Food Crops

Food crops are usually classified partly by use and partly by family. The classification system in Table 27-1 is not like the taxonomic classification used by scientists because most categories contain species that are not closely related. Also, many crops fit into more than one category. For example, corn is a cereal, but it can also be classified as an oil crop, a sweetener, a vegetable, and a beverage.

Cereals

Cereals are grasses that contain grains. Grains are the edible, dry fruits of a cereal. Over half of the world's cultivated land is devoted to cereal crops, such as rice, wheat, corn, oats, sorghum, rye, and millet. Worldwide, cereals provide about 50 percent of the calories in the average human diet. In addition, much of the harvested grain is used for animal feed, so it is indirectly consumed by people as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.

Wheat and corn are produced in the largest amounts. Wheat grows well in moderate to cold climates, including parts of the United States, Russia, and Canada. The United States is the leading producer of corn, also called maize. Rice is different from other cereals because it grows best in shallow water. Rice thrives in areas with warm temperatures.

TABLE 27-1 Food Crops

Category

Cereals

Example plants rice, wheat, corn, oats, sorghum, rye, barley, millet

Root crops

potato, cassava, sweet potato, yam, taro

Legumes

soybean, peanut, bean, pea, alfalfa, lentils

Fruits

apple, peach, banana, grape, orange, blueberry, pineapple, cherry, mango, pear

Nuts

walnut, cashew, pecan, coconut, almond, macadamia, filbert, pistachio

Vegetables

spinach, cabbage, sweet corn, pea, turnip, asparagus, tomato, artichoke, zucchini

Forages

cereals, legumes, grasses

Oils

cottonseed, rapeseed, palm, sesame, soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower

Beverages

coffee, tea, cola, cacao, fruit juice, grape (wine), corn (whiskey), barley and hops (beer)

Sweeteners

sugar cane, sugar beet, sugar maple, corn

Spices

pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, paprika, cloves, saffron, nutmeg, ginger, allspice

Herbs

rosemary, thyme, sage, dill, basil, oregano, mint

Flavorings

cacao (chocolate), coconut, carob, licorice, quinine

Colorings

red beet, anatto, turmeric, saffron, carrot

Additives

guar, locust bean, citrus (pectin), gum arabic, chicle tree

Garnishes

sesame, caraway, and poppy seeds; parsley; pimento

Snacks

popcorn, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds

Root Crops

Root crops are roots or underground stems that are rich in carbohydrates. In many parts of the world, root crops substitute for cereals in providing the major part of the diet. However, diets of root crops or cereals alone are usually low in some important amino acids. To correct this deficiency, people must eat other foods, such as legumes or animal protein.

Root crops include beets, carrots, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, and sweet potatoes. Other kinds of potatoes and yams are actually tubers (modified underground stems) but are considered root crops because they grow underground. You may have eaten tapioca pudding, which comes from cassava, a root crop grown in the Tropics and shown in Figure 27-2.

Legumes

Legumes are members of the pea family and bear seeds in pods. Soybean, shown in Figure 27-3, is the most important legume crop because it is produced in the largest amount and has many important uses. Soybean is used to make vegetable oil, soy milk, soy sauce, tofu, and margarine. Alfalfa and clover are legumes used mainly as feed for livestock. Legumes are important in agriculture because they improve the nitrogen content of soil. Recall that some bacteria form a symbiotic relationship with many legumes and convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants can use.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Nuts

Many "vegetables" we know, such as tomatoes, green beans, and squash, are actually botanically classified as fruits. A fruit is the part of a flowering plant that usually contains seeds. Foods derived from the leaves, stems, seeds, and roots of nonwoody plants are often called vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of many important vitamins and minerals, making them essential parts of a healthy diet. A nut is a dry, hard fruit that does not split open to release its seed. Nuts include almonds, walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. Peanuts are commonly considered to be nuts but are actually classified as legumes. Nuts and legumes are higher in protein than other plant foods.

Spices, Herbs, and Flavorings

Other food crops add variety and pleasure to our diet by flavoring our water, beverages, and food. More than half the population ingests caffeine through drinking coffee, tea, and cola drinks. Both spices and herbs are used to add taste to food. In general, spices come from plant parts other than the leaf and are tropical. Herbs usually come from leaves and usually can be grown in a home garden. Flavorings, such as chocolate and coconut, are not usually considered spices or herbs and are therefore placed in a separate category. Another flavor, quinine, is used to make tonic water. Quinine comes from the bark of the cinchona tree and is used to treat malaria.

figure 27-2

An important root crop in the Tropics is cassava, which has thick roots that are eaten like potatoes. The starch-filled roots of cassava can be 30-120 cm (1-4 ft) long.

figure 27-2

An important root crop in the Tropics is cassava, which has thick roots that are eaten like potatoes. The starch-filled roots of cassava can be 30-120 cm (1-4 ft) long.

figure 27-3

Soybean is an important legume crop grown in the midwestern and southern parts of the United States. The soybean plant is covered with short, fine fibers and is usually 60-120 cm (2-4 ft) tall. It is an inexpensive and useful source of protein.

figure 27-3

Soybean is an important legume crop grown in the midwestern and southern parts of the United States. The soybean plant is covered with short, fine fibers and is usually 60-120 cm (2-4 ft) tall. It is an inexpensive and useful source of protein.

Fertilizer—Composting

Many people are making their own fertilizer through a technique called composting. Compost is a type of organic fertilizer that is made from decayed plant matter. Compost improves the texture of soil and provides inorganic nutrients that plants need.

It's easy to start your own compost pile. Collect dead plant matter, such as grass clippings, leaves, coffee grounds, or sawdust. Make a pile by alternating layers of plant matter with a thin layer of soil or manure. Sprinkle water on the pile to speed the process of decay. After the compost has been allowed to decay for about six months, it should be ready for use in your garden.

Word Roots and Origins pesticide contains the suffix -cide, from the Latin cida, meaning "cut down" or "kill"

Food Production

For decades, experts have been predicting widespread food shortages due to the continuing increase in the world population. However, massive food shortages have not occurred mainly because of increased use of irrigation, fertilizers, and pesticides. Improvements in cultivars; farm machinery; food preservation techniques; and methods of controlling diseases, weeds, and pests have also helped improve food production. Fertilizers supply plants with essential mineral nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. Pesticides are chemicals that kill undesirable organisms that harm crops, such as some insects.

People have made many trade-offs to support an adequate food supply. The negative consequences include massive soil erosion, depletion of fossil fuel and water supplies, pollution, and destruction of wild populations of plants and animals as more land is cultivated.

Making Chocolate 101

Making Chocolate 101

If you love chocolate then you can’t miss this opportunity to... Discover How to Make Homemade Chocolate! Do you love gourmet chocolate? Most people do! Fine chocolates are one of life’s greatest pleasures. Kings and princes have for centuries coveted chocolate. Did you know that chocolate used to be one of the expensive items in the world, almost as precious as gold? It’s true!

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment