Percentage of World Food Crop Species That Originated in the Americas?

I know that a lot of the food the world eats are from plants which were originally only found in the Americas, but what’s the percentage?

According to Prof. Jack Weatherford in his book Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World, some 60 percent of all foods eaten in the world today were first harvested by the Indians of the Americas.

I suppose it depends whether you count calories, species, or acres. I’m not going to look things up, but corn (maize to Europeans), potatoes, and peppers spring to mind. Of course, a lot of that corn is used for animal feed and alcohol production, so you’d have to allow for that.

IIRC the book “Guns, Germs and Steel” discusses this in some detail.

Most beans also, and tomatoes. Some or all squashes. Chocolate. Turkeys.

Avocados, Guinea pigs, pinon nuts.

And corn, potatoes, and peppers as per RJK.

This doesn’t cover it all, either. Quinine bark, tobacco, possibly syphilis, and more.

Are you sure about pinon nuts ?

I believe they come from pine trees and have been used in middle eastern cooking since the dawn of time or somesuch…

TOMATOS ! or tomatoes… How could you guys forget…

Potatoes and Corn are the most important thou. Many sorts of fruits too.

Mmmmm, Guinea Pig!

Well, the big fat superior pinon nuts from the pinon pine trees in the American Southwest, anyway.

Mmmm, pinon-fed Guinea Pig!

pecans and cranberries, too.

Top 30 food crops by production in metric tons, which I extracted from the <a href=“”>FAO</a> database for 2002 (so if there are inaccuracies, it’s my fault). This excludes crops specified as for fodder, forage and silage and for fabric/ropes, but includes crops grown for vegetable oils. Sorry I can’t format this better.

I researched origins from a number of websites. Crops from the Americas constitute 7 of 30 crops, or 26% of production.

Rank Crop Production (Metric tons) Origin (approximate)

1 Sugar Cane “1,288,403,240” East asia
2 Maize “602,589,189” Americas
3 Rice, Paddy" “576,280,153” East asia
4 Wheat “572,878,902” Middle east
5 Potatoes “307,440,446” Americas
6 Sugar Beets “246,475,609” Middle east
7 Cassava “184,852,540” Americas
8 Soybeans “179,917,302” East asia
9 Sweet Potatoes “136,130,396” Americas
10 Oil Palm Fruit “135,964,544” West Africa
11 Barley “132,215,617” Middle east
12 Tomatoes “108,499,056” Americas
13 Watermelons “81,839,727” Africa
14 Bananas “69,832,378” Asia
15 Oranges “64,128,523” East asia
16 Cabbages “62,473,972” Middle east
17 Grapes “61,018,250” Middle east
18 Apples “57,094,939” Asia
19 Sorghum “54,501,076” Asia
20 Onions, Dry" “51,914,247” Asia
21 Coconuts “49,634,254” East asia
22 Yams “39,643,170” West Africa
23 Cucumbers and Gherkins “36,397,195” Asia
24 Groundnuts in Shell “34,075,421” Americas
25 Rapeseed “33,170,413” Asia
26 Plantains “32,211,419” Asia
27 Eggplants “28,926,457” Asia
28 Mangoes “25,754,509” East asia
29 Oats “25,534,599” Middle east
30 Sunflower Seed “23,850,626” Americas

OTOH, rice and wheat are definitely old world and they supply an awful lot of the calories world wide. Where do bananas come from? I once read somewhere that bananas (mainly plantain) are, after rice, the second largest source of calories in the world.

Refusal’s sources differentiate bananas and plantain for some reason. They are both from Asia.

Wow, nothing from Europe. What did those neolithics eat, anyway? Turnips and mastodon bones?


They come from any pines with seeds large enough to bother. Many pines have small seeds that aren’t worth it, but all can be eaten.

In Europe pine nuts typically come from Pinus pinea, the Italian stone pine. They can also come from P. cembra swiss stone pine, but it has small seeds.

In the Americas, you have a wider choice:

P. torreyana (torrey Pine) from So. Cal
P. coulteri (coulter pine)
P. lambertiana (Sugar Pine)
P. albicaulis (WHitebark pine)
P. edulis (Rocky mountain pinyon pine)
P. monophylla (Single Leaf Pinyon)
P. quadrifolia (Parry Pinyon)
P. remota (paper shell pinyon)
P. cembroides (Mexican Pinyon)
P. nelsonii (Nelson’s Pinyon)
P. maximartineii (Big Cone Pinyon)

Of the American Species, P. maximartinezii has the largest seeds (1 inch long), but comes from a small area of Zacatecas in Mexico. The (Western) Sugar Pine has useable seeds, but they’re often very high and hard to get to.