Plant Foods Through History

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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How long has the Western world been eating the plant foods we eat today, and in the way that we eat them? Only a very few common vegetables have not been eaten since before recorded history (the relative newcomers include broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, celery). But it was only with the age of exploration in the 16th century that the variety of foods we now know became available to any single culture. In the Western world, fruit has been eaten as dessert at least since the Greeks; recognizable salads go back to the Middle Ages, and boiled vegetables in delicate sauces to 17th-century France.