Cereals are flowering grasses that sprout, flower, seed, and die in the space of a year, which is why gardeners refer to them as annuals. Grown for their seeds or kernels, cereals are excellent sources of energy: although they lack some amino acids, as well as calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, they provide starch and oil, and in some cases, considerable amounts of protein. Once ripe, the kernels are relatively easy to store, and they retain their nutrients for a long time. Even the stalks of cereals are useful as animal food, as bedding in stables and barns, and as a building material. A major drawback with cereals is that they depend on the soil for nitrogen. Without fertilization they eventually exhaust the fields they are growing in, but despite this, two cereals (wheat and barley) were the very first plants to be domesticated (grown for human use); and a third (rye) may have been cultivated, or even domesticated, at about the same time. Today, cereal crops including wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, millet, and oats provide most of the calories in the human diet. Like cereals, legumes are annuals. Some legumes are grown for animal fodder. Many other legumes, however, are cultivated for their seeds, which ripen in pods. The seeds are rich in B vitamins and iron, contain on average two times the protein but less starch than cereals, and can be eaten, sometimes pods and all, while they're still green. (Snow peas and green beans are familiar examples.) Legumes are characterized by a long period of sequential ripening, during which a single plant may have ripe pods, green pods, and flowers, all at the same time, which means that a stand of legumes can be harvested again and again over several weeks. Like cereals, legumes can be dried and stored for later use (the pods open easily when dry), and again like cereals, legumes provide food for both people and animals. However, legume plants add nitrogen to the soil, so when they are grown in the same fields as cereals, they can replace much of the nitrogen the cereals have depleted. Growing cereals and legumes together is good for the fields, and eating them together is good for the farmers. In order to build and maintain body tissue, people need protein – or more specifically, the amino acids in protein. Some amino acids are synthesized in the adult human body, but eight essential ones cannot be and have to come from food. Although all eight are present in animal protein, plant proteins are usually missing one or two. When cereals and legumes are eaten together, they provide all eight of the essential amino acids, a fact that the ancestors of early agriculturalists undoubtedly understood – at least on a practical level – and their descendants took advantage of that knowledge. In Asia, rice, wheat, and barley were grown along with soybeans; in India rice was paired with hyacinth bean, black gram, and green gram; in the African savanna, pearl millet and sorghum were domesticated along with cow pea and Bambara groundnut; and in the New World, maize and Phaseolus beans in Central America and maize and groundnuts in South America were the bases for agriculture. Cereals and legumes are technically dry fruits (they have a hard dry layer around their seeds). Early agriculturalists also experimented with growing succulent fruits like apples, olives, grapes, and melons, but most of these were brought into domestication much later than cereals and legumes, and in most cultures they've always been supplementary foods rather than staples. Many of them are propagated vegetatively – asexually by using a plant part such as a bulb or cutting – rather than sexually through seeds, so they are more complicated to grow than cereals and legumes, and this may account for their typically late addition to agricultural assemblages. It should be noted, however, that recent research in Israel suggests that figs may have been domesticated at a site near Jericho in the Jordan Valley at about the same time as the first experiments with cereals and legumes, and some archaeologists believe that in New Guinea, tubers may have been domesticated long before other crops were imported.