In the past, agricultural revolutions focused on expansion of production of corn, wheat, and rice—to the exclusion of more diverse crops. Genetic changes to these plants altered their growth characteristics, as did the extensive use of agricultural chemicals to support their growth in large, single-crop fields. The resulting gains in crop yield have, unfortunately, not been sustainable, as these intensive agricultural practices have contributed to global climate change.
However, ancient cereals can help address the nutritional as well as the environmental issues of the modern world. As an example, buckwheat is a quick-growing crop that often contains more protein than wheat, corn, or rice. Buckwheat has been grown for over 8000 years, and is well known for thriving in poor or acidic soils that do not support other food plants.
In this review, the advantages of growing hardier, more resilient crops like buckwheat, amaranth, millet, and quinoa are detailed. These plants show remarkable resistance to drought, temperature extremes, and depleted soil. As a direct result, these plants tend to build up generous stores of nutrients that protect them against damage caused by imperfect growing conditions. They then pass on this nutritional payload to those who consume them.