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Original article:

Sciencedaily.com

Citron

 

The fascinating find came to light in an investigation into a bizarre acidless mutation which makes citrus juice 1000 times less acidic.

John Innes Centre researchers used genetic analysis to trace the acidless mutations in citron, the first citrus species to be cultivated in the Mediterranean.

“Some people thought that this was a recent mutation that originated in Corsica, or somewhere in the Mediterranean, but we have found that this is not new. It’s an ancient mutation that is present in Chinese fingered citrons known as Buddha’s Hands and those used in the Sukkot Jewish ritual,” explains Dr Eugenio Butelli of the John Innes Centre and first author of the paper.

The acidless mutations have captivated botanists and breeders for centuries and appear in many citrus varieties including citron, sweet lime, limetta, lemon and sweet orange.

Acidless citrus fruit have also lost the ability to produce anthocyanin pigments, that give a blush of dark red to leaves, flowers and, sometimes, flesh.

The researchers identified a gene, which they called Noemi, as the key factor behind the regulation of fruit acidity. Analysis also revealed that this gene works in partnership with another, named Ruby, to control anthocyanin production.

The study identified specific mutations affecting the Noemi gene in several acidless citrus species and hybrids. These acidless fruits are often referred to as sweet or insipid because of the reduction in fruit acidity and are highly prized citrons (Etrog in Hebrew) used in the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

One of these mutations matched those found in fingered citron varieties first cultivated in China 3300 years ago. This confirmed that this mutation originated before the arrival of citron into the Mediterranean.

Further analysis revealed that the same ancient Noemi allele characteristic of the acidless trait was present in the Yemen citron, an ancient variety traditionally used in the Sukkot tradition since the time of the destruction of the first temple in 587 B.C.E. Another variety traditionally used in the Sukkot ritual, the Greek citron, also bore the same genetic hallmark.

The analysis suggests that the authentic Jewish Etrog used ritually was an acidless one, an idea supported by a reference to “sweet citron” in the Jewish legal text, the Talmud, dating from 200 C.E.

The study which appears in Current Biology illuminates the path of domestication of citron. It supports the view that the spread of citron in Mediterranean regions was facilitated by its adoption in Jewish culture as an important religious symbol. Some scholars speculate that Jews in exile in Babylonia brought the citron back to Palestine.

Why was this sweet, or insipid citrus, with plain white flowers and leaves drained of colour, the chosen fruit?

“Citron was first cultivated for its medicinal properties in China and its rind was used as a medicinal product, not as a food” explains Professor Cathie Martin of the John Innes Centre and a co-author on the study.

“By the time it reached the Mediterranean in Roman times, citron was a luxury item used for its fragrance to keep linen fresh. The presence of white flowers in the acidless mutation seems important because they are a symbol of purity and we speculate that there was a strong selection for the loss of anthocyanins, which normally add colour to leaves and flowers.”

Citron is one of four primary species that make up the citrus genus, a complex group of flowering plants with notable nutritional, medicinal and aromatic value. Despite becoming one of the world’s most economically important fruit crops, its history of evolution and domestication has remained obscure until recently.

The characterisation of Noemi provides researchers with an important genetic marker opening a fascinating landscape for genetic analysis of seeds found amid the burials of the ancient world and fossil remains from even further back in time.

The study also gives researchers the information they need to develop fruit of the future — to modulate their level of acidity and to increase their content of health-protecting anthocyanin compounds.

“If you could introduce these mutations stably in lemon, for example, you could make lemonade which does not need so much added sugar in it, making it healthier to drink and better for growing teeth.” explains Professor Martin.

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New World Cereal-Maze

via New World Cereal-Maze

Here is a repost from 2009 about the wild grass progenitor of Maze, teosinte.

i thought it would be timely since I posted an update to this grain just recently.

 

 

Steak..before and after

 

Original article:

By Laurel Hamers

Sciencenews.org

 

WASHINGTON — Kimberly Foecke has a great relationship with her local butcher.

Though she buys loads of meat, Foecke is not a chef or the owner of a small zoo. She’s a paleobiologist who studies what Neandertals ate. And that involves, in her words, “experimental putrefaction, which is a fancy way of saying, I rot meat, all day, every day.”

Scientists know Neandertals ate a lot of meat. Fossilized bones from the hominids tend to have high levels of a heavier form of nitrogen, nitrogen-15, compared with the lighter form, nitrogen-14. Nitrogen-15 is least abundant in plants, and becomes more concentrated further up the food chain because it’s harder to break down than nitrogen-14.

But exactly how much meat these hominids ate — and what else was in their diet — is somewhat controversial. Evidence such as tooth scrapings suggests that Neandertals also ate a variety of plants. But the nitrogen-15 measurements point to “an unreasonably huge amount of meat” in the diet, says Foecke, a researcher at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Those levels tend to be even higher than what’s seen in top carnivores like hyenas, which nosh almost entirely on meat.

Foecke thinks those high nitrogen-15 ratios may be explained not just by how much meat Neandertals ate, but also how they got it and prepared it. Perhaps whether meat was eaten fresh or rotten, raw or cooked, could influence the nitrogen-15 signal. That’s why she’s measuring nitrogen in cuts of beef, trying to pin down the biochemical changes that the meat undergoes as it rots.

Grocery store steaks wouldn’t cut it for this experiment. Instead, Foecke calls her butcher in Maryland, who makes sure she receives meat that is fresh and from animals raised as close to Pleistocene-style as is possible in 2018 — after all, no hormones or antibiotics were fed to animals hunted 200,000 years ago. She needs animals raised on organic diets she can sample.

Foecke leaves the steaks to rot for 16 days in a mesh-covered box in her family’s backyard, or sometimes in a greenhouse, and samples nitrogen values daily. She plans future sampling for longer periods.

Her preliminary results suggest that nitrogen-15 ratios do fluctuate as meat rots. In the first week, levels increase. The meat is moist, and there’s lots of microbial activity that breaks down the lighter nitrogen-14 faster than the nitrogen-15, Foecke reported December 14 at the American Geophysical Union meeting. It smells “pretty terrible,” she says — though over time, the stench diminishes as the meat blackens and takes on a more jerkylike consistency.

Foecke’s research so far suggests that eating rotting meat could at least partly explain the high nitrogen-15 signatures in Neandertal fossils. And it makes sense that Neandertals weren’t feasting on fresh grub, particularly when they killed large animals. A carcass from a large animal might last days. Foecke is also measuring what happens biochemically as she cooks or smokes meat — food prep steps that Neandertals might have taken that could also affect nitrogen-15.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I may have already posted this, is so……enjoy anyway

 

Milk vessel

 

Source: When Things Got Cheesy

 

More on one of my favorite foods, Chocloate!

Source: Ancient Amazonian Chocolatiers

Happy New Year 2019

A very Happy New Year to all! May it bring to you, health, wealth, and good fortune!

 

 

Cacao pods

 

Original article::

Sciencedailt.com

 

Researchers find cacao originated 1,500 years earlier than previously thought

 

The study, published online today in Nature Ecology & Evolution, suggests that cacao — the plant from which chocolate is made — was domesticated, or grown by people for food, around 1,500 years earlier than previously thought. In addition, the researchers found cacao was originally domesticated in South America, rather than in Central America.

Archaeological evidence of cacao’s use, dating back to 3,900 years ago, previously planted the idea that the cacao tree was first domesticated in Central America. But genetic evidence showing that the highest diversity of the cacao tree and related species is actually found in equatorial South America-where cacao is important to contemporary Indigenous groups-led the UBC team and their colleagues to search for evidence of the plant at an archaeological site in the region.

“This new study shows us that people in the upper reaches of the Amazon basin, extending up into the foothills of the Andes in southeastern Ecuador, were harvesting and consuming cacao that appears to be a close relative of the type of cacao later used in Mexico — and they were doing this 1,500 years earlier,” said Michael Blake, study co-author and professor in the UBC department of anthropology. “They were also doing so using elaborate pottery that pre-dates the pottery found in Central America and Mexico. This suggests that the use of cacao, probably as a drink, was something that caught on and very likely spread northwards by farmers growing cacao in what is now Colombia and eventually Panama and other parts of Central America and southern Mexico.”

Theobroma cacao, known as the cacao tree, was a culturally important crop in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica — a historical region and cultural area in North America that extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica. Cacao beans were used both as currency and to make the chocolate drinks consumed during feasts and rituals.

For the study, researchers studied ceramic artifacts from Santa Ana-La Florida, in Ecuador, the earliest known site of Mayo-Chinchipe culture, which was occupied from at least 5,450 years ago.

The researchers used three lines of evidence to show that the Mayo-Chinchipe culture used cacao between 5,300 and 2,100 years ago: the presence of starch grains specific to the cacao tree inside ceramic vessels and broken pieces of pottery; residues of theobromine, a bitter alkaloid found in the cacao tree but not its wild relatives; and fragments of ancient DNA with sequences unique to the cacao tree.

The findings suggest that the Mayo-Chinchipe people domesticated the cacao tree at least 1,500 years before the crop was used in Central America. As some of the artifacts from Santa Ana-La Florida have links to the Pacific coast, the researchers suggest that trade of goods, including culturally important plants, could have started cacao’s voyage north.

Sonia Zarrillo, the study’s lead author and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Calgary who carried out some of the research as a sessional instructor at UBC Okanagan’s department of anthropology, said the findings represent a methodological innovation in anthropological research.

“For the first time, three independent lines of archaeological evidence have documented the presence of ancient cacao in the Americas: starch grains, chemical biomarkers, and ancient DNA sequences,” she said. “These three methods combine to definitively identify a plant that is otherwise notoriously difficult to trace in the archaeological record because seeds and other parts quickly degrade in moist and warm tropical environments.”

Discovering the origins of food that we rely on today is important because it helps us understand the complex histories of who we are today, said Blake.

“Today we all rely, to one extent or another, on foods that were created by the Indigenous peoples of the Americas,” said Blake. “And one of the world’s favourites is chocolate.”

 

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