At the beginning of the year we took a tour of 6 incredible plants you might not have heard of. Diets worldwide – from forest roots and leaves such as the moringa in Africa and parts of Asia to cardoon, the close relative of the artichoke in Europe – are varied, suited to local environment and can counter malnutrition and disease.
Here are six more traditional crops that you should add to your diet:
Cactus pear is indigenous to Mexico but now found across the world. Fruits of the drought-tolerant cactus pear, mainly made into syrups and jams, provide a good source of vitamins (especially Vitamin C) and amino acids. The branches are associated with reduction of blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol.
Try this cactus pear #recipe - Nopalitos with tomatoes and onions
The common buckwheat is gluten-free, easy to digest and contains rutin, a compound that prevents blood from clotting. Its flour is used for making noodles in China and Japan, pancakes and biscuits in Europe and North America, porridge and soup in Russia and Poland and unleavened chapattis in India.
Try this buckwheat #recipe - Stir-fried buckwheat noodles with vegetables
Low in calories (38kcal/100g) and rich in Vitamin C, the yam bean originated in Latin America and is now also cultivated in many Southeast Asian countries. Its roots can be eaten fresh, cut in strips in salads or marinated in lime and ground into flour for use in cakes and desserts. When mature, the seeds are toxic and can be used as pesticide.
Try this yam bean #recipe - Jicama (yam bean), avocado and pineapple salad
Breadfruit, which originated in Oceania, contains high levels of starch that can be a good replacement for wheat flour. The sticky latex is used in traditional medicine, for example it can be rubbed onto skin to treat skin infections. Traditionally, it is baked in ground ovens or roasted over hot coals. The fruit is fermented by burying it in layers between leaves, mixed with coconut cream, and baked into sour bread.
Try this breadfruit #recipe - Breadfruit pastry
Oca is an energy food, low in fat and easy to digest. One of the traditional tubers of the Andes, this plant can be grown at high altitudes from 2 500 to 4 000 meters above sea level and possesses a greater tolerance to pests than potatoes. It is cultivated for its edible crunchy root in which the plant stores starch over the winter or cold periods when it is not growing.
Try this oca #recipe - Stir-fried spicy oca and potato
Cardoon is a close relative of the artichoke and is used in traditional dishes in Spain, Italy and the south of France. Its flowers can be a substitute for rennet in cheese-making and its leaves are considered to possess diuretic effects, improve gall bladder and liver function and stimulate digestion. The seeds can be pressed into oil for biodiesel fuel production.