10 Weird-but-true Food Facts

A Food by Any Other Name
Chinese gooseberry just doesn't have the same ring as a Kiwi kiwifruits. Neil Farrin/AWL Images/Getty Images

Foods are known by many names. Some refer to subtle distinctions, as coriander and cilantro refer to the seeds and the vegetative pieces, respectively, of the Coriandrum sativum plant. Others might reveal cases of mistaken identity, as when many Americans each Thanksgiving mislabel sweet potatoes as yams, when in fact they are two separate plants [source: North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission].

Then there are those foods that assume new monikers for marketing purposes. Canola (a portmanteau of "Canada " and "ola" for oil) is actually a specially bred rapeseed oil rebranded to avoid negative associations with the word "rape" (rape, or Brassica napus, is a plant in the mustard family) and possibly to distance it from earlier versions of rapeseed oil, which were toxic to humans [source: Mikkelson]. Kiwifruit is not from New Zealand at all -- it's a Chinese gooseberry rebranded by exporters to avoid negative associations in Cold War American markets. It's also not a gooseberry, so it's just as well that they changed its label [source: Ministry for Culture and Heritage].

The Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) was renamed "Chilean sea bass" to better whet customer appetites and was so successful that it now faces overfishing, despite not being a sea bass at all [source: Fabricant]. For similar reasons, restaurant customers now know the "slimehead" (Hoplostethus atlanticus) as the far more appealing "orange roughy" [source: Allen].

A rose is a rose is a rose, but cheap hake sells better as scarlet snapper [source: Jacquet and Pauly].

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