An interesting website, Zester, explores the culture of food and drink – including a range of different species with potential for exploitation, as well as recipes about cooking them. Hopefully it does not give too much encouragement of wild collection (Sept 17: see comment below) or unsustainable fishing practices!
I was particularly interested in an article, “Eggplant’s Rich History: From ancient Arab diets to Sicilian recipes, the versatile eggplant has evolved around the globe”. Two papers in Annals of Botany provide a remarkable insight into the appearance of the earliest eggplants/aubergines used as food, and the ways they were cultivated. Amazingly, the first reliable written record comes from China in 59 BC. From the seventh century, selection for shape, size and taste became intense. See Ancient Chinese Literature Reveals Pathways of Eggplant Domestication for a summary, or this link to the pdf for the fully illustrated work,. Of course, the selection and evolution process continues today, with the most notable improvement being the selection of varieties without bitterness – the salting before cooking which was essential a decade ago is unnecessary with modern varieties.
Meanwhile, back to Zester, and an article gives a range of ways to cook corn/maize/Zea mays. I’m unconvinced that any is better than lightly boiled with butter. But the picture highlighting the article shows a hybrid line, not F1, but segregating 3:1 for yellow and white kernels/endosperm. I make it 444:149 . This month’s highlight issue of Annals of Botany on Genes in Evolution has lots more about the origin of crops including maize, and the genetics behind evolution, some summarized in my article about genes in evolution and the genetics of speciation and biodiversity.