Indigenous plants hold immense value for people all over Earth. Not all plants that grow in specific countries are native to it, but those that are usually make up an important source of fiber and food for a lot of people. Indigenous crops are generally more resilient to diseases and various pests and are more tolerant to higher temperatures or drought. We often gaze upon places such as Asia, Latin America, or even sub-Saharan Africa and marvel at their exquisite indigenous fruits. Still, North America also has several fruits that are native to it you might not have been aware of.
These crops need to be protected because, according to research, we are slowly losing a lot of the genetic diversity of plants. This can have a negative effect on the nutritional quality of the people living in the United States and can be one of the causes of heart disease or diabetes. It is essential not to forget the more traditional ways of preparing food, which are generally much healthier than what we use today. This is why it is imperative to protect the native fruits everywhere, and in this article, we will talk about those that are native to the continent of North America.
Cranberries became an important food source for European colonists soon after they arrived in North America. These red fruits could be found almost everywhere in the northeastern parts of the continent and were most often eaten raw, despite them being extremely sour. Sometimes the colonists would make a sauce out of them that they would use as a condiment for other dishes.
These fruits were also used as a dye for fabric quite often, as well as for the treatment of various illnesses. The United States is an important producer of cranberries together with Canada making up the majority of the produced amounts of this fruit in the world.
Naturally, not all grapes are native to North America, but there are several varieties that most certainly are. This includes fox grapes and muscadine grapes. The former is native to the eastern parts of the United States, while the latter grows in the southeastern wilderness. Muscadine grapes were the first kind of grape that was successfully cultivated in the American countryside.
These grapes can be used in a variety of ways, for example, for juice or simply eaten fresh, although they are most commonly used to make wine. Several other grape varieties are native to the continent of North America, and some of them were cultivated there.
Out of all the fruits mentioned in this article, the pawpaw is the one you most likely never tried. The fruit was never cultivated on the North American continent, which is the main reason why the majority of our readers haven’t even heard of it. Yet, it is one of the fruits that are native to North America.
It continues growing mostly in temperate climates and can be found in the wilderness quite easily. Pawpaw resembles tropical fruits and has been mentioned several times in connection to prominent historical figures. For example, Thomas Jefferson was supposedly a huge fan of the pawpaw fruit, and so were the famous explorers Lewis and Clark. This fruit tastes like a combination of citrus fruit with a mango and a banana and is most often eaten fresh.
4. American Persimmons
Persimmons are most commonly sourced from Asia, so it might come as a surprise to many that there is a variety that is native to the United States. It is called Diospyros virginiana and can be found mostly in the southeastern parts of North America. This fruit was an essential part of the diet of Native Americans, either fresh or dried.
Once the first settlers started to arrive on the continent, they often used this fruit as an ingredient for tea, which they drank to help them with various ailments. These fruits are tough to transport since they must ripen on the tree. Their flavor is best described as being similar to apricots, and many animals enjoy eating them.
Mayhaws are small, round fruit, most often in red color that can be found growing on thorny trees. They are also called May hawthorns and are native to Louisiana. The state is filled with swampy areas that make this plant easy to cultivate, although it was never actually cultivated on a large scale.
This fruit got its name because it ripens in May, and its flavor is similar to that of a pear or an apple. Still, most will agree that the fruit does not taste the best when eaten fresh, but they are often used to make an incredibly delicious and well-known jelly. There are mayhaw festivals held annually in cities all over Louisiana and Georgia.
2. Black Cherries
There are several types of cherries native to North America, but the most popular ones are black cherries. Black cherries are more famous because of the wood of their trees, but the fruit itself is often eaten as a snack while drinking alcohol. The wood is often used for plank cooking because it gives the food a specific smoky flavor.
Another popular type of cherry is the chokecherry, which is the official state fruit of North Dakota. They are mostly eaten raw, although they have varying flavor and sweetness. Despite North America having several types of native cherries, the country still imports the majority of the cherries that get sold from Europe and Asia.
1. Several Types Of Berries
This includes blueberries and strawberries, but also lesser-known berries such as elderberries, juneberries, and salmonberries, among others. Out of all of these types of berries, blueberries are the most common ones, and these wild berries can also be found all over the North American wilderness.
When the first settlers arrived in North America, they were taught by Native Americans how to prepare a variety of dishes using berries. This included methods of preservation and ways to combine berries and meat. Strawberries were also a common dish among the Native Americans and are still a fruit that can be found growing in the wilderness. Naturally, the ones you find growing outside will not resemble the enormous ones you can buy at the store but will be much smaller.
The food in North America is incredibly diverse, and we should do our best to try and protect this diversity. By keeping these plants alive, we are taking care of the health of future generations since fruits and vegetables are possibly the most critical part of nutrition. The rich biodiversity of fruits in North America is definitely something that the people living on the continent should preserve.