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Eating the Future: What Can We Eat by 2050? Pansy fruits or fake bananas

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In the future, you can have breakfast with fake bananas or taste pandanus tree fruit.

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the dangers of dependence on several globally traded crops.

With 90% of calories from just 15 crops, experts at Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, are looking for ingredients for future diets.

Climate change increases the risk of severe “food shocks” if crops are not harvested and commodity prices rise rapidly around the world.

Diversifying the food we eat is one of the solutions to alleviate hunger, address biodiversity loss and help adapt to climate change, says researcher Sam Pirinon.

“We know that there are thousands of edible plant species around the world that are consumed by different populations, and here we can find some of the solutions to these global challenges of the future,” he says.

Of the more than 7,000 edible plants worldwide, only 417 are widely grown and used for food.

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Pandanus (Pandanus tectorius) is a small tree that grows in the coastal areas of the Pacific Islands to the Philippines. The leaves are used to flavor sweet and savory foods in much of Southeast Asia, while pineapple-like fruits can be eaten raw or cooked.

The tree can tolerate difficult conditions, including drought and strong winds

Beans

Beans, or vegetables, are another “food of the future.” They are inexpensive, rich in protein and B vitamins, and are suitable for a wide range of environments, from ocean shores to mountain slopes.

There are 20,000 species of vegetables in the world, but we only use one hand. It is believed that there are hundreds in the wild, still unknown to scientists.

Morama beans (Tylosema esculentum) are a staple food in parts of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, where the grains are boiled with corn or ground into a powder to make porridge or a cocoa-like beverage.

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Not all vegetables are edible, but experts are exploring the properties of different species to see which ones can provide food and nutrients.

Wild grains

Cereals, which come from herbs, also have a huge diversity, with over 10,000 species – offering a lot of potential for new foods.

Fonio (Digitaria exilis) is a nutritious African cereal used to make couscous, porridge and drinks. The plant can tolerate dry conditions.

Enset or “fake banana” is a close “relative” of banana, but is consumed only in part of Ethiopia.

Banana-like fruit is inedible, but the starchy stems and roots can be fermented and used to make porridge and bread.

Studies suggest that it has the potential to feed more than 100 million people in a warming world.

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