How Columbus Changed the New World

1st Voyage: Columbus brings sweet potatoes and hot peppers back to Europe.

2nd voyage: Columbus returns to Hispaniola with cuttings and seeds for wheat, chickpeas, onions, garlic, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, beets, radishes, spinach, lettuce, melons, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, peaches, pears, apricots, almonds, sugar cane cherries and figs. Many of these Old World plants (which themselves had origins in Asia and Africa) adapted well and quickly. Sugar cane became a staple of the islands’ economies. Columbus also brought cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens. Prior to these animals, dogs and turkeys were the only two forms of domesticated animals  in much of Central America.

3rd voyage, 1498: Columbus lands an expedition in Venezuela, South America. This trip marks the era of the Columbian Exchange; or the movement of people, culture, goods, ideas, crops, and cuisine across the the New and Old Worlds.

Maize was exported to Europe. Potatoes travelled to Ireland, Russia, and later Nepal. Sweet potatoes, hot peppers, and pineapples journeyed to Asia and the Pacific islands. Hot peppers and peanuts landed in India. South American maize, yuca, sweet potatoes, peanuts, pineapples and other fruits appeared in Africa. Europe received chocolate, vanilla, squash, lima beans, green beans, red and green peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, turkey, and tapioca.

The Columbian Exchange (Attribution: C.Hwa,

Although potatoes and tomatoes have long since become a part of international cuisine, Europeans rejected them at first. Since these crops are members of the Night Shade family, Old World inhabitants considered them poisonous and were afraid to eat them.


Janer, Zilkia. Latino Food Culture. Greenwood, 2008. Food Cultures in America. EBSCOhost,

Kijac, Maria Baez. The South American Table: The Flavor and Soul of Authentic Home Cooking from Patagonia to Rio de Janeiro, with 450 Recipes. The Harvard Common Press, 2003.