The flora of North America is diverse, but not every plant that grows on the continent is native. Most of the popular fruits and flowering plants were imported from Asia, Europe, South and Central America, and Africa. Walnuts, for example, are native to Europe while persimmons are native to Asia and Africa. The following are fruits native to North America.
The avocado is native to south-central Mexico. It was first discovered in the wilderness between 7,000 and 5,000 BC. The fruit was introduced to the United States in 1871, and by the 1900s, it had become a popular commercial fruit in California. In the 1950s, several varieties of the avocado were grafted to create hybrid varieties. The “Fuerte” variety became popular in the 1950s, but the “hass” breed replaced it in the 1970s. Today, avocados grow in southwestern United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Both the “highbush” and “lowbush” varies of blueberries are native to the North American continent. Both varieties were introduced to Europe in the 1930s, but the highbush blueberry proved more adaptive and productive. Thanks to its sweet taste and health benefits, the blueberry has found its way across the globe. The fruit is grown in large scale in the states of California, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington, Michigan, New Jersey, and the Canadian province of Quebec.
8. Chia seed
The chia seed is native to Central America, Mexico, and the southwestern United States. The Aztecs had already begun cultivating the seed as a staple food before the arrival of the Christopher Columbus. The chia seed is a rich source of omega-3, protein, fiber, and minerals in addition to being gluten-free. They are no longer cultivated in large scale in the United States, but commercial cultivation continues in South America and Central America.
Cranberries grew in the wilderness of Appalachia long before Europeans reached North America. On arrival, they named the fruit “cranberry” since it resembled the head of a crane. The United States and Canada are the largest producers of cranberries in the world with a joint production of 557,054 tons or 90% of the global output. Fresh cranberries are bitter, sour, and hard and are therefore inaudible while raw. Approximately 95% of the harvested berries are processed to sauce and juice.
The wild American elderberry is native to the eastern and central US, as well as southeastern Canada. It is new to the commercial market, unlike the European elderberry that was cultivated much earlier. The fruits and roots of the berry were used by Native Americans to produce herbs while its stem was used to make flutes. Today, the berry is used as a flavor and a fragrance to make waffles, pancakes, and muffins.
Several varieties of grapes are native to North America including muscadine grapes that are native to the southeast US, and fox grapes which are native to the eastern US. Early visitors to the US wrote of berries growing abundantly all over the countryside. Grapes are used as preserves, to manufacture juice and wine, or can be eaten raw. The popular Concord variety grown in Massachusetts was developed as a hybrid from the wild varieties in the mid-1800s.
The pawpaw is among the few native fruits that are not widely cultivated in North America. The fruit continues to grow in the wild, especially in temperate climates. President Thomas Jefferson loved the fruits and even planted them at Monticello. Explorers Lewis and Clark document that they survived on wild papaws during their expeditions. Commercial plantations of pawpaw are found in Kentucky, Ohio, Pacific Northwest Massachusetts, and California.
Pumpkins originated from Mexico between 7,000 to 5,500 BC. It served as a staple food for the native Indians long before the arrival of the Europeans. Europeans arrived and carried the seeds to other parts of the continent. They are not commercially grown in Canada, but large plantations are found in the United States and Mexico.
The cultivation of squash began 8,000 years in southern Canada and extended southwards to Chile and Argentina. It became a staple food for people residing south of the Mississippi River, Mexico and Central America. Squash are occasionally grown alongside pumpkins since they grow in similar conditions. There are about 27 varieties of squash around the Americas, but only four have been domesticated in North America.
The tomato is native to the Americas. It was a popular fruit among the Native Americans before the arrival of European colonists. The Spanish encountered the fruit during their colonization of Mexico and introduced it to Europe and other European colonies. Tomatoes are consumed in various ways; they can be eaten raw, as a sauce, paste, or as a culinary ingredient.