What counts as a rainforest

The rainforest at home

We have been using and enjoying fruits, spices and many other products that originally come from the rainforest for hundreds of years. Most of them are so common to us that we don't even think about where they come from. Active ingredients from plants from tropical rainforests can also be found in every fourth drug today. Go on a discovery tour and find products from your everyday life whose origins can be found in the rainforest:

fruit

Bananas

origin: The banana probably originally comes from Southeast Asia. From there she “traveled” on to Africa and later to Central and South America. Bananas have also been available in Europe since around 1900.

Surname: It is not entirely clear where the name banana comes from. Most experts suspect that it comes from the Arabic word "banān" ("fingertip"), since the banana grows like a "hand".

species: There are about 70 types of bananas.

pineapple

origin: The pineapple is native to Brazil. Today it is grown as a fruit plant all over the tropics. The pineapple belongs to the bromeliad family.

Surname: The word pineapple comes from the Guaraní language of the Brazilian indigenous people. Their word "naná" means "fruit". After its discovery, the pineapple spread around the world very quickly because there weren't many sweet dishes and so the sweet pineapple was very popular.

species: Today there are over 100 different types of pineapple worldwide. They are mainly grown in Thailand, Brazil, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, China and some countries in Africa.

Luxury foods

cocoa

origin: As cocoa we generally refer to the seeds of the cocoa tree, the so-called cocoa beans. Chocolate or drinking chocolate (cocoa) can be made from their powder.
The Swiss are world champions in chocolate consumption, Germany runner-up. The cocoa tree originally comes from Central and South America.

Surname: The word "cacao" originally comes from the Aztec word "xócoc" for "bitter", because pure cocoa without sugar tastes bitter, even more bitter than dark chocolate.

species: There are very many types of cocoa trees. The cocoa varieties have been classified into four basic types: Criollo, Trinitario, Nacional and Forastero. Today cocoa is grown in tropical areas up to latitudes around 20 degrees north and south

coffee

origin: The origin of coffee leads to Africa, to the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia. Coffee beans are the seeds of the fruits of the coffee plant that are roasted and ground. Today coffee is the most popular drink among Germans.

Surname: There are different legends about the origin of the word “coffee”. The word probably comes from the Kaffa region in Ethiopia, according to its discovery. According to another legend, the word comes from the Arabic "qahwa" which means "wine" - or "pleasant drink" because wine was forbidden to Muslims.

species: There are about 124 types of the coffee plant. Arabica coffee is the most common.

Houseplants

Orchids

origin: Orchids come in all kinds of colors, shapes and sizes all over the world. The most famous orchid - incredible but true - is vanilla. On our windowsill, orchids of the genus “Phalaenopsis”, which originally come from the tropical countries of Asia, are very popular.

Surname: The name "Orchis" comes from the Greek and means - based on the shape of the tubercle - "testicles".

species: About 30,000 species of orchids are known.

Bromeliads

origin: Bromeliads originally come from Central and South America, where they naturally also grow today in the rainforest. Most bromeliads are epiphytes, which means they grow on trees or other plants.

Surname: Bromeliads were named after the botanist Olaf Bromel.

species: Today we know up to 3,180 species, the best known is the pineapple. Many bromeliads are also available from us as ornamental plants. These are evergreen, have spirally arranged leaves and one or more flowers in the middle.

Other plants from the rainforest include mangroves, ferns and carnivorous plants.

Spices

vanilla

origin: Vanilla belongs to the orchid family and comes from Mexico and Central America. Today it is mainly grown on the islands of the Indian Ocean (e.g. Madagascar and La Réunion).

Surname: It comes from the Spanish: "Vainilla" means "small pod" or "pod", because the spicy pulp is obtained from the elongated capsules or pods.

species: Of the 110 or so species of the vanilla plant, around 15 have the pods from which the vanilla spice is made.

cinnamon

origin: People in China are said to have been seasoning with cinnamon 5,000 years ago. The so-called "Ceylon cinnamon" was only brought to Europe around 1498 by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama from Ceylon (today Sri Lanka).

Surname: Cinnamon is derived from the Latin word "cinnamomum". In France, however, they say “cannelle”, small tube. Because cinnamon is obtained from the dried bark of the cinnamon tree, which rolls up.

species: There are 2 types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon tree (or real cinnamon tree) and the more intensive Chinese cinnamon tree.

ginger

origin: The ginger plant probably originally came from the Pacific Islands. Today it is grown in many tropical and subtropical countries (Asia, Australia, Nigeria, South America - even in France).

Surname: Ginger is derived from the Sanskrit word "Sringavera", which means horn-shaped, like the rhizome we know as a spice. Ginger sounds similar in many languages: Gimgibre (Old French), Gingibero (Old High German), Zingiberis (Greek), Inji (Tamil).

species: The family of the 50 to 150 cm long ginger plant has around 1300 species.

Without the rainforest, we wouldn't have any of these products. So help to protect him!

Date: April 28, 2014

Last updated: May 27, 2019