In the developing world, food security is often fragile or non-existent and many children die from hunger and malnutrition. Tasmanian agriculture scientist Bruce French is intending to change this tragedy by cataloging every edible plant in the world.
The idea came to French while teaching classes in Papua, New Guinea. Most of the textbooks outlined Western plants, but his students wanted to learn about the local ones that grew nearby. Not having any direct knowledge of the native plants, the agriculturist began a quest that took him across the globe.
He was surprised to discover how much knowledge of local foods had been forgotten or ignored over the past few decades, as countries became more Westernized.
His goal is to help others rethink local plants in terms of availability and nutrition. He wants to connect people to their own beneficial local plant resources, which are sometimes growing in their own backyards.
“It’s really getting them to look and learn what their local plants are because often they are much more nutritious than introduced ones,” said Deborah French, Bruce’s wife and partner in
Together they’ve spent the past four decades researching edible plants and cataloging them into a database with more than 30,000 entries. Their work is entirely voluntary and focuses on five primary nutrients: protein, iron, vita- mins A and C, and zinc.
In 1999, the database was put online and made available to everyone at food-plantsinternational.com, where users can look up the types of plants growing in their area along with nutritional values, growing tips, and even recipes. The
site is continually updated and is intend- ed to help end malnutrition worldwide.
It turns out that our precious planet Earth provides more nutritional healing for us than we tend to acknowledge— we just need to start looking in our own backyards.
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