Wars, climate change, lack of access to drinking water… So many factors that can lead to situations of food insecurity, according to experts. How to reverse this situation?
“False banana”, “wild cereals”, fruit of the Pandanus tectorius… You may not be familiar with these names yet. It’s just the foods that could be on your plate in a few years.
In an article published on its site this Sunday, May 22, the BBC reports that scientists have compiled a list of little-known plants that could be on the menu by 2050.
“In the future, you could have your breakfast with a ‘fake banana’ (ensete) or snack on a pandanus fruit,” the BBC reads.
The article explains that “the war in Ukraine has highlighted the dangers of depending on a few crops marketed on a global scale”.
With 90% of calories coming from just 15 crops, experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, are looking for ingredients to prepare our diets for the future, reports BBC.
According to Dr Sam Pirinon, a researcher at Kew, diversifying the foods we eat is one of the solutions to alleviating hunger, combating biodiversity loss and helping to adapt to climate change.
Of more than 7,000 edible plants in the world, only 417 are widely cultivated and used for food.
What are these foods of the future?
The flight of the pandanus tectorius
Pandanus (Pandanus tectorius) is a small tree that grows in the coastal areas of the Pacific Islands in the Philippines. The leaves are used to flavor sweet and savory dishes in much of Southeast Asia, while the fruit, which looks like a pineapple, can be eaten raw or cooked.
The tree can tolerate harsh conditions including drought, high winds and salt spray, says Kew researcher Marybel Soto Gomez.
Beans, or legumes, are another “food of the future”. They’re inexpensive, high in protein and high in B vitamins. They’re also suitable for a wide range of environments, from ocean shores to mountain slopes.
There are 20,000 species of pulses in the world, but we only use a handful. It is believed that there are hundreds of them in the wild, still unknown to scientists.
Morama bean (Tylosema esculentum) is a staple in parts of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, where the beans are boiled with maize or powdered to make porridge or a drink similar to cocoa.
Not all legumes are edible, but experts are studying the properties of different species to determine which ones might provide food and nutrients.
Cereals, which come from grasses, also show enormous diversity, with more than 10,000 species, which offers great potential for new foods.
Fonio (Digitaria exilis) is a nutritious African cereal used to make couscous, porridge and drinks. Grown locally, the plant can tolerate dry conditions.
Ensete or the “false banana”
Enset or “false banana” is a close relative of the banana, but it is eaten only in part of Ethiopia.
The fruit of the plant, which looks like a banana, is inedible, but the starchy stems and roots can be fermented and used to make porridge and bread.
Studies suggest that banana cultivation has the potential to feed over 100 million people in a warming world.