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Lost Grains and Forgotten Vegetables from Japan: the Seikei Zusetsu Agricultural Catalog (1793–1804)
Economic Botany  (IF1.731),  Pub Date : 2019-08-26, DOI: 10.1007/s12231-019-09466-z
Shantonu Abe Chatterjee,Tinde van Andel

Historic illustrations represent interesting source material for the study of traditional crop varieties that have not been described in the literature or safeguarded in germplasm institutes or botanic gardens. Here, we present the crop diversity depicted on 143 illustrated pages of the 30-volume Seikei Zusetsu agricultural catalog, compiled in Japan around 1800 and gifted to the Dutch East India Company physician and naturalist Philipp Franz Von Siebold (1796–1866). We identified 109 different species of crops and wild edible plants in the catalog, in which cereals were represented with 35 different varieties and Brassicaceae with 29 varieties of turnips, cabbages, and radishes. We published all images online, with translations of the historic Kanji and Katakana names, of which 103 included ancient Dutch crop names. Less than half of these early nineteenth-century crop species are still grown in substantial quantities in Japan today, although some may have survived in home gardens. The Seikei Zusetsu catalog is a valuable repository of traditional Japanese knowledge on crops, agricultural practices, and food processing methods and could stimulate efforts to create more agrobiodiverse farming systems and the marketing of high-value crops to ensure the survival of distinctive food cultures.