The Oat Crop
Dr Samuel Johnson, that famous eighteenth century lexicographer, said of oats 'A grain which in England is generally given to horses but in Scotland supports the people'. And presumably it was a Scotsman who riposted 'But what people and what horses!' That exchange encapsulates much of the history and role of oats - a cereal, once important as human food in parts of northern Europe but latterly used mainly as animal feed, especially favoured for horses. Although no longer a major food anywhere, oats still have a special and favoured niche in the cuisine of people living in the cooler and wetter regions of some parts of northern Europe. However, there is currently a resurgence of interest in the crop, because there is now considerable scientific evidence to support the view of Scotsmen who never doubted its dietary value. This book - very much an international effort, carefully orchestrated by Robert Welch - traces the origin, history and scientific progress which forms a sound basis for any further crop improvement and for broadening the utilization and marketing of oat products. Should rational consider ations lead to an increase in the importance of this cereal, I, for one, would be glad since I believe the rural landscape is the poorer for the increased rarity of golden fields of rippling oats which I used to be involved in harvesting.