Do you know where your food comes from?


Food is part of culture and economy, but not many people know where it comes from. Source: Hal Gatewood / Unsplash

FOODIES love a fad and the modern day dining culture has plenty of them, from the reborn trendy brunch staple of avocados to the superfood grain of quinoa.

But where do they come from?

The variety of flavors, colors, textures, smells and health benefits available to us through food is astonishing.

Different climates produce fantastic fruits and vegetables, and different palates mean every nation has its own signature dish.

Sometimes we take this diversity for granted and we certainly fail to appreciate the simplicity of grabbing all our groceries from one place, pre-packed and pretty.

Whether you’ve discovered a new favorite flavor on your travels, a friend gives you some “must try” recipes or something catches your eye in the supermarket, we don’t often stop to think how far our food has traveled to reach our plates.

The places your favorite elevenses-snack, dinnertime treat, or flavorsome spices come from may surprise you.

Central Asia: Pistachios

What can’t the pistachio nut do for the human body? These little green husky nuts are the least fatty of all nuts and contain heaps of antioxidants, vitamins, fibers, and minerals.

Climate and low altitude are essential to growing these yummy nuts. Pistachio trees need plenty of water, but good irrigation and lots of sunlight but also wintry spells for their dormant period.

They’re a little picky about their growing conditions but Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan hold the key to pistachio success.

Indonesia: Nutmeg

The taste of Christmas, the dusting atop of a fruitcake and a spice known to create mesmerizing hallucinogenic effects.

Nutmeg originated from “Spice Islands”, also known as the Moluccas in the Indonesian archipelago. The trees can grow some 65-feet tall and bear their sweet fruit for as long as 60 years.

The nutmeg seed has been traded as a precious commodity since the Roman times and it’s still as popular today.

How do you like your nutmeg? Shaved, sprinkled or mixed in?

Thailand: Avocados

If you’ve been to a trendy brunch spot recently, you’ve probably seen every combination of avocado offerings available.

This creamy green giant berry is back in trend since its first appearance in pop culture in the 1980s.

While the avocado originally comes from Mexico and other sunshine nations in South America, Asia lays claim to some of the world’s most devoured avocado varieties.

Thailand is one of the major growers of avocados in Asia.

Brought over by missionaries more than 90 years ago, Thailand grows and exports the classic Buccaneer and Hass varieties, and rarer ones such as Ruehle. If you’re traveling to Japan, South Korea, and China, chances are your avocados would have traveled up from Thailand.

China: Kiwi

Contrary to popular belief, kiwis are not from New Zealand. Baffling, we know.

The kiwifruit originates from China and up until the 1970s, it was known as the Chinese Gooseberry.

However, New Zealanders are known for their love of this fibrous emerald jewel of a fruit, so renamed it after their national bird.

A kiwi is a native, flightless, long-beaked bird in New Zealand. When farmers successfully cultivated kiwis on their New Zealand soil, they realized the brown furry fruit resembled a kiwi bird.

So now, New Zealanders’ national animal and favorite fruit share the same name.

China: Tea

Although tea is synonymous with the UK, it isn’t grown there. It has never been and unless global warming creates humid conditions north of the hemisphere, it never will be.

This may sound obvious to you, but recently one English tea lover became enraged to discover Yorkshire Tea wasn’t grown in Yorkshire in northern England.

Tea doesn’t originate from India either. It was planted there during the British colonialization in the early 19th century to compete with China’s monopoly in tea farming.

It first came from China and was popularized during the 17th-century Shang dynasty.

It was the Chinese who also first added milk to the cup before pouring tea to prevent the fine bone china cups from breaking.

This is a tradition still applied around the world, although more for taste than protecting the crockery.

India: Cucumber

From cucumber sandwiches, slices of cucumber in your gin and tonic, and pickles in juicy burgers, the watery green fruit is often associated with British summer time.

But it’s India we need to be thanking for this delicious stick of goodness.

The Cucumis sativus was even mentioned in the Bible as a food eaten by the Israelites in Egypt.

It is believed the Romans brought cucumbers to Europe from India and they’ve been adorning the supermarket chiller cabinets ever since.

Why it’s important to know where your food comes from

Thanks to greenhouses, fertilizing products and pesticides, many of these foods can grow away from their natural habitats.

This means your food may not have traveled 6,000 miles to reach your dinner table, but it’s always worth checking the label to see.

As farmer and writer Wendell Berry said, “Every time you make a decision about food, you are farming by proxy.”

While we cannot separate food’s role in culture and economy, we can try to understand its journey, origins, and ethics.

Download the Buycott app to discover the story of your food. Simply by scanning the barcode, the app can tell you where the food came from and how it arrived in front of you.

You can also make the effort to go local, organic and seasonal. Meaning the food you consume only has to travel up the road.

If you’ve got some spare time, why not cultivate your own vegetable patch, rear a few hens and maybe even keep a goat for fresh milk, and amusement?

Happy eating fellow foodies.