In this particular article, we take a look at the two “grains” mentioned in connection with planting of corn, wheat and barley, “and with neas, and with sheum” (Mosiah 9:9). Neas and sheum could be almost any grain or vegetable or crop, but its mention with three of the most important crops of corn, wheat and barley, it is suggestive of an important food supply to the Nephites. Of course the Nephites brought with them in 600 B.C. seeds from Jerusalem, such as wheat and barley, but after 400 years in the Land of Promise by the time these are mentioned, it is likely they were native plants the Nephites domesticated in their new land, as they had corn.
Corn is indigenous to the Americas and was unknown in Europe until imported there by the Spanish from Central and South America in the 16th century, along with potatoes and other native crops from Andean South America
So what were these two crops? First, they had to be indigenous to the Western Hemisphere (there would have been no importing of seeds to the Western Hemisphere prior to Lehi’s arrival other than what the Jaredites brought and planted in the Land Northward), valuable as a food source, and a crop of major importance, capable of flourishing in the climate of the Land of Promise.
Taking a look at major crops of the world today, we find:
1. Corn. Most produced grain in world. It is a great source of carbohydrates, protein, iron, vitamin B, and minerals.
2. Wheat. More acreage devoted to wheat than any other crop, and grows where rice and corn cannot, and is a leadeing source of vegetable protein worldwide.
3. Rice. Source of more than 1/5th of all calories consumed by humans, requires the most water per acre of all crops to grow.
Some of the over 4,000 varieties of indigenous potatoes grown in the Andes, including varieties of sweet potato, originally called "papa" in Quechua, meaning "tuber"
5. Cassava. A drought-resistant crop, and a starch-heavy lifesaver for low-income areas, like Africa and South America. If not properly prepared before eating, the residual cyanide causes acute cyanide intoxication, goiters, and even ataxia or partial paralysis. The roots are very rich in starch and contain significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C. However, they are poor in protein and other nutrients.
6. Soybeans. Produces twice as much protein per acre as any other major vegetable crop, with demand far outweighing supply.
7. Sweet Potatoes. Native to South America, and a product mostly produced in China today. Great source of protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium.
8. Sorghum. Native to Australia and Africa. Fifth most important cereal crop in the world. Drought and heat tolerant and important in arid regions where major cereals do not produce sufficient yields. Mainly found in Africa.
9. Yams. Mostly produced in West and Central Africa, with Nigeria the biggest producer in the world. First harvested crop of the year.
10. Plantains. Starchier and lower in sugar than similar-looking bananas, but need to be fried or cooked. A good source of potassium, carbohydrates and dietary fiber, and very popular in West Africa, Caribbean countries, Asia and Central America.
LtoR: Cassava, a tubular root; Sorghum, a seed plant; Plantain, a type of coarse banana plant
Other important but unknown crops that are native to Andean South America are:
1. Quinoa. Native only to Andean South America, and dating to 3000 B.C., it is considered one of the world’s healthiest foods, and according to the FAO, has a “high nutritive value,” with a very high fat content, monounsaturated fat (in the form of oleic acid), omega-3 fatty acid, and alpha-linolenic acid and higher in flavonoids than berries like cranberry or ligonberry. It is an excellently high source of nutrients, and of manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, fiber, folate, and zinc. While wheat takes nearly 350 calories’ worth of whole wheat to provide 1 gram of fat (not generally considered as a significant source of fat), quinoa takes 63 calories’ worth of quinoa to provide 1 gram of fat.
Peruvian maintaining his acreage of quinoa as has been done for at least the past 4000 years in the Andes of South America, where quinoa and kiwicha only grew until the Dutch stole the plants in the 17the century and transplanted them in Indonesia
Nowhere else in the Western Hemisphere are found two grains that are on an equal footing with corn, wheat and barley in their value and production as quinoa and kiwicha, which were indigenous to, and found only in, the Andean area of South America. Both of these grains are considered superfood seed, the latter long known for its healing properties in the Andes, and the former was most important to the diet of pre-Columbian Andean civilizations.
Both these grains are high in nutritional value, with the multipurpose quinoa very high in protein content, with a benefits of far outdoing any other grain available.
Everyone is constantly on the look-out for the next superfood. Chronically impatient and eternal suckers for a quick fix to all our problems, all of us -- we're talking everybody the world over -- seem to be perpetually seeking the next best health food. That miracle pill in the form of a high-protein food that has zero carbs, will lower our cholesterol, give us energy, fight disease and better be gluten-free. Every month a new superfood seems to drop from the sky, and media and consumers alike eat it up without question, hailing the new berry, seed or obscure vegetable as the best thing since sliced bread, until the next superfood hits the scene.
In recent years, it's been all about quinoa. Before the mid 2000s, no one was really paying attention to this ancient Andean plant that has been consumed for thousands of years. A complete protein—which means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids—quinoa answered everyone's low-carb, high-protein prayers. When the world turned its back on gluten, quinoa (which is gluten-free) was right there waiting for the spotlight, and its star just keeps soaring.
Quinoa and Kiwicha fields stretch across the Andean hillsides and mountains of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Not truly a grain, though called one, these seeds can be eaten whole, ground, mixed, and made into just about any breakfast, lunch or dinner dish. There are 120 different species and 1,800 varieties of quinoa, according to the Whole Grains Council, with the most commercialized types being white, red and black quinoaToday, white quinoa is the most widely-available in stores. Red quinoa is more often used in meals like salads since it tends to hold its shape better after cooking. Black quinoa has an "earthier and sweeter" taste. There is also commercial quinoa flakes and flour.
Of all the plants, crops, and foods throughout the Western Hemisphere, only these two grains, quinoa and kiwicha fit the descriptions of Mormon’s neas and sheum, and would have been unknown to Joseph Smith in American in 1829, and were not known in the U.S. at all until the 1970s, first imported in 1983 when John Gorad, Don McKinley, and David Cusack formed Quinoa Corporation that year.
In 2007, the U.S. imported 7.3 million pounds of quinoa. In 2013, nearly 70 million, and 157.8 tons in 2015, most of that coming from Peru and Bolivia. Today, quinoa is grown in the altiplano, the high plains region of the Andes in Bolivia and Peru, and also in parts of Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina. The U.S. and Canada are among some of the countries that produce it also, but in smaller quantities, and there are efforts to grow it elsewhere, but its really hard to grow outside of the Andean high plains, and unless the Bolivian and Peruvian quinoa growers release large samples of seeds so the U.S. growers can select for certain traits, it will be hard to cultivate crops to survive pests or climate in other regions.
(See the next post, “Finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise – Part XXV,” for more of Mormon’s statements that lead us to a clearer understanding of the location of the Land of Promise)