Each month we will publish a newsletter explaining our beliefs and highlighting some plants.
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Making information accessible is a major challenge. Many scientists write in exceedingly academic language and publish it in obscure and expensive journals. In the meantime, children die of malnutrition and many others, including adults, suffer serious “hidden hunger”, or micronutrient deficiencies.
Places mentioned: Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens; Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC); Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Centre (MARDI); the Forestry Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM)
Countries mentioned: China, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Timor
Some of the micronutrients that are often in short supply in other vegetables can occur in significant amounts in sea vegetables. This includes iodine and some vitamins.
Keywords: seaweeds, mushrooms, local markets, micronutrients
Food plants mentioned: edible seaweeds, edible mushrooms, edible fungi
Places mentioned: Pacific, Asia
Never before in history has the gap between rich and poor been so wide. One of the out-workings of this is a global discontent, and this is in an age where we have the resources to bridge the gaps and address the needs if we chose to.
Keywords: Christianity, rich, poor, worldview, conservation, preservation, sustainable agriculture
Food plants mentioned: maize
Places mentioned: Papua New Guinea, Zimbabe
Books mentioned: The Hole in the Gospel
The advantage of the local plants is that often they are “nutrient dense” or not bulky and starchy, and often have high amounts of key nutrients that when they fall short cause what is called “hidden hunger” or micronutrient deficiency.
Keywords: nutrient dense, hidden hunger, micronutrient deficiency, diversity
Food plants mentioned: edible leaves, local plants
Places mentioned: Brisbane (Australia), Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Africa, China, Malaysia
“Most food on planet earth is grown by women!” We still live with the impression that food production everywhere is large scale and mechanised. Usually women are far more aware and deeply concerned about feeding their families well.
Keywords: women, food production, subsistence food production, nutritionally destitute
Food plants mentioned: sweet potato, coffee, cardamom
Places mentioned: Laos, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Ghana, Zambia, Fiji
Good books mentioned: So shall we reap and Coming Famine
The long-term aim of the Food Plants International’s database is to fit all the food plants into the region where they grow best. This is a combination of temperature, rainfall, soils, day-length, seasonality and a range of other factors. This combination is known as a biome.
Keywords: biomes, agricultural zones, mangrove swamps, coral atolls
Food plants mentioned: karuka pandanus, banana passionfruit, winged bean, soybean, mangrove fruit, nypa palm, coastal pandanus, Tahitian chestnut, swamp taro
Places mentioned: Papua New Guinea; Tasmania; Solomon Islands; coral atolls of Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tokelau; Africa (Zimbabwe)
Most biological processes go at a much faster rate in tropical environments. This means that when mistakes are made they become visible tragedies at a much faster rate and successes can also be dramatically achieved through wise choices about production and plants used.
Food plants mentioned: sugar-beet, Aibika (Abelmoschus manihot), peanut (Arachis hypogea)
Keywords: small holders, energy crisis, mixed cultivation, evergreen revolution, under-nutrition, CADS programme
People mentioned: Dr Swaminathan, J. E. van der Plank, Raoul Robinson
Countries mentioned: Australia (Tasmania), India, Zimbabwe, Papua New Guinea
Thankfully, a large number of top scientists throughout the tropics are now working on their own local plants to fill the information void. Not every farmer knows everything, and given the diversity of local languages, information often stays confined to one ethnic group. Books and posters and attractive publications can help bridge these barriers to the flow of knowledge.
Food plants mentioned: Ofenga (Pseuderanthemum whartonianum), Indian spinach (Basella alba), palpal (Erythrina variegata), momienh (Cleome gynandra)
Keywords: indigenous knowledge, ethno-botanists, village farmers,
Countries mentioned: Solomon Islands, India, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe
Agro-ecological system of farming: Putting the right plant in the right place and growing it the right ecologically sound way. Practising good soil maintenance techniques can keep soil alive and fertile and productive. Growing plants well is the best contribution towards controlling pests and disease.
Food plants mentioned: fruit, leafy greens, nuts, pumpkin family, sweet potato, corn, yardlong bean, winged bean, peanuts, maize, sorghum
Diseases mentioned: mildew, Elsinoe scab disease; Pests: Striga; Techniques: airlayering, intercropping
Places mentioned: Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Africa
There are foods that have other functions besides simply tasting good or meeting our nutrient requirements. Rather than try to become an expert on all the special benefits of the multitude of functional foods, try diversifying the diet and try a wider range of food plants. On a regular basis people get caught with the latest fad food that offers to be the answer to everything and claims to be able to cure anything.
Food plants mentioned: Polyscias fruticosa, Stinging nettle (Urtica spp.), Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), Mountain soursop (Annona montana), Soncoya (Annona purpurea), Noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia), Camboge (Garcinia cambogia), cabbage, rice
Keywords: functional foods, nutrients, nutritionism, malnutrition, health benefits, “salad avoiders”
Countries mentioned: Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Solomon Islands, northern Australia, Asia, South Africa
It is an ongoing struggle for people to provide sufficient Vitamin A for their families and to understand the sad consequences if they neglect this area of nutrition. This newsletter describes a range of leafy greens and looks at some people who are making a difference in their areas of the world.
Food plants mentioned: Cassava leaves (Manihot esculenta), Indian spinach (Basella alba), Okra leaves (Abelmoschus esculentus), Fat hen (Chenopodium album), Amaranth (Amaranthus)
Key words: Vitamin A bar graph, CADS, Dr Maundu, Dr Duke
Countries mentioned: Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Zimbabwe, India
Everybody has to have a starchy staple food as their energy supply to meet bodily requirements. If you don’t have enough of one of these you are “hungry”. But to fill your stomach with a starchy staple is a recipe for malnutrition. Following a disaster such as a famine, by supplying a traditional food staple, people’s recovery and return to sustainable food production is much, much faster after the rains return and the food shortage ends.
Food plants mentioned in this newsletter: cassava, wheat, maize, sorghum, millet, rice, bananas, taro, sweet potato, sago
Key words: famine, aid programmes, food security