Your Beans of the Last Harvest and the Possible Adoption of Bright Ideas

  • Daniel G. Debouck
Part of the Ethnobiology book series (EBL)


This review considers which species of beans were domesticated out of a total of 80 or so species in tropical America, and the morpho- and ecological reasons and other nutritional aspects behind the choices of Amerindians who knew and experimented a lot with the flora. It explains why places of domestication refer to the locations where seeds of wild forms were picked for the last time. It further shows the current discrepancies between the archaeological records and the genetic data. The seven domestication events affecting the genus Phaseolus, five in Mesoamerica and two in the Andes, seem to have happened originally outside the presence of maize and before the wide use of ceramics, with food uses possibly different from the ones known nowadays (like toasting). The bright idea by Amerindians was to combine maize and beans into a performant agronomic and nutritional association that diffused so widely in pre-Columbian America and set the basis for the many brilliant civilizations they left us.


Phaseolus Amerindians Crop wild relatives Phylogeography Archaeology Domestication Founder effect Maize 



I am grateful to Rafael Lira and Alejandro Casas for the invitation to participate into this project. The Consortium of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit of Germany are fully acknowledged for grants at different times, namely for the field work that helped me to interact with farmers and wild beans throughout Latin America since 1977. Special thanks are due to Josefina Martínez for the finalization of the manuscript. The help by Mariano Mejía to get rare publications is deeply acknowledged. All shortcomings are my responsibility.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)CaliColombia

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