Fruitful Immigration: How 5 Fruits Settled Their Way to the UK

Apr 28, 2023

Discover the origins and impact of five migrant fruits that have become staples in the UK. From banana to kiwifruit, every fruit has a unique story to tell.

As you sink your teeth into a juicy peach or savour the tartness of a ripe banana, have you ever stopped to think about where these fruits came from? Many of the fruits we enjoy in Britain today are actually immigrants - either from centuries ago or more recently. These globetrotting fruits have travelled far and wide, crossing borders and oceans to end up in our fruit bowls. But what would the UK's food scene look like without them? Join us as we explore the fascinating histories of five immigrant fruits that have made the UK their home and how they've enriched our taste buds and our culture.

1. Banana

Photo credit: Everyday Health

Bananas are the royalty of fruits, with a history that dates back 10,000 years! First cultivated in Southeast Asia, bananas made their way to the Americas through European settlers before finally arriving in the UK with botanist and merchant Thomas Johnson. Now, bananas are a staple in British kitchens and an essential ingredient in everything from smoothies to banana bread. But what if they had never made it to the UK?

Without bananas, the UK would lose an important source of potassium, which is essential for regulating blood pressure and heart function. The absence of bananas would also leave a gaping hole in British cuisine, depriving us of the sweet taste and creamy texture that we have grown to love. Can you even imagine a world without banana splits or banana cream pie? The country of Ecuador would also suffer, as they provide 30% of the world's banana supply. It's safe to say that a world without bananas would be a less flavorful and less healthy place.

Try this out: Banana hazelnut shortbread by Nigel Slater

2. Avocado

Photo credit: Eating Well

Avocados, originally known as "ahuacatl" in their native Mexico, may have arrived in the UK in the late 17th century. However, it wasn't until the 2010s that they rose to prominence as a superfood. With their buttery texture and tropical taste, avocados quickly became a staple among health-conscious millennials. However, it took some time for the avocado to catch on, with confused Brits initially referring to the fruit as the "avocado pear" or "alligator pear."

Without avocados, breakfasts in the UK would be much duller, and cafes in London would be among the first to rebel against an avocado shortage. Not to mention, the absence of avocados would mean saying goodbye to guacamole and all the delicious ways we use them, from topping our toast to adding some zest to our salads. It's clear that without avocados, the UK would be a less exciting and less healthy place.

Maybe your next favourite: Guacamole recipe by Aarón Sanchez!

3. Lemon

Photo credit: Reader's Digest

The origin of lemons may be a mystery, but their tart and tangy taste has been beloved for centuries. While food historian Clifford A. Wright argued lemon may have originated from India, it was the Crusaders who discovered them in Palestine and brought them to Europe, where they were eventually cultivated in the Azores before being shipped to England in the 15th century.

Without lemons, the UK would lose an essential ingredient in many of our favourite dishes, from lemon cheesecake to lemonade. The absence of lemons would also make it harder to flavour our water or add some zest to our meals. We have the Crusaders to thank for introducing us to this versatile fruit, and it's clear that a world without lemons would be a less flavorful place.

The Crusaders do deserve a thank you on this occasion!

Your tastebud might like this: Gnudi with chilli & crisp lemon skin by Ottolenghi

4. Tomato

Photo credit: Healthline

Tomatoes may have been eaten by the Aztecs in 700 AD, but it wasn't until the 1590s that they were first grown in Britain. Europeans were initially scared of the fruit, calling it the "poison apple" due to the reaction it had with pewter plates. However, as they started using the right plates, tomatoes became a beloved British staple.

Without tomatoes, the UK would lose a key ingredient in many of our favourite meals, from curries to stews. Pizza lovers would be left to ponder what would happen if there was no tomato paste, and we would be deprived of the delicious taste of sun-ripened tomatoes in our salads. The absence of tomatoes would also leave a gaping hole in British cuisine and make it harder to enjoy the flavours we love. It's clear that without tomatoes, the UK would be a less flavorful and less exciting place.

Give it a try: Tomato and fried bread hash by Nigella Lawson

5. Kiwifruit

Photo credit: Fruit Runner

Kiwifruit, also known as the Chinese gooseberry, was actually brought over from China in the 20th century, contrary to popular belief that it's from New Zealand. British and American soldiers stationed in New Zealand during World War II loved eating the fruit and introduced it to their countries. In the UK, kiwifruit is a popular addition to fruit salads, smoothies, and desserts and is packed with vitamins. It can even be grown in the UK under the right conditions. With over 400 varieties of kiwi in the world, each with its unique taste and texture, it's no wonder the fruit has become a staple in many households.

If the UK were without kiwifruit, the culinary landscape would be dramatically different. Fruit salads would lack the unique tanginess and texture that kiwi brings, while smoothies would be less vibrant and nutritious. The absence of kiwi could also impact the economy as the demand for this fruit continues to grow worldwide. It's safe to say that the UK would be a duller, less healthy, and less economically prosperous place without kiwifruit.

Now this looks interesting: Stir-fried kiwi chicken by Geri (Spring Tomorrow)