Private: Number 1


    Leeks, a member of the onion family are thought to have been cultivated in the Mediterranean since prehistoric times. Emperor Nero ate leeks regularly to improve his singing voice and so gained the nickname “Porrophagus”- from the Latin word ”Porrum”, meaning leek. The leek was adopted by the Welsh in 640 AD as their national symbol when St. David distinguished his own men from the Saxons at a victorious battle by instructing them to wear leeks in their hats!

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    Private: Number 2


    Lettuce was eaten by the Persian Kings, the Ancient Egyptians and by the Greeks and Romans. It originated in Asia Minor, but spread north and west from the Meditteranean. Columbus introduced it to America. It is related to the daisy family.

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    Private: Number 3


    Since ancient times, mushrooms have been regarded as the “food of the Gods.” The Pharoah’s of Ancient Egypt believed they had magical power, while the Chinese used them for their health giving properties. In the Middle Ages, the British were very suspicious of mushrooms because they grew in the dark! The word mushroom is generally applied to the edible fungi but of the many thousands of species in the world, less than half are edible. The earliest mushroom cultivation is believed to have occurred in France in 1650, while the variety of mushroom grown today was developed by the French in the late 19th century.

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    Private: Number 4


    Onions are thought to have originated in Central Asia, but are now grown, eaten and cooked all over the world. The Babylonians and Egyptians used them extensively, as drawings of onions are to be seen in many ancient Egyptian murals. Onions have generally been considered to be the food of the poor and have been popular since the 13th century.

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    Private: Number 5


    The parsnip is native to Ireland and Britain and has been cultivated since Roman times. They were eaten by the Greeks and the Romans who thought they were a luxury. In Britain, before sugar was widely available, parsnips were used for making cakes, jams and a type of flour. They were the traditional accompaniment to roast beef before the introduction of potatoes.

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    Private: Number 6

    Peas and Mangetout

    Peas: The pea is thought to have come from the Near east and has been eaten for centuries. Fossilised peas have been found in stone-age lake dwellings in Switzerland. The Italians developed the garden pea in the 16th century and later the “petit pois” became popular in France. Peas were first grown in Ireland and the UK in about the 17th century. Mangetout: It would seem that mangetouts were developed from traditional garden peas in 17th century Europe. They are picked young, before the peas have a chance to develop.

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    Private: Number 7


    Sweet peppers or capsicums (from the Latin word “capsa”, meaning a box) are natives of South America and the West Indies and were discovered by the Spaniards in Mexico during the early part of the 16th century. Although they were written about in Victorian times in Britain, they were virtually unknown until the 1950’s at which time they became widely available. Commercially, at least 30 different varieties of pepper are grown.

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    Private: Number 8


    Potatoes were discovered by the Spanish in Peru in the 16th century. They had been grown by the Incas for more than 2,000 years. It is thought they were introduced to Europe by a Spanish monk (and not Sir Francis Drake). Although first grown in Ireland and the UK as a novelty, rather than a food, potatoes were a staple part of local diet by the end of the 18th century.

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    Private: Number 9


    Radishes probably originated in Southern Asia and are known to have been grown in the ancient gardens of China and Japan. The Anglo Saxons were familiar with them and called them “redic”. 17th century doctors recommended eating radishes before meat to aid indigestion and thought they could cure the blood as a cure for asthma.

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    Private: Number 10


    Spinach is thought to have originated in Persia because the name comes from the Persian word “Aspanath.” It was introduced into Europe by the Dutch in the 16th century. Its main areas of cultivation were France and Italy, the dishes from these countries named Florentine have a high spinach content. It was first eaten as a laxative but was made popular as a health food in the United States during the 1930’s by Popeye, the cartoon character.

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    Private: Number 11


    Swedes or “yellow turnips” are thought to have been introduced to Western Europe in the late 18th century. When it was discovered that they withstood cold winters, they were introduced not only as a staple for local people but also as a food for cattle and sheep. In Scotland, they are the traditional accompaniment to the world famous “haggis” which is eaten on Burns night, where they are known as “neeps.”

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    Private: Number 12


    Sweetcorn has been grown in America for over 5,000 years. It was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the late 15th century. It has been associated with food for the poor, eaten at times of famine. The UK remains the major European consumer of “corn on the cob”, or sweetcorn. Corn has since spread throughout the world, mature corn being grown in China and Asia.

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    Private: Number 13


    The tomato is actually a fruit, but is most commonly used as a vegetable. Tomatoes originated in South America and were probably brought to Europe by the Spanish. For a long time, tomatoes were grown for their leaves rather than their fruit. It was not until the 19th century that commercial cultivation began.

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    Private: Number 14


    The origin of turnips is unclear but it seems likely they first grew in Western Asia. They were eaten by the Ancient Greeks and the Romans introduced them to Western Europe. Turnips were the staple of the poor in Europe, before the emergence of the potato. Turnips were often used in Ireland as a substitute for pumpkins in the making of Halloween lanterns.

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    Private: Number 15


    Watercress has long been prized for its healing properties as well as a food. The Romans thought it helped them make decisions and mixed with vinegar it was said to be a cure for mental illness.

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