Which country eats poison mushrooms, what nation drinks the most coffee, and where was a single watermelon once sold for $6100? The answers might surprise you. From deadly dishes to outrageously expensive fruits, here are 10 incredible facts about food consumption around the world.
1. INDIA PRODUCES, CONSUMES, AND EXPORTS THE MOST CHILI PEPPERS IN THE WORLD.
While chili peppers aren’t native to India—they were introduced to India by the Portuguese in the 15th century—Indian consumers have fully embraced the spicy plants. Not only do Indians grow and eat more chili peppers than any other nation in the world, but they also have some of the spiciest peppers: The bhut jolokia (also known as the “ghost chili”) is grown in Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur and is said to be 400 times hotter than the average hot sauce.
2. ITALY DIDN’T START EATING TOMATOES UNTIL THE 16TH CENTURY.
Though today Italy is famous for its delicious tomato sauces, Italian chefs didn’t start experimenting with the tomato until the 16th century. Imported from the Americas starting in the early 1500s, tomatoes were originally thought to be poisonous and were used solely as decorations. While some Italian chefs may have started experimenting with tomatoes as a food as early as the 1500s, tomato sauce didn’t start to catch on in Italy until the late 17th century.
3. CASSAVA IS THE THIRD MOST POPULAR CARBOHYDRATE IN THE WORLD.
Cassava might not be the most popular dish in the United States, but after rice and wheat, the starchy root veggie is the third most important source of carbohydrates globally. A staple food in many African nations, cassava (also known as manioc, tapioca, and yuca) can be eaten like a potato, ground into flour, or used to make the tapioca balls found in many puddings and teas.
4. JAPAN, SCANDINAVIA, AND NAMIBIA ARE JUST A FEW PLACES THAT SERVE UP POTENTIALLY DEADLY CUISINES.
Many nations serve up delicacies that, if prepared incorrectly, can be deadly. In Japan, a puffer fish dinner can paralyze and asphyxiate diners when prepared wrong, while the brain mushroom, which is popular throughout Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and the Great Lakes region of North America can be fatal if eaten raw. In Namibia, meanwhile, the adult giant bullfrog is considered a delicious delicacy—but young giant bullfrogs, eaten before they reach maturity, carry a toxin that can cause kidney failure.
5. FORTY-NINE PERCENT OF AMERICA EATS A SANDWICH EVERY DAY.
While the United States has plenty of culinary diversity, the sandwich may be the most popular dish nation-wide. According to one 2014 study, on average, 49 percent of Americans over 20 eat one sandwich every day. But the sandwich wasn’t always so beloved. During the Revolutionary War, many Americans avoided sandwiches, along with other foods of British origin. Though sandwiches were popular in England throughout the eighteenth century, the first sandwich recipe didn’t appear in an American cookbook until 1815.
6. JAPAN IS HOME TO SOME OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE FRUITS…
Japan isn’t the only country that produces rare and expensive fruits, but it does seem to be home to some of the priciest. On separate occasions, fruit growers in Japan have auctioned off a single 17-pound Densuke watermelon for 650,000 yen (approximately $6100), a bunch of Ruby Roman grapes for $6400, and a pair of Yubari King Melons for a whopping $23,500.
7. … AND SERBIA IS HOME TO THE MOST EXPENSIVE CHEESE.
Made from donkey milk at a single location in Serbia, Pule is the most expensive cheese in the world by a significant margin. While extremely fancy cheeses around the world can go for several hundred dollars per pound (one British cheese, made with edible gold flakes, is sold for $450), Serbia’s Pule has all of them beat, at $576 per pound—and that’s at a discount. The cheese is so incredibly rare and its creation so labor intensive, its creators believe they could realistically sell it for $1700 to $2900 per pound. Instead, they sell it for a mere $576, hoping to raise awareness about the conservation work they do.
8. TURKEY CONSUMES THE MOST TEA PER PERSON …
While China consumes more tea overall than any other country (at approximately 1.6 billion pounds a year), as of 2014, Turkey drank the most tea per capita, at a whopping 6.961 pounds per person per year. In that same report, Ireland and England came in second and third place respectively at a comparatively tiny 4.831 and 4.281 pounds per person.
9. …AND THE NETHERLANDS DRINKS THE MOST COFFEE.
People in the Netherlands take their daily caffeine fix seriously: At 2.414 cups per day per capita, they’re the number one coffee consumers in the world. Finland and Sweden are the second biggest coffee fanatics, at 1.848 and 1.357 cups per day. Surprisingly, the United States doesn’t even make the top 10 when it comes to daily coffee consumption. At just 0.931 cups per day (according to a 2014 report), the United States is only the 16th biggest coffee drinking nation in the world (right after New Zealand).
10. POPCORN ISN’T THE DEFAULT MOVIE THEATER SNACK EVERYWHERE.
If you live in the United States, there’s a good chance you think of popcorn and movies as a natural pairing. But popcorn isn’t the default movie theater snack everywhere. In Colombia, dried ants are a popular popcorn alternative, while Korean moviegoers enjoy snacking on a bag of dried cuttlefish. Chinese cinephiles opt for dried salted plums.