Friday, March 4, 2011

Ancient Food Preservation

Food preservation is as old as human civilization. Preservation of foods inhibits spoilage cause by bacterial growth, oxidation, insects or desiccation.

Early humans, probably by trial and error, also started to develop basic forms of food preservation, which possible also made safer, e.g. drying, salting, fermentation.

The Chinese reportedly preserved vegetables by fermentation in prehistoric times and Plinius preserved white cabbage in earthenware pots in Italy in the first century AD.

The earliest recorded instances of food preservation date back to ancient Egypt and the drying of grains and subsequent storage in seal silos.

The stored grain could be kept for several years to insure against famine in case the Nile River flooded.

Fermentation, oil packing, pickling, salting, and smoking are all ancient preservation technologies.

Refrigeration in caves or under cool water were also well known ancient techniques of food preservation.

People in many parts of the world developed techniques for drying and smoking foods as far as 6000 BC. Microorganism need water to carry out their metabolic processes.

Salting was so important in Roman life that Roman soldiers received “salarium,” or salt, as payment. This is the origin of today’s term, ‘salary.’

Ancient Mesoamericans used salt as a preservative for trade in fish and other food stuff over long distances, as well as for storing food for long periods of time.

Since Phoenician times (from around 1250 BC) the standard practice for preserving fish was to gut it, dry it and pack it in layers with salt.
Ancient Food Preservation

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