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Aztec Gardens: the Pre-Hispanic Plants and Foods of Mexico

By ivan919 Nov 07, 2011 387 Words
Mexico is a living culinary and ethno botanical museum, with many of the traditions of ancient Mesoamerican cuisine still present today in modern Mexico.
Because Mexican cuisine is such a unique blend of pre-Hispanic and European traditions, the Mexican government recently asked UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) that it declare the culinary traditions of Mexico a world cultural patrimony and a "Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity."

From the dozens of chile varieties grown and enjoyed throughout the country, to the sweet and delicious delights of chocolate, ancient Mexico has given much to the world.
There is a vast variety of pre-Hispanic foods and traditions from Mesoamerica to explore. Amaranth, chocolate, tomatoes, tequila, corn, and squash, all have their history in the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs made use of the wild plants and animals present in the large lake valley where they made their home. They also used some of the most unusual and advanced systems of agriculture found at that time. This allowed them to grow a huge variety of plants.

The Aztecs used an unusual system of gardening called Chinampas, which are “floating” gardens which they constructed throughout the series of lakes that once formed the ancient city of Tenochtitlan.

Chinampa is a compound Nauhatl word meaning “upon a reed basket," and refers to the fact that the Aztecs built up the soil on reeds and stabilized their gardens with various kinds of trees (including a kind of willow tree (ahuejotes)) to create a firm piece of ground upon which to grow their crops.

This ancient agricultural system using Chinampas is said to have produced a great abundance of vegetables, fruits and flowers, including corn (maize), squash, chiles, and tomatoes, all typically foods of Mexico and the Valley of Mexico. These typical foods of the Chinampa agricultural system are now widely consumed in Mexico and throughout the world.

You can see the remnants of this agricultural system today in the southern part of Mexico City, in the suburb of Xochimilco.
As the Aztecs expanded their territory, they imported foods from throughout the region, including the tropical areas throughout Mexico. For these and other reasons, the cuisines that the ancient peoples of central Mexico enjoyed were some of the richest and most varied in the world.

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