Some natural things

The name “Phoenician” comes from the Greeks, who used the word phoinix, purple, to describe a people renown for their purple cloth. Tyrian purple, royal purple, came from a couple of species of murex snails. It was the soft mollusks themselves, not their shells (as in the purple wampum of the hardshell clam of the Atlantic Coast of North America) that were used to make the dye after some time spent rotting in the open air.

Birds’ nest soup is made from the nests of swiftlets who build their nests from their own saliva. In Indonesia, swiftlet condos are built to host the birds, making harvest easier than the traditional way of entering enormous caves and climbing spindly ladders.

A carmine dye made from cochineal bugs, long used in Central America for cloth, is still today used as a natural coloring for food and cosmetics. Think Campari, and red, red lips.

On the subject of drinking: many wines are fined, or clarified, with isinglass, which is made from the dried swim bladders of fish. The bladders, composed of collagen, were also once used as a kind of gelatin, before the skin and bones of domestic animals came into general use. Note pun in the brandname “College Inn.”

The red seaweed known as Irish moss is the source of carrageenan, which thickens and stabilized commercial ice-cream, and is used in many other food-like products.

Rennet, used to curdle milk and hence long used in cheese-making, is an enzyme obtained from the stomach of a calf.

Chalk is made up of tiny plates of calcium carbonate shed from algae called coccolithophores, then geologically squeezed for a very, very long time.

These are just a few examples I came up with fairly quickly. Can you think of any others?

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