's north-south orientation, as I discussed above. It's extremely difficult for a plant to thrive outside of its native climate zone. This is true whether a seed is carried by wind or water, or a Neolithic farmer deliberately takes seeds and cuttings to a new village site. So there was no transfer of agricultural technology from south to north.

    There was slightly more in the areas of Olmec/Maya/Aztec civilization and Inca civilization, since they had Bronze Age technology which gave them a little advantage over nature. But there was no civilization north of the Rio Grande, just a few experiments in that direction that either failed or were halted by the European occupation.

    The same is largely true of animals, especially herbivores. Their teeth and digestive systems adapt to extract the nutrients from the plants in their region, so they can't necessarily eat the stuff that grows further north or further south. So there is little movement of food animals along a continent's north-south axis.

    This is one reason why Eurasia got such a head-start on civilization. In addition to wheat and other grains, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, horses... all of our traditional food and draft animals had either already spread across the land mass naturally, or were easily spread by animal husbandry.

    The poor Central Americans had no large herbivores to domesticate. Their largest farm animal was the turkey. Two of the large herbivores in North America have been successfully domesticated: the bison, by Americans rather recently, and the caribou, by the Sami ("Lapps") in Eurasia, where the species is called "reindeer." But the Olmecs and the later stewards of their civilization had no way of knowing those animals even existed. Their civilization was the only one that was built completely without draft animals!

    The Incas and other peoples in South America had the llama, but that's not much of an advantage. For starters they're camels, which means they're cranky cusses. (In the Old World camels were almost as hard to domesticate as elephants.) They're also fairly small, and to top it all off they don't produce enough milk to be of any use to humans.

  20. #20
    Rational Skeptic
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    Many years ago, I read an article (Either in SciAm or NY Times Science section) which claimed that when the Spanish came to the new World, the Incas has 200-300 argicultural products, while the Europeans had less than 100.

    When the Spanish gained control of South america, they forced the planting & harvesting of European crops, resulting in the loss of most of the Incan agricultural products.

    One item mentioned was a melon-like fruit or vegatable whose interior tasted like raspberry pudding.

    The article mentioned that many agricultural products become unrecognizable when not cultivated. For example, only a very knowledgeable person would recognize wild asparagus or wild artichokes. Some of the lost products might still exist & not be recognized.

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