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Lost Crops of the Incas.


It is often the case that we believe our civilisation is the one that matters, and so it does, but one cannot forget others that have gone before. Unfortunately, too often we do just that, totally forgetting that what has gone before can throw light on present problems. The Vikings civilisation disappeared and left traces of its culture ;the Inca civilisation also vanished and left traces of its culture. This ancient civilisation mastered many problems and certainly cultivated many different crops in the Andes to sustain life. These crops have their origins before the Inca empire began but the Incas developed them to fairly full potential. Since the end of the Inca empire, we have tended to forget all about their horticultural achievements, although the Adean Indians have not forgotten.

Dedicated research workers have experimented with transporting their plants to distant lands to see how they thrive. The success of these experiments can be seen from the fact that quinoa - a grain-is now being grown in the USA, oca - a tuber-is popular in New Zealand, tarwi - a grain legume-is catching attention in Eastern Europe and cherimoya - a fruit - is an important crop in Spain. This particular study was stimulated by a seminar held back in 1984. It was followed by worldwide dissemination of questionnaires regarding underexploited Andean crop species. This resulted in many suggestions and altogether more than 600 people from 56 countries have contributed thoughts and ideas to this text.

Because the book has been written for a mixed audience of scientists and layman, each chapter is organised in increasing levels of detail. The book is divided into six parts, respectively entitled Roots and tubes, Grains, Legumes, Vegetables, Fruits and Nuts. The actual crops covered include achira, ahipa, arracacha, maca, mashua, mauka, oca, potatoes, ulloco, yacon, kaniwa, kiwicha, quinoa, basul, nunas (popping beans), tarwi, peppers, squashes and their relatives, berries, capuli cherry, chertimoya, goldenberry (Cape gooseberry), Highland papyas, naranjilla (Lulo), pacay (ice cream beans), passion-fruits, pepino, tamarillo (tree tomato), Quito palm and walnuts. Apart from suggestions for further readings, there is an index of plants mentioned.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Food Trade Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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