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Chapter 19 Family Polygonaceae

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Family Polygonaceae


Origin and History

Rhubarb has an ancient history. Its roots were used medicinally as a laxative in cool regions of Asia by the

Chinese 4,500 years ago (Grubben, 2004). Traders introduced rhubarb to Europe through Italy from the east in about 1608 (Thompson and Kelly, 1957).

However, rhubarb did not become an important food crop until the 18th century in Great Britain (Grubben,

2004). The use of rhubarb as food is a relatively recent innovation and coincided with the availability of affordable sugar to common people. In 1815 it was accidently discovered that rhubarb could be “forced” to produce petioles during the winter when warm soil was placed over a quiescent plant at a construction site during the winter months. Forced rhubarb became very popular as a fruit substitute because it provided a colorful, fruity-tasting vegetable in the winter when fresh fruits and vegetables were otherwise not available. The appreciation of rhubarb as a spring and summer garden vegetable also grew during the 1800s. Rhubarb was introduced to the USA, most likely from Italy in the late 1700s, and by 1806 it was widely grown in New England (Thompson and Kelly,

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Chapter 14 Family Amaryllidaceae, Subfamily Allioideae

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Family Amaryllidaceae, Subfamily


Origin and History

Onion originated in Middle Asia and was domesticated in what are today Afghanistan, Iran, and

Pakistan. Onion is a very ancient crop and has been under widespread cultivation dating back to as early as 600 bc. Onions were a popular food of the

Greeks and Romans as early as 400–300 bc and were introduced into northern Europe about ad

500 at the start of the Middle Ages (Zohary and

Hopf, 2000). Production occurs worldwide but the greatest concentration is in the northern hemisphere. In the tropics and much of Southeast Asia unfavorable climate and handling conditions limit onion production so shallots are preferred. Shallots are believed to be native to Asia, explaining their popularity in this region.

Garlic is believed to be of middle Asian origin with a history of human use of over 7,000 years

(Ensminger, 1994). The culture of garlic parallels that of onion. Greek author Homer mentioned garlic in the ninth century bc (Zohary and Hopf,

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Chapter 17 Family Amaranthaceae, Subfamily Chenopodiaceae

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Family Amaranthaceae, Subfamily



Origin and History

Beet, also known as beetroot, is a very ancient crop with a long history of cultivation dating back to the second millennium bc. Beet was likely domesticated somewhere in the Mediterranean region, taken to Babylonia around the 8th century bc and introduced to China by approximately ad 850

(Zohary and Hopf, 2000). The writings of Aristotle and Theophrastus suggest that leafy beets were grown extensively during the crop’s early history.

However, once spinach was available, the use of beet as a leafy vegetable diminished significantly.

The Romans ate beets in the second and third centuries because they were believed to be an important food for promoting good health. Chard was apparently of later origin and was likely not eaten as a vegetable until the 13th century. Colonists introduced beets and chard to the western hemisphere from Europe. George Washington conducted experiments with them at his Mount Vernon home.

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Chapter 6 Mulches

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Introduction and History

In this chapter, we will discuss the use of mulches in vegetable production. Irrigation was discussed in

Chapter 5, although there is overlap with this chapter.

Plastic mulches were first used experimentally for vegetable production in the early 1950s (Lamont,

2004a). By the 1960s, plastic mulches were widely used because growers quickly recognized that they were affordable, easy to install, provided effective weed control, and increased early harvest conserved moisture.

Early mulches were primarily black or clear. Black mulches were popular because they provided weed control and heated the soil to accelerate early season production of warm-season vegetables (see Fig. 6.2). Plastic mulch has been shown to benefit the production of many crops, but the cucurbits, pepper, tomato, and eggplant seem to show the greatest response. Approximately

6,500 km2 (2,500 miles2) of polyethylene mulch are used for crop production in the world today.

Plasticulture is defined as “a system for growing vegetable crops where significant benefit is obtained from using products derived from synthetic polymers” (Lamont, 1993). Typical plasticulture production consists of raised beds covered with plastic mulch, drip irrigation, delivery of chemicals through the drip irrigation (fertigation/chemigation), and preplant soil fumigation under the plastic mulch. Claimed benefits of the plasticulture system compared to conventional bare-soil production include: earlier production; higher yields per acre; cleaner, higher-quality product; more efficient use of water and fertilizer; reduced leaching of mineral nutrients; less soil erosion; fewer disease problems; fewer weed problems; better management of some insects; reduced soil compaction; less root pruning; and maximum efficiency through double- or triple-cropping (Lamont, 2004a).

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Chapter 13 Family Poaceae

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Family Poaceae



Origin and History

Sweet corn, also known as green maize or sweet maize in many parts of the world, is a crop of New

World origin. Scientists believe that sweet corn was domesticated in southern Mexico very long ago

(Ranere, 2009). The progenitor of modern corn was a wild, annual grass, perhaps with a terminal flowering structure with male flowers above and female flowers below. Another theory suggests that the original plant had a terminal male spikelet with several small female spikelets at the nodes immediately below the male flower cluster (Goodman,

1988). Pollen samples collected near Mexico City were estimated to be 60–70,000 years old, illustrating how old corn is (Beadle, 1981; Sears, 1982).

Deliberate cultivation of corn began approximately

7,000 years ago. Teosinte (Zea mays spp. mexicana) may be similar to the wild plant from which corn was developed (Matsuoka et al., 2002). From the original

2.5 cm (1 in) wild pod, human selection has created a pod many times larger than the wild form (Galinat,

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