You’ve heard of New England, the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest. But the United States has several more interesting regions—including some that sound downright delicious. Food has inspired the monikers of many geographic locations in this agriculturally rich country.
Hungry to learn more? We’re ready to dish out some fun facts about these food-inspired names and places.
1. The Pierogi Pocket
Pierogis are dumplings with various fillings tucked into a doughy pocket—and it turns out this Eastern European delicacy has a pocket of its own in the U.S. The Pierogi Pocket includes the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and a sprinkling of some other cities in the Midwest. These regions are responsible for 68 percent of American pierogi consumption.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the unofficial heart of pierogi-land. There, you can enjoy a pierogi festival, a pierogi road trip, and the Great Pittsburg Pierogi Race, which takes place after the fifth inning of every Pirates game.
2. The Corn Belt
If you enjoy your succotash, cornbread, and corn on the cob, you can thank the Corn Belt, which produces 10 billion bushels of corn each year. The region is predominantly in the Midwest—the top-producing states are Iowa and Illinois—though some lump corn growers in Texas into it as well. The area has led corn production in the U.S. since the 1850s.
The fields of the Corn Belt take up land equivalent to more than 69 million football fields. The region is so expansive it even makes its own weather systems, with the crops changing the rainfall levels and temperature trends.
3. The Wheat Belt
About three-quarters of U.S. grain products are made from wheat flour—so it’s a good thing Americans have the great Wheat Belt to depend on. This region extends along a north-south axis from central Alberta, Canada, to central Texas, and is split into winter wheat and spring wheat areas. The top wheat-growing states are Kansas (7.3 million acres), North Dakota (6.5 million acres), Montana (5.5 million acres), and Texas (5.5 million acres).
The state of Kansas alone grows enough wheat to bake 36 billion loaves of bread. That’s enough to feed everyone in the world (more than 6 billion people) for two weeks!
4. The Borscht Belt
The Borscht Belt refers to the now-obsolete summer resorts of the Catskills Mountains in upstate New York. It was a popular holiday destination from the 1930s to the 1960s for members of the Jewish community, who were at the time unwelcome at many resorts in the U.S. The name is a nod to the Eastern European soup made of beetroot.
At its prime, the region was a thriving destination with more than 500 resorts; one of them actually inspired the hit 1987 film Dirty Dancing. Sadly, most of the resorts of the once-bustling region have since been abandoned.
5. The Pretzel Belt
The Pretzel Belt is a region in central southeastern Pennsylvania, centered around the town of Hanover, that’s known for a large concentration of pretzel and snack food manufacturers—the area has even been dubbed the “Snack Capital of the World.” It produces 80 percent of the pretzels consumed in the U.S. Some of the companies serving up the salty treats in the Pretzel Belt include the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, which has been in operation since 1861 and was the first pretzel maker in the country; Snyder’s of Hanover; and Martin’s Potato Chips.
6. The Jell-O Belt
Where do people consume the most Jell-O per capita than any other place in the U.S.? Why, in the Jell-O Belt, obviously! The Jell-O Belt covers Utah and some parts other neighboring states with significant populations of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In 1999, when Iowa beat out Utah for the most Jell-O consumption, students at Brigham Young University launched a “Take Back the Title” campaign to propel their state back into first place. Government officials were equally on board with Jell-O love, signing a 2001 resolution making the food Utah’s official state snack.
The sweet treat was even honored with an official pin design for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics; it featured a bowl of green Jell-O, representing Utah’s most beloved dessert, in the most popular flavor—lime.
7. The Banana Belts
A banana belt has nothing to do with actual bananas: It refers to segments of a region that enjoy warmer weather conditions than the region as a whole. This geographic phenomenon typically occurs when air rises over the top of a mountain range through orographic lift and warms up as it’s pulled down the other side.
There are many places in the U.S. where you can find these so-called banana belts. They include much of North Dakota’s southwestern region; the south coast of Oregon; Tobacco Valley, Montana; and Dubois, Wyoming; among others. There is one U.S. banana belt that stands out from the rest: Farmers in the banana belt of Ventura County, California, actually grow bananas.
8. The Maple Belt
Most of the world’s maple syrup comes from the Maple Belt, which includes the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, as well as parts of the northern U.S. including New England, Western New York, and parts of the Midwest. The sweet sap was known and valued by theEastern Woodlands Indigenous peoples—who traditionally lived in the areas east of the Mississippi River and south of Canada’s subarctic boreal forests—long before the arrival of European settlers. Today, the province of Quebec is by far the largest producer of maple syrup, but in the U.S., the state of Vermont produces most of the sweet, sticky substance, followed by New York and Maine.
9. The Fruit Belts
As the name suggests, fruit belts are regions where significant quantities of fruits grow. In the U.S., some of the main fruit belts are located around the Great Lakes. Fruits thrive in these agricultural regions because of fertile soil, low elevation, and their microclimates. One of the largest fruit belts is in the state of Michigan, which is known for its abundant apple production.
Another is on the shores of Lake Erie. The area was covered with glaciers during the ice age; when the glaciers receded, they left behind rich soil favorable for growing fruits. The top crop around Lake Erie is grapes, making it a premier wine-producing area.