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The International Influences of Cinco de Mayo Favorites

Posted by Charles Parrott, Deputy Administrator, AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program in Food and Nutrition
May 03, 2013
Learn about some Cinco de Mayo staples by exploring our infographic (click for larger version).
Learn about some Cinco de Mayo staples by exploring our infographic (click for larger version).

Cinco de Mayo is more than a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.  With its American roots planted during the Civil War, the fifth of May is also a celebration of freedom and victory over odds.  Over the years the holiday has become more mainstream, with celebrations that bring together music, art and cuisine shaped by the rich culture and international influences of Mexico and Latin America.

Avocados, cilantro, and chili peppers are a few key ingredients for traditional Cinco de Mayo dishes.  Each of these sees significant retail and sale activity during the holiday week, and each comes with its own unique story.

Cilantro’s origins are based in southern Europe and Asia.  It is actually the fresh leaves of the coriander herb, and has become such a staple in Tex-Mex and Mexican cooking that it is often referred to as “Mexican parsley.”  Cilantro was brought into Mexico by Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s, and then into the U.S.  In 2010 California produced almost 87 million pounds of cilantro with a market value of over $25 million.  According to USDA Market News, part of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), you’re 7 times more likely to see sale ads for cilantro during Cinco de Mayo week.

Chili peppers, another staple for holiday dishes, are believed to have all originated in the country of Bolivia.  Even though there are more than 25 varieties to choose from, most stores in the U.S. carry three types: jalapenos, serranos and poblanos.  And, while chili peppers have their roots in North and South American cuisine, India is now the largest producer, consumer and exporter of chili peppers in the world.

Avocados, like Cinco de Mayo, originate in Mexico.  They were introduced to the US in 1871 by Judge R.B. Ord of Santa Barbara, and are now bought by 43 percent of all U.S. households.  USDA Market News reports that from 2011-2012, the U.S. produced 1.1 billion avocados—that’s enough for a whopping 700 million cups of guacamole! And, according to the California Avocado Commission, Americans are expected to consume just over 87 million pounds of avocados for Cinco de Mayo 2013.

These facts and figures are just one aspect of the comprehensive reporting done by USDA Market News, a part of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).   We have been providing market information on cottondairylivestock and grainspoultry and eggs, and fruits and vegetables for over 90 years. By visiting USDA Market News online you can view hundreds of pre-made commodity reports or create a custom report to see only the information you need.

Keep your holiday plate full of healthy and tasty international flavors by making one of our Cinco de Mayo recipes (PDF).  The MyPlate initiative is all about making it easier for consumers to find the how-to resources they need to make healthier choices.  Join the conversation and learn more about MyPlate by liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter (@MyPlate), and visiting MyPlate Recipes on Pinterest!

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition