This article, by examining the genetic, iconographical, historical, and linguistic evidence, supports the argument that the cultivated artichoke ( Cynara cardunculus L. var. scolymus (L.) Fiori) developed from the cardoon ( C. cardunculus L. var. altilis DC) and that the artichoke was unknown in the Greco-Roman world and was most probably developed by Arab or Arab-Sicilian horticulturalists in the early medieval period——that is, between the seventh and tenth centuries A.D., probably in Sicily. The article considers genetic variability and the relationships between cultivars and wild taxa, as well as the problem of synonymy, the fact that a plant can take different names according to where it is cultivated. The article examines both classical Latin and medieval Arab and European writers who wrote about artichokes or cardoons and explores the linguistic problems associated with those plants' Arabic or Persian names.
The medieval spice trade between the eleventh and the sixteenth centuries made Europe wealthy. Black pepper was the most important spice in this trade, and if it was most important because of its piquancy, and the evidence indicates as much, then the discovery of the chile (Capsicum annuum and spp.) would have been an ideal substitute for expensive spices from the East. The medieval spice did in fact decline dramatically about the same time as the discovery and diffusion of the chile. The question arises: did the arrival of the chile in the Old World contribute to or cause the decline in the spice trade? By reviewing the spice trade before the discovery of the New World, the Venetian-Mamluke monopoly on that trade, the role of the Portuguese and Dutch in the spice trade, and the European diffusion of the chile after 1492 this article will argue that the chile played no role in the diminishing of the spice trade and that the chile's arrival in Europe and the decline of the East-West spice trade appear to be coincidental and not causal.