Happy Cinco de Mayo!
This Saturday Mexicans will memorialize their victory over the French in 1862 otherwise known as Cinco de Mayo. In the US it has become a celebration of Mexican heritage. This is the perfect time for us to consider Mexico’s significant contributions to our vegetable gardens. I know it is a little early to actually be planting these plants outside but this warm weather gets me thinking.
I think Mexico’s most well-known contribution is the chili pepper. It is possible that 3 of the 5 specices of peppers came from Mexico (The other two probably originate in Peru). Chilies love hot weather and this makes sense when you realize where they originally came from.
The most planted grain in the world today is maize. Scientific work by John Doebley at the University of Wisconsin has shown Maize may have been domesticated by the ancient Mexicans from a native grass named teosinte.
Tomatillos and Squashes are another two vegetables that we probably have the ancient Mexicans to thank for. All these plants won’t have the warm Mexican weather they love until a little later in the season so for now we will all have to make due with things like radishes and peas.
In the future I’ll blog about the man whose studies led to our understanding of where plants come from, the martyr to science Nikolai Vavilov.