Nuts, seeds, and legumes have been consumed by humankind since before the dawn of recorded history. Originally collected by gatherers in the wild, they were eventually cultivated in permanent agricultural settlements, providing staple food for many people throughout history.
A nut is a hard, single-seeded fruit that does not split open on its own when it reaches maturity. All have a strong outer covering or shell to protect against animal predation. Humankind developed tools, often rocks, to crack nuts and obtain the highly nutritious material within. Archaeological evidence of human consumption of black walnuts, for example, goes back to 7000 BC.
Seeds are comprised of an embryo, surrounding stored nutrition, and a protective shell. Seeds are the most important cultivated source of food for humans and livestock. Additionally, they provide material to plant further generations of crops. Rice, wheat, soybeans, corn, barley, millet, and sorghum provide the vast majority of the human diet. Wild emmer grain was consumed back in the Paleolithic Age, around 17,000 BC. Rice goes back even further in history, and is a staple now for half the world’s population.
Legumes are members of the Leguminosae family, one of the largest families of flowering plants. There are nearly eighteen thousand species of legumes, including such familiar ones as soybeans, chickpeas, garden peas, lentils, peanuts, and green beans. Chickpeas were grown in Palestine as early as eight thousand years ago.
Nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and history. Foraged and cultivated by our ancestors since time immemorial, they will continue to supply humankind with the most vital sources of food in our future.
Nuts, Seeds & Legumes List –