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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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oats Avena sativa, a cereal which grows well in moist, temperate to cool climates, and will thrive in conditions which wheat or barley would not tolerate. Oats are therefore important as human food mainly in northern regions.

However, oats were a comparative latecomer to agriculture. Wild oats (just like those proverbially sown by young people) seemed unpromising. The small grains, borne singly on straggly seed heads, dropped off as soon as ripe; a useful feature for a weed trying to spread itself, but not for a cereal crop.