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African Rice (Oryza glaberrima Steud.): Lost Crop of the Enslaved Africans Discovered in Suriname1

By Tinde Van Andel


African Rice (Oryza glaberrimaSteud.): Lost Crop of the Enslaved Africans Discovered in Suriname. African rice (Oryza glaberrima Steud.) was introduced to the Americas during the slave trade years and grown by enslaved Africans for decades before mechanical milling devices facilitated the shift towards Asian rice (O. sativa L.). Literature suggests that African rice is still grown in Guyana and French Guiana, but the most recent herbarium voucher dates from 1938. In this paper, evidence is presented that O. glaberrima is still grown by Saramaccan Maroons both for food and ritual uses. Saramaccan informants claim their forefathers collected their first “black rice” from a mysterious wild rice swamp and cultivated these seeds afterwards. Unmilled spikelets (grains with their husk still attached) are sold in small quantities for ancestor offerings, and even exported to the Netherlands to be used by Maroon immigrants. Little is known of the evolution of O. glaberrima, before and after domestication. Therefore, more research is needed on the different varieties of rice and other “lost crops” grown by these descendants of enslaved Africans who escaped from plantations in the 17th and 18th centuries and maintained much of their African cultural heritage in the deep rainforest

Topics: Article
Publisher: Springer-Verlag
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Provided by: PubMed Central

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