Need a conversation starter? Want to sound worldly? Interested in the strange and unusual? Here we’re compiling an ever-growing collection of food facts, from delicacies across the globe to uses for food besides eating it.
1. In Thailand, monkeys can be trained to gather coconuts from trees. It’s possible for them to collect up to 800 coconuts a day.
2. Cream of tartar, also known as potassium hydrogen tartrate, is a white powder with many culinary applications. It is a byproduct of winemaking, as the powder forms inside wine barrels during fermentation.
3. Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, refers to the beans of coffee berries that have been eaten and excreted by the Asian Palm Civet, also known as the Coffee Mouse. The excreted beans then are processed and sold for $400-1300 per pound.
4. Worcestershire sauce is made from dissolved anchovies. It is made by soaking anchovies in vinegar, until the anchovies are completely dissolved. Then it is blended with various ingredients, depending on the producer.
5. Cochineal beetles are used to make most red food dye. You can find the beetle dye in red velvet cake, yogurt, tomato products and so much more.
6. The giant clam, Tridacna gigas, can weigh as much as 440 lbs., measures up to 47″ across, and the average lifespan in the wild is 100 years. That would make one heckuva chowder.
7. Every year, 100,000 American horses are shipped to Canada and Mexico to be slaughtered, then sent and consumed in Europe for up to $20/lb.
8. You can find castoreum (aka anal gland & urine secretions) in some companies’ vanilla and raspberry flavored ice cream, to enhance the flavor. It also can be found in some perfumes, but it’s very hard to identify because it’s labeled as “natural flavoring” by the FDA.
9. One pound of charcoal barbecue meat contains as much carcinogens as the smoke in 15 cigarettes. The dripping fat on the charcoal causes a chemical substance called benzopyrene.
10. Pink slime is meat trimmings usually used for pet food. It’s been put in a centrifuge to separate unwanted product, then treated with ammonia. You can find this product in some major fast food restaurants’ and supermarkets’ hamburger meat but you’ll never know, because it’s been passed as acceptable food product by the FDA.
11. Casu Marzu is a cheese made from sheep’s milk that has cheese flies purposely added. The cheese is a delicacy in Sardinia and is also illegal. This dish requires protective eyewear because the larvae are able to jump into the air. The taste is potent enough to burn your tongue and undigested larva can live long enough to infest in the intestine walls, causing vomiting and severe diarrhea.
12. Three quarters of fish caught are eaten. The rest are used to make things such as glue, soap, margarine and fertilizer.
13. Coconut water has been used (and still can be in emergency situations) as a plasma substitute for saline solution.
14. It takes 1,000 lbs. of potatoes to make 350 lbs. of potato chips. Sounds about right, since potatoes are roughly 75% water and no one would like soggy chips.
15. The world’s largest zucchini on record was 69 1/2 inches long, and weighed 65 lbs. Zucchini has more potassium than a banana (any zucchini, not just the big one)
16. A 3-1/2 ounce serving of natural skinless and boneless sardines is higher in calcium and phosphorus than a glass of milk.
17. In Tibet, a common drink is butter tea. It’s made from yak butter, salt, and tea. The average Tibetan drinks about 50 cups of tea a day.
18. Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second. Makes sense, being that there’s over 60,000 pizzerias in the United States.
19. Early Colonial Americans made gray paint by boiling blueberries and milk together.
20. Corn dogs were purportedly conceived by Neil Fletcher in 1942 for the Texas State Fair.
21. The world’s newest hottest pepper is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper. The average scoville unit rating is 1.2 million
22. Pineapple canners are allowed to use 20% moldy fruit in their canning process, so definitely buy fresh pineapple!
23. About 60% of the world’s horseradish originates from the Collinsville area in Illinois.
24. The name for pie is derived from the magpie bird. Magpies collect random items to adorn their nests, and in 13th century England, pies were filled with random ingredients.
25. The saffron flower only has 3 stamens (the red fibers), so it takes about 70,000 flowers to get 1 lb. of saffron, making it the most expensive spice.
26. Wildflower honey helps relieve symptoms of pollen allergies. Eating honey from inside a 50 mile radius of where you live and work can help you build resistance to allergy symptoms.
27. Corned beef cabbage isn’t an Irish dish, it’s actually an Irish-American immigrant dish. Back in the Old Country it was made with pork, but beef was more plentiful in the US.
28. Eskimos make an arctic version of ice cream with reindeer fat as its base. Other ingredients depend on availability, like dried salmon eggs, fish, berries, seal fat, and moose fat.
29. Of all fruits, dates have the highest sugar content. Guess the pickup line “You like raisins? How about a date?” is actually sweet, not cheesy.
30. Trout was the first farmed fish in the United States.
31. Olive oil is one of the oldest oils, having been produced and used for over 4,000 years.
32. The earliest archeological evidence of cheesemaking was found in northern Europe, dating back 7,000 years.
33. Napoleon made an attempt to have France be self-sufficient in 1806. To that end, coffee imports were halted and chicory was its substitute.
34. Machines at the Hershey’s Chocolate factories can wrap up to 1,300 Hershey’s Kisses in one minute.
35. Americans spent over $2 billion on Easter candy in 2012.
36. In the 1400s, upper-class women used saffron and onion skins to color their hair.
37. Sauerkraut is one of the the most potent (and cheapest) sources of probiotics.
38. During Passover in 2001, Israel’s Interior Ministry conducted raids on restaurants to make sure they weren’t serving leavened bread.
39. FDA regulations allow food processors to say their products have “zero trans fat” even if it has up to .49 grams per serving.
40. A “pork butt” cut of meat isn’t from the pig’s rear, it’s from the front shoulder.
41. The word “caramel” is Greek in origin, and it refers to the color, not the candy.
42. Sesame oil was used in ancient China for heat and for lamp fuel.
43. Italian kale is also known as dinosaur kale, because the leafs are bumpy like how we imagine dinosaur skin.
44. “Turkey fries” are Rocky Mountain oysters from turkeys. The testicles are collected at the time of butchering, unlike Rocky Mountain oysters which are a byproduct of bull castration.
45. Indonesia is the world’s leading producer of vanilla, the second most expensive spice (after saffron).
46. Thirty percent of Hungry Man frozen dinners are eaten by women.
47. Betty Crocker Carrot Cake Mix does not contain anything carrot-based. It has “carrot flavored pieces” of cooked corn syrup, Red 40 and Yellow 6.
48. Radishes are the roots of a plant classified in the mustard family.
49. The shelf life of whole, unground spices is roughly twice as long as its ground counterpart.
50. GMO labeling legislation is being considered in 20 states. If you believe in real foods, you can show your support in a number of ways, like donating time to local campaigns or even simply by choosing organic products when shopping and dining out.
51. The largest prepared dish in the world has eggs stuffed in fish, stuffed in chickens, stuffed in a sheep’s carcass, stuffed in a camel.
52. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year, 48,000 Americans get food poisoning from contaminated food.
53. April 12 is Official Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day.
54. Due to current economic factors, São Paulo, Brazil has the most expensive pizza pie in the world, averaging $30-40.
55. Pacaya palm flowers are the flowers of a species of palm tree. In Central America, a common dish is to make these into fritters.
56. Stromboli isn’t an Italian dish at all. The baked turnover of pepperoni, salami, ham, and mozzarella comes from 1950s American cuisine.
57. Apples contain 25% air, that’s why they float.
58. Of the more than 400 types of chili peppers, the mildest is the bell pepper at 0 scoville units.
59. German chocolate cake isn’t from Germany. It was named for Sam German, an American who developed a dark baking chocolate in the 1850s.
60. The kiwi fruit, being native to southern China, is China’s national fruit; the US doesn’t have a national fruit but each state has its own fruit.
61. Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of having an empty glass.
62. Leather goods are edible, even when dyed. If you’re stuck somewhere without food, your sneakers will keep you alive a few more days.
63. Grass requires less water and energy to grow than grain, so buy grass-fed beef instead of grain-fed when possible.
64. About 1/3 of the world’s fresh water is used for rice production. Alternative techniques are in development, but in the meantime we can cut back by swapping rice for quinoa (which is healthier, anyway).
65. Due to demand, the Chilean Seabass has been overfished, leading to unsustainable and sometimes illegal harvesting. Don’t support such practices, and avoid Chilean Seabass.
66. Some people buy produce thinking it’s organic because the sign above it says organic, but check the stickers: five digits starting with 8 is code for genetically modified.
67. Shopping farmers’ markets helps reduce fossil fuel usage. The further food has to travel, the more it contributes to climate decline. Get what’s in season in your area.
68. Mercury occurs naturally in the environment, but methylmercury, from industrial runoff, is super toxic; avoid swordfish and king mackerel.
69. White asparagus is a rare delicacy, but it’s easy to do yourself. Asparagus is a very hearty spring veggie, and it gets white by covering the shoots with soil so that they never see the sun. Anyone can grow it! Forget the imports; how much more local can you get?
70. One bushel of corn, processed into high fructose corn syrup, sweetens over 400 cans of Coca Cola.
71. Italy produces nearly 1/3 of the world’s artichokes.
72. Pepsi products are available in every country in the world, except North Korea.
73. Marshmallow candy is around 4,000 years old. It was originally made with sap from the marshmallow plant, mixed with honey and nuts.
74. Ginger has dozens of health benefits, including: clearing the sinuses, relieving nausea, and reducing flatulence.
75. The banana tree isn’t really a fruit tree. It’s a giant herb, and the bananas are the berries.
76. Traditional refried beans aren’t fried at all. The beans are stewed, drained, mashed, then baked.
77. In ancient Egypt, a basket of onions was a respectable funeral offering.
78. Garlic is a natural mosquito and tick repellant.
79. One of caramel’s original uses was not as candy, but as a hair removal product for women in harems.
80. The tradition of serving lemon with fish began in the Middle Ages; it was thought that lemon juice dissolved unintentionally ingested fish bones.
81. Humble pie is more than a colloquialism (eating it means you’re humiliated). In medieval times, it was a real food made with deer innards and other offal.
82. The origin of kissing is thought to be the act of a mother passing chewed food to her weening infant.
83. Eighty million Americans were expected to dine out to celebrate Mother’s Day in 2013.
84. The first food item with a bar code was a pack of Wrigley’s gum.
85. Honey never goes bad. It is naturally preserved. Still-edible forms of honey have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs.
86. Carnations are an edible flower. They are slightly peppery and clove-like.
87. In North America and Oceania, 50% of caught seafood and fish is wasted.
88. Humans have around 7,000 taste buds, but catfish have over 27,000.
89. Cod, tuna, shrimp, and salmon make up 80% of the seafood eaten in the United Kingdom.
90. Recycled aluminum cans are back on the shelf as new cans in the store in as few as 60 days.
91. The term “sushi” refers to vinegared rice and has nothing to do with fish.
92. Hawaii is the only U.S. state that commercially grows coffee beans.
93. Pistachios are called “happy nuts” in China.
94. May 23 is National Chardonnay Day, in celebration of America’s most popular wine.
95. The word “escargot” is not French, but comes from Catalan, a language of northeastern Spain.
96. California is the first ranking dairy state of the country (sorry, Wisconsin!)
97. From medieval times is a dish called “cockentrice.” A pig and a chicken are each cut in half around the armpits, then sewn back together with each other.
98. Among grilled side dishes, corn is the most popular and frequently made.
99. Vegetarian burgers often contain hidden MSG.
100. Veltins-Arena, a soccer stadium in Germany, has a pipeline of beer connecting its bar stations throughout the stadium, totaling over 3 miles of pipes.
101. Popcicles, the original trademarked ice pops, were invented in 1905 by an 11 year old in San Francisco, CA.
102. Cardamom counteracts the effects of caffeine.
103. There’s a big difference between macaroons and macarons, and here’s a trick to remember: The macaroon with double O’s is the one with two cookies sandwiched with a filling.
104. Mayonnaise was invented in Spain, not France (despite the spelling).
105. White wine is produced from white or red grapes, but red wine can be made only from red grapes.
106. In a bowl of water, a fresh egg will sink but an old one will float.
107. In terms of botany, the strawberry is not a berry because it does not have seeds on its inside.
108. Not everyone likes cilantro, but it is sometimes an essential ingredient. A great substitute is Bolivian coriander, which tastes like cilantro + arugula.
109. All dairy products from the European Union are produced without rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone).
110. Other names for licorice root include lickweed and Spanish juice.
111. Corn smut is a fungus that looks like mini mushrooms on the ears of corn. It is edible and used in traditional Mexican cooking.
112. “Brewster” is the correct term to refer to a female beer brewer.
113. Many family recipes for Mexican mole sauce have over 20 ingredients.
114. The first American cookbook was published in 1796.
115. Chinese chopsticks are usually about 10 inches long, while Japanese chopsticks are typically 9 inches long.
116. Saffron crocus flowers do not grow in the wild.
117. Tomatillos are the fruit of a plant in the nightshade family. They are used when green and technically unripe.
118. Sweetbreads are neither sweet nor bread. They are they thymus glands, typically of a calf or lamb.
119. Wheat is cultivated in all but eight US states.
120. The first sushi, narezushi, originated in Southeast Asia before coming to Japan in the 8th century.
121. The sulphur shelf mushroom tastes like chicken. One of its other names is the chicken fungus.
122. Traditional sourdough bread is vegan.
123. The use of cast iron pans in cooking dates back to as early as 206 BC in China.
124. There are nearly as many distinct cheeses in France as there are days in a year.
125. In the summer of 2012, Wendy’s Fast Food in Japan introduced a lobster and caviar burger.
126. Another word for arugula is rocket; both come from Latin, eruca.
127. The most unpopular day to dine out in the United States is Monday.
128. Food has no taste without saliva.
129. Crab feeds are popular fundraisers in California, white in Kentucky, they do burgoo feeds. Burgoo is a stew most often made with mutton, but sometimes with squirrel or possum.
130. The word “ketchup” originates from a Chinese dialect.
131. The refrigerator was invented was to keep beer cold. That was the inventor’s intention.
132. Lobsters and other crustaceans don’t feel pain, so don’t worry, they’re not screaming when you put them in boiling water. That noise is air escaping the stomach through the mouth parts.
133. On July 1, 2013, shark fin became illegal for sale or consumption in California.
134. One in four American adults had their first job in the restaurant industry.
135. Good beef jerky is lean. Fat causes the meat to spoil, so the big-name jerkys with higher fat content require lots of preservatives and additives to keep the meat “fresh.”
136. Many Americans already know George Washington Carver for having promoted the peanut, but few know that he came up with 300 uses for it.
137. Nutmeg can be poisonous in large quantities. Culinary amounts for standard recipes are okay for humans, but are very toxic for pets.
138. July 6 is National Fried Chicken Day.
139. The color orange is named after the fruit.
140. Pickled ginger comes in different colors, depending on the vinegar used.
141. Fresh, raw puffin heart is a delicacy in Iceland.
142. When dropped in a carbonated beverage, a raisin bounces up and down.
143. Heavier lemons have more, and tastier, juice.
144. The blackberry is the official state fruit of both Alabama and Kentucky.
145. The etymology of “saute” is from the French sauter, to jump, referring to how a cook tosses food in the pan.
146. Add a little 7-up soda and a drop of bleach to water for cut flowers in a vase. It will make them last longer.
147. Fried spiders are a popular snack in Cambodia.
148. Peanut butter removes sticker residue from glassware and ceramics.
149. The heaviest carrot on record weighed almost 19 lbs and was grown in Alaska.
150. Lion fish are edible. In fact, we should eat them more because they are an invasive species causing damage in some areas.
151. Red ants and their larvae are used in a number of Thai dishes. The adult ants taste citrusy, while the larvae are buttery.
152. Somalian cuisine has its own version of a pancake, called canjeero. It is food and an eating utensil – pieces are torn off and used to pick up other food.
153. Coffee was discovered in the 8th century in what is now Ethiopia.
154. July 23 is National Hot Dog Day.
155. A picaron is a Peruvian dessert that looks like a donut, but is made with sweet potato and squash.
156. If you spill an egg, pour salt over it. Then it will be easy to wipe up.
157. Garlic is harvested only once a year, late spring to late summer. The garlic you buy in winter and early spring has been in cold storage for months.
158. The difference between ice cream and gelato is air, fat, and serving temperature. Gelato has less fat, less air (making it denser), and is served frozen but not as cold as ice cream.
159. Some say that Cool Whip is a good conditioning hair mask. Leave on for 15 minutes, and rinse very thoroughly.
160. Twinkies were made with banana cream filling prior to World War II.
161. Goat meat has more protein than beef and less fat than chicken.
162. Long ago (before refrigeration) it was believed that oysters were best during months whose English names have R in them, as in not May through August. In reality, this was because it was hard to keep oysters cold during the summer months.
163. Buff Orpington chickens have been known to lay eggs sometimes with triple yolks.
164. The Blue Parrot Fish is a delicacy in Polynesia and is often served raw.
165. The word “companion” is based in the Latin “with bread,” thus it means someone with whom you’d share a meal.
166. Small batch beer, when bottled, needs a tiny bit of sugar added to facilitate carbonation.
167. The largest catfish caught on record was in northern Thailand and weighed 646 lbs.
168. Corn meal is a natural ant killer, as ants can’t digest corn and it swells inside them when they eat it.
169. Ounce for ounce, chili peppers have more vitamin C than oranges.
170. Potatoes are grown in every state of the U.S.
171. The outboard motor came into existence because its inventor was inspired after rowing across a lake on a hot day to get ice cream for his girlfriend.
172. The word “zucchini” is from the Italian word “zucca,” meaning squash. Zucchini was brought to the US by Italian immigrants less than a century ago.
173. Make tea from dried basil leafs or chew fresh ones to help alleviate colds and coughing.
174. Dr. Pepper is the oldest American soda brand that is still in production. It’s older than Coca Cola by 5 months.
175. At one time in food history, mustard was formed into balls with honey or vinegar and a little cinnamon for storage until later use.
176. It takes over 40 gallons of raw maple syrup to produce 1 gallon of natural Grade A syrup.
177. Azodicarbonamide is an ingredient in McDonald’s McRib bun. It’s also used to make yoga mats.
178. Now super rare to find but once the only way they were sold in the US, tortillas used to be canned.
179. Human taste buds last about 10 days; they constantly regenerate.
180. There are more chickens in the world than people.
181. A common street food in the Philippines is balut, a live and developing duck egg that has been boiled to be eaten out of its shell.
182. Tea bags were invented in 1908, and they were first made of silk.
183. The can opener was invented about 50 years after the can (for food storage) was invented. Before the can opener, people used hammers and chisels.
184. There are around 1,000 types of banana plants in the world, but the great majority produce fruit that is unpalatable.
185. Saltpeter (potassium nitrate), a key component in ammunition and fireworks, has also been used as a food preservative since the Middle Ages.
186. A 250 lb. pig can yield just over 20 lb. of bacon.
187. The first food eaten on the Moon was a communion wafer.
188. Popcorn has been a popular food for at least 4,000 years.
189. Ten radishes of average size have less than ten calories.
190. The cashew tree, from which we get cashew nuts, is native to northern Brazil. It was brought to the rest of the world by Portuguese explorers.
191. When selling raccoon meat for human consumption, hunters and trappers have etiquette: they skin the raccoon, but leave at least one paw on so the buyer knows he’s getting a raccoon and not a cat.
192. The white stringy bits in an egg white are called chalazae (Latin plural of chalaza).
193. January 15, 1919 was the Great Molasses Flood in Boston, when a molasses storage tank burst and 21 people perished in the 35 mph wave.
194. An ice cream sundae is a sweet dessert, while sundae in Korean cuisine is a type of blood sausage.
195. In the western US during the 1840s-1850s, another word for food was “chuck.” Thus, the “chuck wagon” was the wagon that carried the provisions for the westward travelers.
196. From colonial times until the mid-1800s in the US, lobster was considered poor man’s food and was served regularly to prisoners.
197. Bruges, Belgium is home to the world’s first museum devoted to fried potatoes, the Frietmuseum.
198. The most popular day for buying candy in the United States is October 28.
199. Laws in the European Union maintain that, in order for feta cheese to be called “feta,” it must be made with a minimum of 70% sheep milk, up to 30% goat milk, and zero cow milk.
200. Watermelons will not fruit without the help of bees.
201. The most popular day in American history for pizza delivery was when the OJ Simpson car chase was being broadcast live on television.
202. Napoleon offered a reward (equivalent to $250,000 today) to anyone who could find the best way to preserve food for his troops.
203. In 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease for the St. James’s Gate Brewery (where Guinness is made).
204. September 18 is National Cheeseburger Day.
205. If you ever noticed that some of the mussels you eat have orange-colored meat and some have pale white meat, don’t worry, they haven’t gone bad. The orange ones are female and the pale are male.
206. In Sweden one should eat surströmming outside. This fermented sour Baltic herring smells so bad, it’s the only polite thing to do.
207. The singular of tamales is technically tamal. Tamale is an Americanization of the word.
208. An early Colonial version of pumpkin pie called for hollowing out the pumpkin, filling it with milk, honey, and spices, and baking it in hot ashes.
209. Guinea pigs never existed in the wild. A few millennia ago, Andean indigenous peoples bred these domesticated rodent hybrids to be a food source.
210. Yang Liwei, the first man sent into space by the Chinese space program, ate kung pao chicken and eight treasures rice while in orbit.
211. The phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread” refers to 1927, when Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Iowa invented the commercial automatic bread slicer.
212. Beets contain glycine betaine, an amino acid that contributes to mental relaxation and a sense of well being.
213. Artificially carbonated water has been available since 1767, but naturally carbonated water had been enjoyed since forever.
214. Many fast food and chain restaurants add sugar to their french fries, to give them that perfect golden color when fried.
215. Pomegranate rinds can be used in the process of tanning leather.
216. When you see “Jamaica” at a Mexican restaurant, it has nothing to do with the island. This is a delicious hibiscus flower iced tea, pronounced “ha-MY-ca.”
217. During WWII in England, when bananas were one of many rationed foods, they were replaced with “mock bananas” made with boiled parsnips or turnips, sugar, and banana flavoring.
218. Pastrami was created as a means to preserve meat before modern refrigeration.
219. Pumpkin is the state fruit of New Hampshire.
220. Root beer was one of the original Kool-Aid flavors.
221. James Garfield, the 20th president of the United States, was particularly fond of squirrel soup.
222. There are more than 9,000 Indian restaurants in the United Kingdom.
223. Instead of having cake for a birthday treat, one tradition of India is to eat a type of rice pudding called doodh pak.
224. President Nixon banned soup from being served at state dinners. He was afraid he’d dribble on himself in front of others.
225. The world’s largest lasagna on record weighed 5.29 tons.
226. Most shrimp are born male and then switch to female at some point in their lives.
227. Buckwheat is in the rhubarb family.
228. In Japan you can buy beer from vending machines for about $2 each (150-200 yen).
229. Cassava, also known as yucca root, contains cyanide when raw; processed appropriately it’s edible.
230. If you knick yourself in the kitchen, sprinkle a little ground black pepper over the cut and apply pressure. The bleeding will stop.
231. The world’s largest ice cream truck has tires that are 5 feet tall.
232. It is illegal to eat fried chicken with a fork in Gainesville, Georgia. The law is not enforced, but some locals think it should be.
233. A greeting in English is “How are you?”. In Cantonese, the standard greeting is “Have you eaten rice yet?”.
234. Juniper berries are not really berries. They are actually a type of pine cone.
235. In French and Dutch, the word for “potato” literally translates to English as “earth apple.”
236. The current record for the fastest time to drink an entire 22 oz. Slurpee is 9 seconds.
237. From 1838-1839, Mexico and France fought what came to be known as the Pastry War. France won.
238. In Scotland, another word for cabbage is bowkail.
239. Dr. William A. Mitchell was the key inventor behind Tang, Pop Rocks, Cool Whip, and powdered egg whites, among his 70+ patents.
240. Birds are not affected by the capsaicin in chili pepper seeds but mammals are. So, to keep those pesky squirrels from eating the seeds you feed your wild birds, add a handful of dried chili pepper seeds.
241. Salt water taffy is not made with any salt water, but it does contain salt and water.
242. Twenty million pounds of candy corn, the top selling Halloween candy, are eaten annually in the United States.