Interesting Food Facts

Cacao PodsThe first recorded use of the cacao plant as a food began with the Maya civilization in Central America. They (and the Aztecs that followed) made a beverage from the beans.

Poppy seeds historically enjoyed popularity in central and eastern Europe. Seeds were traditionally eaten with pasta or boiled with milk and used as filling or topping on various kinds of sweet pastry.

Artificial poppy flowers were first worn in the U.S. to commemorate the veterans of WWI.

In 1828, father and son Casparus and Coenraad van Houten patented a method for removing most of the cocoa butter from chocolate in order to create a powdered cocoa suitable for baking and confectionary use.

More than 60% of the world’s cacao is grown in Western Africa.

Though often believed to be a root, ginger is actually the rhizome underground stems) of the perennial plant Zingiber officinale.

According to Assyrian legend, when the gods met to create the world, they drank wine made from sesame seeds. In Hindu legends, sesame seeds are a symbol of immortality.

Sesame seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun (“King Tut”).

sesame seedsSesame seeds contain powerful antioxidants called lignans – along with phytosterols, which block cholesterol production.

In Southeast Asia, monkeys (macaques) are used to harvest coconuts. Schools for training the monkeys can still be found in Thailand and Malaysia.

The Sanskrit name for the coconut palm, kalpa vruksham, translates as “the tree which provides all the necessities of life.”

In addition to traditional yellow varieties, corn meal – an important staple food throughout the world – may be white or even blue, when made from rare blue corn.

In Italy, polenta – a popular side dish made from corn meal – is believed to date back as far as the Roman Empire when it incorporated chestnut flour and the farro grain.

Cocoa terminology can be a bit confusing. If a cocoa is Dutch processed, or “Dutched” it has been treated with alkali in order to standardize its color and flavor profile to insure consistency over time. Most powders are Dutched as this has become the industry standard. “Natural” is used to describe cocoa powder that has not been Dutch processed. Some prefer Natural powder to Dutch processed because they find it somewhat more complex in flavor profile. Switching between the two types in a baking application will most likely require an adjustment to any leavening agent used, as the alkali used in Dutch processing is similar in composition to sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).