Wednesday, October 2, 2019

New World Domesticates of the Genus Chenopodium :: Botany

New World Domesticates of the Genus Chenopodium The genus Chenopodium includes a variety of weedy herbs native to much of Europe, Asia, India, China and both North and South America. This genus belongs to the Chenopodiaceae or goosefoot family which also Includes spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and beets (Beta vulgaris). The name chenopodium means goosefoot in Greek, and refers to the resemblance many leaves of Chenopodium have to the webbed feet of geese. There are both wild and domesticated species of the Genus Chenonodium indigenous to the New World. Often regarded as a common weed (Dept. of Agriculture 1955), many different species of Chenopodium can be found growing wild today throughout North and South America. The most significant of these in terms of cultivar progeny and economic utilization are the species Chenopodium berlandieri from Mexico and the Southwestern United States, and Chenopodium bushianum of the Eastern United States. Common names often applied to members of this genus Include goosefoot, lamb's quarter, and occasionally pigweed. Reaching a height of 3-4 feet (the Andean cultivar C. quinoa reaches 6 feet) these annual species propagate via seeds produced between August and November. Well known as a campfollower, Chenopodium is most often found in disturbed soil with in close proximity of human settlements or constructions. Domesticated Chenopods Domesticated species of Chenopodium known today include Chenopodium nuttalliae from central Mexico, and two varieties of Chenopodium quinoa from the Andes of South America. C. guinoa has been dated from archaeological contexts as ancient as 7000 B.P. (Bender 1975:197). From the prehistoric eastern woodlands of North America, it is hypothesized that there once existed a now extinct domesticated chenopod named Chenopodium bushianum ssp. jonesianum (Smith 1987). Among these cultivated species of Chenopodium, the wild mechanisms for seed dispersal and germination dormancy have been lost, seed size has increased dramatically and the seed is light colored because of an extreme reduction of the testa (Wilson and Heiser 1979). Economic Uses Chenopods have long been recognized as a valuable resource for exploitation as food. Cultivation requires a minimum of energy and labor investment. Furthermore, the leaves and fruit (i.e. seeds) of these plants are extremely nutritious. For example, the leaves of Chenopodium albidum L. contain more vitamin A and Ascorbic Acid than the most common garden fruits and vegetables (Zennie and Ogzewalla 1977). The prodigious yields derived from chenopods are also an important factor in terms of its value as a economic resource.

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