From wild plants to crowd-pleasing fruits

Most of the delicious fruits we eat today might not look or taste like their wild ancestors at all. They only gain popularity after going through numerous rounds of domestication over a long period of time in various parts of the world. In order to develop a wider range of varieties using more sophisticated technologies, efforts to find the origin of these fruits are still being made today. Today, we'll look at three of our favorite fruits that came to us after a long domestication path.

1. Tomato

Tomatoes were first grown in the western parts of South America's coastal highlands. Wild tomatoes can still be found in the mountains of Peru, Ecuador, and northern Chile. Wild tomatoes were domesticated by the Mayans of Central America and the Aztecs of southern Mexico prior to the 16th century, resulting in artificially cultivated varieties that are the ancestors of the tomatoes we see today.

Despite the fact that the Spanish and Italians began eating tomatoes over two centuries ago, the British and American regions continue to avoid them due to a myth that tomatoes are poisonous. After the myth was debunked, it took until the 19th century for Americans to begin using it as a common ingredient in cooking. Tomatoes were only used as ornamental plants in gardens in China until the early 1900s, when people began to wildly grow the plants in most parts of the country due to their strong adaptation. Since then, it has quickly become a popular kitchen mainstay in China.

2. Peach

Peaches are a very old species. Surprisingly, they have the same outer shell or skin as fossils from over 2.5 million years ago. Horticulturists have worked for centuries to create the modern peach. The ancestors of today's peaches used to be smaller, sour in flavor, and had "stones" that took up 35 percent of the fruit's volume. Peaches became what we eat today as a result of relentless efforts to transform the fruit into a larger and sweeter fruit with a much smaller pit.

3. Watermelon

Watermelon is one of the most common fruits consumed during the scorching summer. The pink, juicy and delicious part covered by a hard rind is also the result of centuries of continuous domestication. In the 7th century, Indians had already begun to cultivate watermelons, which made their way to China in the 10th century. Watermelons reproduced quickly because they had a large number of seeds. They were, however, smaller and less sweet than modern melons. 

Fruits with fewer seeds and a more juicy pulp were developed in the 17th century as a result of European farmers' experiments. That is how we ended up with the delicious watermelon today.

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