Geographical factors affecting food habits

Written by lisabeth hughes
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Geographical factors affecting food habits
Food habits vary according to regional climate and natural resources. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

While irrigation, land development and other modern cultivation techniques are used to enhance existing geographical factors, local food habits are still largely influenced by regional resources. Our ancestors cultivated their crops according to local, natural resources, which greatly affected their eating habits. We tend to carry on the traditions that were passed down through generations, and that tradition, along with growing awareness of the fragility and importance of our natural environment, continues to influence food habits around the world

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Climate

Climate affects local food habits by determining how long a growing season is and how many growing seasons there are per year. Temperate climates provide the longest and largest amount of growing seasons per year. Up to three to four crop cycles per year can be found in temperate regions like East Asia and Hawaii, and the climate also promotes the cultivation of crops that take longer to mature. The growing season is shortened in cold or hot climates, and crop cultivation is typically limited to one cycle per year for most produce. Climate also indicates what type of crops can be grown in a particular region. Some crops are more suited to extremes in hot or cold environments, while others can only withstand moderate amounts of heat or cold.

Precipitation

The average amount of precipitation a region can expect is a major factor in determining local food production and habits. Rice crops love wet environments, making East Asia a perfect climate for growing two to three rice crops per year. Maize, a type of corn that is drought-resistant, and some gourds and squashes are especially suited for extremely dry climates like India or the American southwest. Hot peppers are well-suited to dry, hot areas like Mexico, while produce like lettuce, grains, sweetcorn and leafy greens do well in areas with moderate, consistent precipitation such as Midwest America and central European countries. The amount of precipitation an area receives can also determine the types of livestock that can be raised, affecting the area's primary meat and dairy products.

Soil Quality

The quality and mineral contents of the soil in a given region can affect local food habits by making certain crops more or less successful, depending on the crop's needs. Crops also need to be rotated regularly to ensure continued successful cultivation. For example, corn requires a high concentration of nitrates in the soil, while beans replace the nitrates that corn leaches from the earth. In areas where corn is a main crop, beans will also likely be very common. Rich, moist soil provides more opportunity for a wide variety of crops, while dry, sparse soil limits the type of crops that can be grown in it.

Topography

The topography of an area affects both the types of crops that can be grown and the types of livestock that can be raised there. Rocky, sloping areas like the mountains of southwestern America are not particularly conducive to raising cattle or cultivating crops with deep roots, while chicken is a popular food source because they can adapt well to rocky regions and can be raised easily. Island, coastal and lake-riddled regions typically produce a large amount of fruit, fish and other seafood for local consumption, while prairie areas tend to produce large amounts of grain on the vast reaches of open space.

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