The history of food is a culinary adventure.  The history of fruits and vegetables is more interesting, educational and fun than you may have thought.  The following factual offerings range from historical details to nutritional details to serving tips.

Bananas are the most popular fruit in North America.  While a few kinds are commonly found in stores, there are actually more than three hundred varieties.

Often referred to as cooking bananas, plantains can be boiled, mashed, deep-fried and tossed in with stews.

One cup of shredded coconut is a good source of both iron and copper.

Eat these—they’re berry good for you.  One cup of blackberries is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K.  Strawberries, cranberries and raspberries are also great sources of vitamin C.

Jackfruit is thought to be the largest fruit in the world; it can weigh up to eighty pounds.

The kiwi is native to China.  Until relatively recently, westerners called them Chinese gooseberries.

Tamarinds are successfully used in both raw and cooked chutneys.  They are an excellent source of B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium, protein and iron.

Although the cactus pear is “prickly” it is fairly easy to peel if you wear gloves.  It can be eaten raw or pureed.  For a cool drink, add some pureed prickly pear to a glass of lemon-lime soda.

One cup of horseradish (if you can stomach it) is a great source of vitamin C, folate and potassium.

All varieties of winter squash require cooking.  Boiling, however, will water it down and dilute the taste.

Spanish conquistadors brought the Mediterranean fig to California where it is still grown and referred to as the Black Mission fig.

Cabbage can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer for about two weeks.

Yuca root is a great source of potassium and vitamin C

Common celery can be eaten raw or cooked, but Chinese celery is best eaten cooked in stir-fry, soup or fried rice.

One cup of pumpkin is a terrific source of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A.

The heat-producing substance in chile peppers that gives them their characteristic pow is capsaicin.  Bell peppers have very little while the habanero is off the charts.

Freeze frozen green grapes in ginger ale; this interesting combination makes for a cool snack.

Baby corn is entirely edible once shucked—including the cob.

Lemon grass, which is frequently paired with ginger in the culinary world, is an excellent source of vitamin C.

All types of mushrooms, excepting wood ear, enoki and oyster should be firm for best results.

There are more than five hundred varieties of onions.  All of them produce tears—the older the onion, the more sulfuric compound it contains—hence, more tears!

Eggplant is a fruit that, along with tomatoes, is a member of the nightshade family.

Moisture is an enemy to garlic.  Garlic heads should ideally be stored in cool, dark spots up to about six weeks.

Of all grapefruit varieties, red and pink grapefruit contain the highest amounts of vitamin A.  Grapefruit is also an excellent source of vitamin C.