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Natural Awakenings

American Regional Foods: The Tastes of the USA

Jul 01, 2010 03:00AM

From sea to shining sea, America’s eight large geographic regions—each with its own unique foods—give us a taste of our country.

Atlantic Coast ~ from Maine south to Florida ~ Lobster, clams, cod, scallops, bluefish in cold sea waters; cranberries in natural marshland; wild Maine blueberries; tomatoes in mineral-rich New Jersey soil; oysters, blue crab, shrimp, grouper and mackerel in warmer southern Atlantic waters; Concord grapes, Bartlett pears and Newton Pippin apples in New England and upstate New York; Peanuts, pecans and peaches in the Piedmont region of Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia; Indian River grapefruit and oranges in the sunshine state of Florida.

Appalachian Forest ~ Vermont, New Hampshire, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia ~ From the hardscrabble, forested hills of the Appalachians: maple syrup in the north; hominy corn (turned into grits) in the south; and wild foods like ramps and cress, scuppernong grapes, sourwood and tupelo honey.

Southern Lowlands ~ from Kentucky south to Louisiana ~ Farm-raised, sustainable catfish along the Mississippi River delta; crawfish in bayous; rice and sugar cane in tropical lowlands; shell beans and peas, leafy greens, traditional sorghum syrup, limestone lettuce and gallberry honey; and wild foods like spicebush, sassafras, cress, paw paw and native persimmon.

Eastern Plains ~ from Pennsylvania west to Illinois, north of the Ohio River, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin ~ Mushrooms in Pennsylvania; sour cherries and orchard fruits in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; Wisconsin and Ohio butter, milk, cheese; Ohio sweet corn; Indiana corn and melon; Great Lakes whitefish and lake perch; and wild foods like native persimmons, paw paws, hickory nuts, black walnuts and morels, as well as clover and wildflower honeys.

Western Plains ~ mid-section between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains, including Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas ~ Beef and bison; wheat and sorghum, both for syrup and gluten-free flour; wines; honeycrisp apple and walleye pike in Minnesota; dried beans of all kinds in the Dakotas; red grapefruit, sweet onions, and wild-caught Gulf of Mexico shrimp in Texas; and wild foods like hand-harvested wild rice, native persimmons, paw paws, hickory nuts, black walnuts, northern pecans and morels, as well as clover, wildflower, sunflower and yaupon honeys.

Rocky Mountains ~ Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada and Utah ~ Rocky Mountain rainbow trout; quinoa, at higher altitudes; Idaho baking potato; lamb, elk and green chiles; and wild chokecherries and huckleberries.

Desert Southwest ~ New Mexico, Arizona, parts of Colorado and Utah ~ Hatch and Chimayo chiles from New Mexico; blue corn, squash, avocados, prickly pear and cactus; pepita and pine nuts; and gaujillo and orange blossom honeys.

Pacific Coast ~ California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii ~ Oranges, dates, artichokes and wine and table grapes in California; stone fruits (sweet cherries, plums, nectarines and apricots), pears and apples in Oregon and Washington; pineapples, coffee, macadamia nuts and Wilelaiki blossom honey in Hawaii; shellfish such as oysters, clams, mussels; Dungeness and king crab off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and Alaska; wild-caught abalone, salmon, petrale sole and halibut from California north to Alaska; wild mint honey in Oregon; and wild salmonberries, thimbleberries and beach strawberries in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

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