Millet

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The millets are a group of small-seeded species of cereal crops or grains, widely grown around the world for food and fodder. They do not form a taxonomic group, but rather a functional or agronomic one. Their essential similarities are that they are small-seeded grasses grown in difficult production environments such as those at risk of drought. They have been in cultivation in East Asia for the last 10,000 years.[1]

Contents

Millet varieties

The millets include species in several genera, mostly in the subfamily Panicoideae, of the grass family Poaceae. The exceptions, finger millet and teff, are in the subfamily Chloridoideae. The most widely cultivated species in order of worldwide production[2] are:

Minor millets include:

Teff (Eragrostis tef) and fonio (Digitaria exilis) are also often called millets, as more rarely are sorghum (Sorghum spp.) and Job's Tears (Coix lacrima-jobi).

History

Specialized archaeologists called palaeoethnobotanists, relying on data such as the relative abundance of charred grains found in archaeological sites, hypothesize that the cultivation of millets was of greater prevalence in prehistory than rice,[3] especially in northern China and Korea. It was millets, rather than rice, that formed important parts of the prehistoric diet in Indian, Chinese Neolithic and Korean Mumun societies. Broomcorn (Panicum miliaceum) and foxtail millet were important crops beginning in the Early Neolithic of China. For example, some of the earliest evidence of millet cultivation in China was found at Cishan (north) and Hemudu (south). Cishan dates for common millet husk phytoliths and biomolecular components have been identified around 8300–6700 BC in storage pits along with remains of pit-houses, pottery, and stone tools related to millet cultivation.[1] Evidence at Cishan for foxtail millet dates back to around 6500 BC.[1] A 4,000-year-old well-preserved bowl containing well-preserved noodles made from foxtail millet and broomcorn millet was found at the Lajia archaeological site in China.[4]

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