Tag Archives: South America

In which berries abound!

24 Sep

Blueberries are apparently “mostly” native to North America, but I can’t figure out where else they might be native to from any Serious Historical Research (read: poking around on the Internet for awhile). They were apparently introduced to Europe, but that was in the 1930s, and Australia and New Zealand (1950s, and not successfully until the 1970s). They grow in South America, but my Serious Historical Research has not, thus far, yielded any results as to the history of their cultivation there, apart from Chile, where they were introduced in the 1980s. And in 1996 they were adopted as the official berry as Nova Scotia (as of 2008, they were Canada’s #1 fruit export)! But nothing more about South America. I am sorry for failing you, my friends. :(

I can tell you, however, that they were referred to as “skycolored berries” in colonial America, which is a fact that’s been floating around in my head for a few weeks now, and which delights me for reasons I cannot possibly figure out. Not gonna lie, I was mostly building towards that, and I felt like that wasn’t fact enough to support its own post. Whatever whatever. They were also frequently mistaken for the bilberry, which was native to England, and so were sometimes referred to as “skycolored bilberries”! In 1672, at least, they were frequently eaten dried, having been bought that way from the Indians, according to John Josselyn in his New England’s Rarities. Sad truth: I am not being sarcastic when I say that I think that’s pretty cool.

In which a venture is proposed.

14 Sep

The New York Times says that Dogfish Head brewery in Rehoboth Beach has a new idea for beer, using a traditional Peruvian method! This sounds pretty exciting—

“You need to convert the starches in the corn into fermentable sugars,” the always entertaining Mr. Calagione said by phone from his headquarters in Rehoboth Beach. “One way is through the malting process. But another way — there are natural enzymes in human saliva and by chewing on corn, whether they understood the science of it, ancient brewers through trial and error learned that the natural enzymes in saliva would convert the starch in corn into sugar, so it would ferment. It may sound a little unsavory.”

Um.

“We’re going to have an archaeologist and historians and brewers sitting around and chewing 20 pounds of this purple Peruvian corn,” he said. “You kind of chew it in your mouth with your saliva, then push with your tongue to the front of your teeth so that you make these small cakes out of it, then lay them on flat pans and let them sit for 12 hours in the sun or room temperature. That’s when the enzymes are doing their work of converting the starches in that purple corn.”

—okay, though, I have to say, if I get to drink it afterwards, I am so up for historically-accurate beer. I need to round up some historians to make beer with. Or at least drink beer with.

This attempt in particular ended up flopping pretty epically, but man, now I am all jazzed about historical beer. Drinking it or making it. Look, being a Serious Historical Expert does not pay all that great, and I will definitely take Serious Historical Beer-Making as a job. I mean, it combines two of my favorite things: history and beer.