Avena sativa (Oats)
hawer [Afrikaans]; outse [N Sotho]; habore [Sesotho,
Tswana]; iowutsi [Xhosa]; ifoliji [Zulu]
> eukaryotes >
Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants)
> Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants)
> Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering
plants) > Monocotyledons > Order: Poales
> Family: Poaceae
Oat plants were domesticated in Europe, as late as 1000-2000
BC. Oats is a healthy cereal because it contains high protein levels,
antioxidants and a substance that reduces blood cholestrol, blood pressure and
blood sugar levels.
Compared to other domesticated cereals,
evidence suggests that Avena sativa (Oats) was domesticated
at a fairly late stage, with archaeological evidence of domesticated
forms dating to around 1000-2000 BC in Bronze Age Europe. It
coincides more-or-less with when horses started being used as draft
animals. It is thought that domestication was started through
Oat plants growing as weeds in cultivated fields of wheat and barley
and being harvested along with the crop. Selection would have
occurred through plants that retained their seed (non-shattering
forms) being harvested preferentially over those that lost their
seeds early (shattering forms). Avena sativa is considered to
be derived from the hybridisation of wild species, in particular
Avena sterilis and Avena fatua. Oat plants
are grown both as food for people and fodder for animals such as
horses and chickens.
Oats is regarded as a healthy food because it
in a soluble fibre called betaglucan, which evidently helps in reducing blood
cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Oats is also a source of
antioxidants and it has the highest protein content (15-16%) of any of the
The oat seed is put through varying degrees of processing
to yield the desired product:
- Groats. Oat grains with their husks taken off
and roasted. They take about 30-40 minutes to cook.
- Steel-cut oats (also known as Scottish oats,
Irish oats or pinhead oats). Groats that have been cut into
bits to reduce cooking time (which amounts to about 15 minutes).
- Rolled oats. The kernels are steamed, flattened
into flakes and stored dry (e.g. 'Jungle Oats'). This flattening process
also shortens cooking time.
- Quick-cooking oats. Rolled oats that have been
cut more finely to further reduce cooking time.
- Instant oatmeal. Oats that have been pre-cooked
and rolled very thin, which means that you simply add boiling water in order
to cook your oatmeal.
- Oat flour. Flour made from oats has very little
gluten, which means that baked goods do not rise unless you mix in a
gluten-rich flour (e.g. wheat flour).
- Oat bran. A meal made from the outer layers of
the oat grain. The other types of oats (listed above) usually have their
outer layer left intact.
Oats grow well in cool, moist climates and in southern
Africa are widely grown in the same regions where wheat is grown (e.g. the
Swardland of the Western Cape).
Anon. 2002. Encyclopedia of Foods. A Guide
to Healthy Nutrition. Academic Press, San Diego, California.
van Wyk, B.-E. 2005. Food Plants of the World -
Identification, Culinary Uses and Nutritional Value. Briza, Pretoria.
Zohary, D. & Hopf, M. 1993. Domestication
of plants in the old World - The origin and spread of cultivated plants in
West Asia, Europe, and the Nile Valley. Clarendon Press, Oxford.