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MAIZE Project - Domesticates

Domestication Map

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Barley

Barley

Scientific Name: Hordeum vulgare

Region of Domestication: Near East

Information: Barley, a cereal grass, is one of the earliest known domesticated plants. Two varieties of barley, two-rowed barley and six-rowed barley, were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. Barley products include hulled barley, pearled barley, and malted barley. Barley is used as an animal fodder, in health food products, and to make alcoholic beverages.

Wheat

Wheat

Scientific Name: Triticum spp.

Region of Domestication: Near East

Information: Wheat includes two species of cereal grasses, einkorn wheat (T. monococcum) and emmer wheat (T. turgidum). Both species were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent and are two of the earliest known domesticated plants. Wheat flour is used to make a variety of products including bread, pasta and noodles, cookies, and other baked goods. Fermented wheat is used to make alcoholic beverages.

Coffee

Coffee

Scientific Name: Coffea spp.

Region of Domestication: Northern Africa

Information: Coffee includes several species of shrubby plants or trees. Evidence suggests that coffee was first domesticated in Ethiopia and then introduced to Arabia, where it was popularized. It subsequently spread around the world. The coffee beans that are roasted, ground, and brewed to make the beverage are seeds found inside coffee berries.

Millet

Millet

Scientific Name: Panicum milieaceum, Setaria italicas, Pennisetum glaucam

Region of Domestication: East Asia and Africa

Information: Several species of millet, a cereal grain, were domesticated independently in separate parts of the world. Broomcorn millet (P. miliaceum) and foxtail millet (S. italicas) were domesticated in China, and pearl millet (P. glaucam) was domesticated in Africa.

Rice

Rice

Scientific Name: Oryza spp.

Region of Domestication: East Asia and Africa

Information: Rice is a cereal grain. Two species of rice, Asiatic rice (O. sativa) and African rice (O. glaberrima), were domesticated independently in separate regions. Asiatic rice was first domesticated in China along the Yangtze River Valley. There are several modern varieties of Asiatic rice, including short-grain and long-grain rice. Archaeological evidence for the domestication of African rice is limited.

Sorghum

Sorghum

Scientific Name: Sorghum bicolor

Region of Domestication: Africa

Information: Sorghum is a cereal grain that was domesticated in Africa, but archaeological evidence is limited. Sorghum is not commonly eaten in the United States, but is used to make flour and is eaten in many parts of the world. It is also used as livestock feed.

Millet

Millet

Scientific Name: Panicum milieaceum, Setaria italicas, Pennisetum glaucam

Region of Domestication: East Asia and Africa

Information: Several species of millet, a cereal grain, were domesticated independently in separate parts of the world. Broomcorn millet (P. miliaceum) and foxtail millet (S. italicas) were domesticated in China, and pearl millet (P. glaucam) was domesticated in Africa.

Rice

Rice

Scientific Name: Oryza spp.

Region of Domestication: East Asia and Africa

Information: Rice is a cereal grain. Two species of rice, Asiatic rice (O. sativa) and African rice (O. glaberrima), were domesticated independently in separate regions. Asiatic rice was first domesticated in China along the Yangtze River Valley. There are several modern varieties of Asiatic rice, including short-grain and long-grain rice. Archaeological evidence for the domestication of African rice is limited.

Sugarcane

Sugarcane

Scientific Name: Saccharum spp.

Region of Domestication: Southern and Eastern Asia and New Guinea

Information: Sugarcane includes several species of grasses with origins in southern and eastern Asia and New Guinea. Sugarcane is used to produce several products including sugar, molasses, and rum. Sugar beets (Beta vulgaris) are also used to produce sugar.

Chili peppers

Chili peppers

Scientific Name: Capsicum spp.

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica and South America

Information: Chili peppers are members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) and include several species in the Capsicum genus. Five species of chili peppers were domesticated in different regions of the Americas. Common varieties of Capsicum include bell peppers, jalapeņos, cayenne peppers, and habaneros. Peppers vary in their degree of spiciness due to differences in their capsaicin content and range from sweet to extremely hot.

Chocolate

Chocolate

Scientific Name: Theobroma cacao

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica

Information: Cacao is a tree native to tropical parts of the Americas and was first domesticated in Mesoamerica. Pre-Columbian Mesoamericans used cacao to make a bitter beverage and valued chocolate so highly that the beans were used as a currency. Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree which are contained within fruit pods and require several stages of processing. The scientific name Theobroma literally means "food of the gods."

Common beans

Common beans

Scientific Name: Phaseolus vulgaris

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica and South America

Information: Common beans are legumes. Evidence suggests that they were domesticated in both Mesoamerica and South America. Common beans are grown in more than 100 varieties and are available in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes. They include many familiar varieties such as kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, red beans, and navy beans. Other species in the bean family (Fabaceae) were domesticated in the Old and New World.

Maize

Maize

Scientific Name: Zea mays

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica

Information: Maize is a cereal grain that was domesticated in Mexico from a wild grass called teosinte. Today, maize is grown around the world and occurs in many varieties such as sweetcorn, popcorn, dent corn, flour corn, and flint corn.

Squash

Squash

Scientific Name: Cucurbita spp.

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica and Eastern North America

Information: Several different species of squash were domesticated in the Americas. Archaeological evidence suggests that squashes were domesticated independently in Mexico and the eastern United States. Many different varieties of squash are cultivated today, including butternut squash, pumpkins, zucchini, yellow squash, and acorn squash.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Scientific Name: Solanum lycopersicum

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica or South America

Information: Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family along with potatoes, eggplant, chili peppers, tobacco, and many other plant species. Although closely associated with Italian cuisine, tomatoes were domesticated in the New World and later introduced to Europe. Early evidence suggests that tomatoes were domesticated in Mexico, but several wild species of tomatoes grow in South America and the precise region of domestication continues to be debated.

Chili peppers

Chili peppers

Scientific Name: Capsicum spp.

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica and South America

Information: Chili peppers are members of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) and include several species in the Capsicum genus. Five species of chili peppers were domesticated in different regions of the Americas. Common varieties of Capsicum include bell peppers, jalapeņos, cayenne peppers, and habaneros. Peppers vary in their degree of spiciness due to differences in their capsaicin content and range from sweet to extremely hot.

Common beans

Common beans

Scientific Name: Phaseolus vulgaris

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica and South America

Information: Common beans are legumes. Evidence suggests that they were domesticated in both Mesoamerica and South America. Common beans are grown in more than 100 varieties and are available in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes. They include many familiar varieties such as kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, red beans, and navy beans. Other species in the bean family (Fabaceae) were domesticated in the Old and New World.

Manioc

Manioc

Scientific Name: Manihot esculenta

Region of Domestication: South America

Information: Manioc is a root tuber that was domesticated in tropical lowland regions of South America. It is also known as cassava or yuca (not to be confused with yucca, which is in the agave family). Varieties of manioc are classified as "bitter" or "sweet" because they contain different levels of toxic cyanogenic compounds. Some varieties must be processed to remove these toxic compounds. Manioc can be boiled or processed into flour and is also used to make tapioca. Archaeological evidence for manioc domestication is limited because it does not preserve well.

Potatoes

Potatoes

Scientific Name: Solanum tuberosum

Region of Domestication: South America

Information: Potatoes are tubers that were domesticated in the highland Andean region of South America. Evidence for the domestication of potatoes is limited because tubers do not preserve well in archaeological sites. Most evidence for the domestication of potatoes comes from highland cave sites with dry conditions that promote preservation.

Quinoa

Quinoa

Scientific Name: Chenopodium quinoa

Region of Domestication: South America

Information: Quinoa is a small grain crop that was first domesticated in the highland Andean region of South America. Unlike other grains, quinoa is a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal grass. It is commonly grown in parts of Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. A related species, C. berlandieri was domesticated in the eastern United States by Native Americans.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Scientific Name: Ipomoea batatas

Region of Domestication: South America

Information: Sweet potatoes are root tubers and were first domesticated in tropical lowland regions of South America. Evidence for the domestication of sweet potatoes is rare because root tubers do not preserve well in archaeological sites. They are not closely related to potatoes or true yams (Dioscorea spp.).

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Scientific Name: Solanum lycopersicum

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica or South America

Information: Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family along with potatoes, eggplant, chili peppers, tobacco, and many other plant species. Although closely associated with Italian cuisine, tomatoes were domesticated in the New World and later introduced to Europe. Early evidence suggests that tomatoes were domesticated in Mexico, but several wild species of tomatoes grow in South America and the precise region of domestication continues to be debated.

Squash

Squash

Scientific Name: Cucurbita spp.

Region of Domestication: Mesoamerica and Eastern North America

Information: Several different species of squash were domesticated in the Americas. Archaeological evidence suggests that squashes were domesticated independently in Mexico and the eastern United States. Many different varieties of squash are cultivated today, including butternut squash, pumpkins, zucchini, yellow squash, and acorn squash.

Sunflower

Sunflower

Scientific Name: Helianthus annuus

Region of Domestication: Eastern North America

Information: Sunflowers are flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, which also includes asters and daisies. The large brightly colored flower head, or inflorescence, is composed of several individual flowers clustered together. Until recently, the earliest evidence for domesticated sunflowers came from archaeological sites in the eastern United States. New evidence may suggest an earlier origin in Mexico, but this continues to be debated.