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    Little Known Food Crops



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    According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation just 30 plant species provide 95% of the world population’s calories and proteins, either directly or indirectly through their use as animal feed. Just three grains, wheat rice, and corn (maize) provide around 60% of the calories and 56% of the protein humans consume directly from plants. We are dependent on a very few crops that were chosen for cultivation a very long time ago, mostly by Stone Age people. The choices they have made may not have been the best, and may not be enough to sustain us into an uncertain future.

    There are thousands of edible wild species; the choices of what plants would make the best crops are not always obvious. The wild relatives of many well-known crop plants are far from palatable or productive, and some are poisonous. These plant species have been transformed by conscious and unconscious selection.

    Compounds that give wild plants a bitter taste are often a natural protection against being eaten by insects and other organisms. The downside of creating large tasty food crops has often been sacrificing natural resistance to pests and diseases.

    The common food plants have been transferred to environments far from their wild range, and conditions and varieties have adapted to those conditions. For example, when the potato was first bought from its native South America to Europe the yields were very low, it was merely considered a curiosity. The plant adapted to the longer temperate day lengths and in 200 years has become a major European crop.

    Most of the plants mentioned below have not been extensively bred. Some have not been cultivated and bred at all. Being closer to the wild state they may have good potential for use in natural and low maintenance growing systems. There is potential for selection to improve food quality and yields and adapt plants to different ranges.

    Most common staple crops are annuals that require reseeding and cultivation each year. Perennial crops have better potential for use in permanent cover systems and natural methods of farming. Careful research should be carried out before the introduction of non-native perennials so as not to introduce invasive plants into wild ecosystems where they can displace native species.

    Index to Plants:

    , (Grains not derived from members of the grass family Graminaceae)
    1. Grain amaranths
    2. Quinoa
    3. Fat hen

    1. Ancient wheats, Emmer, Einkorn and Spelt.
    2. Tartarian Buckwheat
    3. Wild Rice
    4. Fonio (Acha)

    1. Intermediate Wheatgrass
    2. Eastern Gamagrass
    3. Agrotriticum
    4. Perennial Buckwheat


    1. Tarwi
    2. Velvet Bean

    1. Apios
    2. Winged Bean
    3. Ahipa
    4. Siberian Pea Tree
    5. Prairie Mimosa
    6. Kudzu

    1. Oca
    2. Chinese Yam
    3. Chufa
    4. Maca
    5. Mashua

    1. Bamboo’s
    2. Actindia, hardy kiwis.


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