The Natural History Of Sweet

Over the long evolutionary development of plants, many approaches to seed dispersal have developed.  The winged seed of the maple tree, the fluffy, flying puffs of dandelions, or the rolling, dried, bush of the tumbleweed, are examples of adaptive strategies plants have evolved, and that have led to the survival of plant species.

Another set of tactics that arose for the dissemination of plants centered on the edibility of seeds and the seeds surrounding fruit.  Some plants evolved bad tasting, or even toxic, chemicals that made sure animals would leave them alone and thus ensure the seeds self-planting and continued reproduction. 

Still, other plants evolved in an opposite direction—developing colorful, nutritious, and attractive characteristics that drew in animals, and provided them food.  This, when combined with seed structures that were tough enough to survive passage through the digestive tract of the devouring animal, led to seeds that could be deposited or dispersed widely, surrounded by rich fertilizing material, and their survival was guaranteed. 

The development of the taste of sweet was critical to this evolutionary strategy.  In humans, and other animals, the tip and foremost, upper, part of the tongue, holds the taste buds that detect sweet.  When our ancestors put something in their mouth, if it tasted sweet, it was nutritious, safe, wholesome, and healthy.  In all of nature, no sweet tasting plant is harmful.  In nature no sweet plant is poison.

How has this served humanity?  Think of our forefathers and mothers, those ancestral wanderers who crossed the land bridge from Asia to the Americas some thirty-thousand years ago.  They were hunter-gathers, who in the span of a remarkable few generations had occupied deserts, forests, mountains, plains and a host of other environments that held plants and animals that they had never encountered. 

How did they know what was safe to eat, and what was poisonous?  They could observe what other species ate, or they could gingerly try a bite.  If it was bitter or alkaline, they spat it out.  Dangerous!  If it was sweet, they gathered more.  They discovered fruit like papaya, pawpaw, and pineapple, berries, including; cranberries, blueberries, huckleberries, gooseberries and more.  They gathered vegetables like tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, squash, and corn, and found natural sweets like maple syrup and wild honey.  The taste of sweet led them to these and other nutritious foods.

The taste of sweet was one of the nature’s best guides to wholesome, healthy, nutritious foods.  

 

    

 

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