Spicing Things Up

Prehistoric chefs didn’t have fancy foodie kitchens. Nonetheless, New Stone Age people liked to spice things up. New research in the Public Library of Science shows that people were cooking with mustard seed as early as 6,100 years ago.

Hayley Saul and other scientists from the University of York tested chemical residues in old pot shards found in Denmark. Among other things, they found plant residues similar to modern garlic mustard seeds.

Garlic mustard has little energy value, but it packs a punch of taste.

“Until now it has been widely accepted that the calorific content of foods was of primary importance in the decisions by hunter-gatherers about what to eat,” said Saul when PloS announced the research.

For example, the pot shards also had fat residues from marine and land animals, plus some evidence of starchy plant foods. The new study confirms that taste factored into hunter-gatherers’ food choices too.

Earlier studies had shown the use of spices such as poppy seeds and dill dates back 5,000 years. By that time, though, agriculture had begun. The new research shows hunter-gatherers had also discovered and used spices.

“[I]t is now established that the habit of enhancing and altering the flavor of calorie rich staples was part of European cuisine as far back as the 7th millennia BC,” said Saul.

Now that’s some tasty news!

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Photo by sannse, Tapeley Park, Instow, North Devon, 14 May 2004 (Wikimedia Commons).

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Photo by sannse, Tapeley Park, Instow, North Devon, 14 May 2004 (Wikimedia Commons).

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One response to “Spicing Things Up”

  1. bethanylcm says :

    Very cool. So all of my paleo-diet-following friends should include garlic and mustard…

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