South American Food in the Vegetarian Diet

Here are some of the foods that South America has contributed to your vegetarian diet. You may be surprised at a few of them!

Cashews – native to the South American country of Brazil, though it is heavily cultivated in India, having been taken there by the Portuguese in the 16th century. It can be used in either sweet or savory dishes, making it quite versatile for cooking.

Cassava Roots – this root is showing up more and more in various American health and natural food stores on the snack aisle with the potato and tortilla chips. The root is toxic when raw, but when cooked it is a good source of carbohydrates, as well as calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin C.

Chile Peppers – native to Central and South America, there is evidence of the cultivation of chile peppers in Ecuador going back to 4,000 b.c. Though treated in cooking like a vegetable, they are considered the fruit of one of the many varieties of nightshade.

Lima Beans – native to Peru, hence the name.

Peanuts – despite being so closely identified with Africa (as it was taken there by Portuguese traders from Brazil, then made its way to the U.S.), this legume is actually native to Bolivia and Paraguay.

Pineapples – despite being so closely identified with Hawaii, this fruit is native to the South American countries of Brazil and Paraguay. The European explorers who ‘discovered’ them thought they looked like pinecones, hence the name. High in vitamins B1 and C, as well as manganese.

Potatoes – most species of wild potato can be traced to Peru, and most of the cultivated potato varieties we consume descend from Chile. The potato made its way to Europe during the 16th century, and then back across the Atlantic to North America in the 19th century.

Quinoa – this edible seed, known as Incan Gold or The Mother Seed due to its high protein content, is native to the Andes Mountains in South America.

Strawberry – native to both the Eastern U.S. and the South American countries of Argentina and Chile, the strawberry that we commonly eat today descends from the hybrid produced – in France – by combining the North and South American varieties. Convoluted enough for you?

Sweet Potatoes – grown extensively in North Carolina due to the mild climate (they grow more sweet potatoes than any other state in the U.S.), the sweet potato is a native of the South American tropics.

The Three Sisters – I’ve included the trinity of beans, corn, and squash on this list as well as the North/Central American food list because of how widespread they were – and are – throughout the Americas.

Tomatoes – this fruit of one of the varieties of the nightshade family is native to Peru. The Aztecs called it tomatl. High in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as the antioxidant lycopene, thought to ward off certain cancers.