20 Foods You Might Not Know Were Named After Places

iStock.com/FotografiaBasica
iStock.com/FotografiaBasica

Back in the days before supermarkets and microwaves, foods were frequently named for the places they were grown, manufactured, or produced. While most people know that European wines and cheeses are often named for their place of origin, here are a number of other less-expected foods that can also be traced back to a spot on the map.

1. LIMA BEANS

From the capital of Peru, wouldn't you know.

2. FIG NEWTON

Nope, they’re not named after Sir Isaac. The cookies were originally named for Newton, Massachusetts, not far from the town of Cambridge where they were originally produced in the 1890s. The Kennedy Biscuit Company named many of their products after surrounding towns, including cookies and crackers called Shrewsbusy, Harvard, and Beacon Hill, which were apparently less popular.

3. MONTEREY JACK 

Monterey Jack was first made in Monterey, California, by the dairyman and reportedly brutal landlord David Jack. Other cheeses named for places include Colby (Wisconsin); Manchego (produced in the La Mancha region of Spain); Asiago, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano (from locations in Italy); Munster, Camembert, Brie, Roquefort (sites in France); Edam and Gouda (places in the Netherlands); and Cheddar and Stilton (locations in England). 

4. VICHYSSOISE SOUP

A soup honoring Vichy, France, created by Ritz-Carlton chef Louis Diat in New York, and modeled on the potato-and-leek soups his mother made him while Diat was growing up in France.

5. PEACH

Native to China but named for Persia, where Europeans first encountered it. According to John Ayto’s Glutton’s Glossary, in Greek the fruit was called melon persikon, and in Latin malum persicum, both meaning “Persian apple.” In post-classical times the Latin term became persicum, which eventually evolved into peach.

6. MARTINI

By some accounts, the eternally chic drink was named for the Californian town of Martinez. However, others say the name relates to a New York bartender with the name. Whatever the origin, the moniker more recently relates to Italian manufacturers of vermouth Martini and Rossi. 

7. CURRANT

Originally called raysons of coraunce (with various spellings) in English, a name derived from the Old French raisins de Corinthe, or “raisins of Corinth”—as in Corinth, Greece. 

8. WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE

According to Ayto’s book, the 19th century in England was full of retired military men attempting to recreate the pungent sauces they’d encountered during their travels abroad. One of the few of these attempts to survive to the present was supposedly concocted by a Sir Marcus Sandys out of vinegar, molasses, garlic, shallots, tamarinds, and various spices. Sandys supposedly took it to his local grocers in Worcester, England—a shop named Lea and Perrins—who began manufacturing it commercially as Worcestershire sauce in the 1830s.

9. PHEASANT

From the Greek for "Phasian bird," a reference to the Phasis River in present-day Georgia, where the fowl were plentiful. 

10. CANTALOUPE

Said to have been first cultivated in Cantalupo, Italy, which was supposedly the site of a papal summer residence. However, this oft-repeated etymology might not be as straightforward as it seems: In Toponymity: An Atlas of Words, author John Bemelmans Marciano notes that there at least 10 towns named Cantalupo in Italy (and similarly named towns in France), none of which have ever been the site of the pope’s summer home. So the true origin of the delicious salmon-colored melon remains somewhat mysterious.

11. SARDINES

Said to have been named after the island of Sardinia, where they are plentiful in nearby waters. 

12. SATSUMA

From the former province of Kyushu, Japan, where the small, seedless orange was first grown. 

13. SCALLIONS

From “onions of Ascalon,” a former Philistine city that is now Ashkelon, Israel. 

14. SHERRY

Sherry was originally a fortified wine made in the southwest Spanish town now known as Jerez. According to Ayto’s Glutton’s Glossary, in the 16th and 17th centuries the town name was spelled Xeres and pronounced, more or less, as sheris. The type of strong white wine, or sack, produced there was known as sherris sack. As the 17th century progressed, the references to sack were dropped, as was the final s, and the drink became known as sherry.

Of course, sherry is far from the only alcoholic topononym. In Toponymity, Marciano notes that practically every type of alcohol is named for a place. Pilsen and Budweis are towns in the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic, while Chablis, Bordeaux, Gamay, and Chardonnay are all French towns or villages; both Burgundy and Champagne are regions. Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados are all brandies as well as places in France. Madeira, Port, Amontillado, and Marsala are fortified wines that come from Spanish toponyms. Bourbon is a county in Kentucky, and Tequila a town in Mexico. Curaçao is also both a country and a liquor. Then of course there's Scotch, which is both derived from a toponym in general and when it comes to specific varieties such as Glenlivet and Glenfiddich, "which come from the narrow valleys—or glens—of the Rivers Livet and Fiddich," as Marciano noes.

Even Evian water comes from Évian-les-Bains, France, and San Pellegrino from San Pellegrino Terme, Italy.

15. CARRAGEEN

A type of edible seaweed (also called Irish Moss) named for Carragheen near Waterford in Ireland. 

16. MAYONNAISE

The etymology is disputed, but some French sources say the sauce was named “in recognition of Mahon, seaport capital of island of Minorca, captured by France [in] 1756 after the defeat of the British defending fleet in the Seven Years' War.”

17. TANGERINE

Originally tangerine orange, meaning "an orange from Tangier," as in the place in Morocco. 

18. WIENER/WIENER SCHNITZEL

Both from Vienna.

19. QUINCE

Originally Greek kydonion malon "apple of Kydonia,” a seaport in Crete. 

20. ROMAINE

As in lettuce, from Rome.  

This Innovative Cutting Board Takes the Mess Out of Meal Prep

There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
TidyBoard, Kickstarter

Transferring food from the cutting board to the bowl—or scraps to the compost bin—can get a little messy, especially if you’re dealing with something that has a tendency to roll off the board, spill juice everywhere, or both (looking at you, cherry tomatoes).

The TidyBoard, available on Kickstarter, is a cutting board with attached containers that you can sweep your ingredients right into, taking the mess out of meal prep and saving you some counter space in the process. The board itself is 15 inches by 20 inches, and the container that fits in its empty slot is 14 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and more than 4 inches deep. Two smaller containers fit inside the large one, making it easy to separate your ingredients.

Though the 4-pound board hangs off the edge of your counter, good old-fashioned physics will keep it from tipping off—as long as whatever you’re piling into the containers doesn’t exceed 9 pounds. It also comes with a second set of containers that work as strainers, so you can position the TidyBoard over the edge of your sink and drain excess water or juice from your ingredients as you go.

You can store food in the smaller containers, which have matching lids; and since they’re all made of BPA-free silicone, feel free to pop them in the microwave. (Remove the small stopper on top of the lid first for a built-in steaming hole.)

tidyboard storage containers
They also come in gray, if teal isn't your thing.
TidyBoard

Not only does the bamboo-made TidyBoard repel bacteria, it also won’t dull your knives or let strong odors seep into it. In short, it’s an opportunity to make cutting, cleaning, storing, and eating all easier, neater, and more efficient. Prices start at $79, and it’s expected to ship by October 2020—you can find out more details and order yours on Kickstarter.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Vermont Just Banned Residents From Throwing Food Scraps in the Trash

Compost is delicious trash salad for your soil.
Compost is delicious trash salad for your soil.
svetikd/iStock via Getty Images

Any Vermont resident who has carelessly tossed a watermelon rind into the trash bin this month is technically a lawbreaker.

On July 1, the state passed its Food Scraps Ban, which mandates that all leftover food either be composted or donated. Not only does this include inedible scraps like pits, seeds, coffee grounds, and bones, but also anything still left on your plate after a meal—pizza crusts, for example, or the square of Spam casserole your grandmother served before you could politely decline.

“If it was once part of something alive, like a plant or animal, it does not belong in the landfill,” Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation says on its website.

While it might seem like a drastic policy, Vermont has been laying the groundwork—and developing the infrastructure to maintain it—for years. In 2012, the legislature unanimously passed the Universal Recycling Law, which mapped out a step-by-step plan to cut down on landfill waste. Over the years, recyclables, yard debris, and now food scraps have all been banned from landfills [PDF]. To help residents abide by the restrictions, trash haulers have begun to offer pick-up services for the entire range of materials, and the state has budgeted around $970,000 in grant money for compost collection and processing facilities.

According to Fast Company, Vermont officials are hopeful this latest policy will help them hit their long-standing goal of reducing landfill waste by 50 percent; until now, they’ve only been able to achieve a 36-percent decrease. And it’s not just about saving space in landfills. Food decomposes more slowly in landfills, and the process produces methane—a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Composting those scraps enriches the soil (and keeps garbage from smelling so putrid, too).

As for enforcing the Food Scraps Ban, they’re relying on the honor code.

“People say, ‘What does this mean with a food waste ban? [Are] people going to be out there looking in my garbage for my apple cores?'” Josh Kelly, materials management section chief at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, told Fast Company. “That’s not the intent of this.”

The lack of consequences might diminish the efficacy of such a law in a different state, but maybe not in eco-friendly Vermont: According to a University of Vermont study, 72 percent of Vermonters already composted or fed food scraps to their animals before the Food Scraps Ban took effect.

Though Vermont is the only state so far to enact an outright ban on trashing food scraps, you don’t have to wait for your state to follow suit to make a change. Here’s a beginner’s guide to composting at home from the Environmental Protection Agency.

[h/t Fast Company]