To these we must add wild parsnip used by the Indian shamans – it now yields a drug active against pneumonia and meningitis. Curare, once used for poisoning arrows, is now used routinely to relax muscle tension when doctors operate. There is a yam (sweet potato) from the tropics that yields a drug for arthritis. Angels’ trumpet or Daturia yields a poultice for blood poisoning, widely used until we got the sulphas and penicillin.
Professor Pohorecky did not mention any of the flowers whose seeds are “big business” all over Europe and North America. The list would include at least these: petunias, nicotiana, dahlia (whose tubers the Indians used as food), canna lilies, papayas, Kalmia, verbena marigold (all of the “French” and African kinds, not the “pot marigold” or calendula) fuchsias, scarlet sage, salpiglossis, Browallia, cup flower, morning glory, cypress vine, spider flower or Cleomia, nasturtium, tiger flower or tigridia, cosmos, zinnia, and poinsettia, California poppies, and many varieties of cacti.
Among the vegetables, the sweet red and green peppers are important ingredients in many dishes around the world. The hot peppers appear in almost every cuisine now, but were unknown outside of North America until the 1500’s. The potato is rated as the most important single vegetable in the world. What would cooks do without tomatoes, another North American plant? North American Indians introduced cranberries along with turkeys – think of the commercial value of the saskatoon berries in the pemmican that kept the fur traders going!
We could go on and on – but meanwhile, just consider how many gaps there would be in our supermarket shelves if all of the things that the Indians showed to the white “discoverers” were suddenly taken away!