Food Plants International - Plant Fact Sheets
Some 3 billion people in the world live outside the cash economy in the world’s poorest nations. Food security and regular supply are their daily concerns. Chronic malnutrition is a leading cause of death and disease for them. Young children are amongst the most affected. One child every 5-10 seconds dies from undernutrition. Vitamin A deficiency causes night blindness for someone every minute. Most people in tropical and subtropical countries are iron deficient.
Our goal is to provide information that enables people to choose the right plant for their environment, to give them stable food production and a greater choice of plants to enrich their diets and improve their nutritional wellbeing.
The plant fact sheets listed in this collection are only a small portion of those available from FPI. Please check your plant inquiries in the ECHO Search and reference the FPI plant database for further information.
Most of the plants selected to list here are further described in country-specific publications by Food Plant Solutions (FPS in the Search).
8000 Starchy Staples
6000 Leafy Greens
3000 Nuts, Seeds, Herbs, and other foods
553 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues - ) Next
Arundo donax - Biblical Reed, Giant Reed
Edible Portion: Shoots, Roots
A large grass. It grows 3.7-4.5 m tall and 1.2-1.8 m wide. It forms clumps. It has rhizomes. The stems are like bamboo. They can be 6 m tall. The leaves are drooping and grey-green. They are 60 cm long. They have thick joints and slender stems. The flower plumes are feathery and purple at first but white later. They grow on second year stems in mild climates.
Xanthosoma sagittifolium - Chinese taro
Edible portion : Tubers, Root, Leaves, Vegetable, Leaf Stalk, Stem
A herb up to 2 m tall. It has a short stem. At the top of the stem it produces large leaves. A corm is produced at the base of the plant. It produces about 10 cormels on the underground corm. These are about 15-25 cm long and flask shaped. The get wider towards the tip. Leaves are large and the stalk joins to the edge of the leaf. The leaves stand erect on stout petioles. There is a vein around the edge of the leaf. The leaf stalks can be 1 m long. The leaf blade is oval and 50-75 cm long. The leaf has triangular lobes at the bottom. The flower is produced below the leaves. The large bract around the flower is pale green and about 20 cm long. The bases of this overlap. The closely arranged spike of flowers is about 15 cm long. The smaller female section is at the bottom and the male section is larger and towards the top. There is a variety with blue on the stalks and leaves that was called Xanthosoma violaceum. X. mafaffa. The leaves are broad and spearhead shape. They are 60-130 cm long. There is a gap in the leaf blade on either
A tropical plant. It suits tropical rainforest regions. It grows well in hot, humid tropical areas. It can stand high rainfall. It can tolerate light shade. It does well in regions with an annual average temperature of 26°C. It grows from sea level up to about 2000 m. Soils need to be well drained but should be moist. It needs a well distributed rainfall of 1,400-2,100 mm during the growing season. It does not do well in atoll soils. The best pH if 5.5-6.8.
Gynura procumbens - Longevity Spinach
Edible Portion: Leaves as condiment, Flavouring, Spice
A climbing or creeping herb. It can grow 1 m tall. The leaves are fleshy. The young leaves are often purple underneath. They
are 3-8 cm long by 2-4 cm wide. The flowers are in greenish-yellow heads 2 cm long. The fruit are 5-6 mm long.
A tropical plant. It grows in sunny places. It grows on the edge of forests and in thickets. It grows along streams and up to 1,500
m above sea level.
Purple passion plant, Velvet plant, Longevity Spinach
Pandanus amaryllifolius - Pandan Leaf, Fragrant Screw Pine
Edible Portion : Leaves, Flavouring
A shrub 2-4 m tall. Often the plant is small due to repeated cutting. It can grow 8 m tall. There are stilt like aerial roots on the stems near the base. It develops suckers and forms clumps. The leaves are arranged in spirals. The leaves are narrow and folded like a fan. They have sharp edges. They are 75 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. They droop about half way along. The plant rarely flowers. The flowers are white and the fruit heads are 20 cm across.
A tropical plant. It is native to SE Asia. It grows in forests ad can grow in full sun or light shade.
Calathea allouia - Guinea Arrowroot
Edible portions : Tubers, Root, Flowers, Leaves - flavour, Vegetable
POW update to Goeppertia from Calathea
A herb. It keeps growing from year to year. It grows 1.5 m high. It has an underground rhizome or stem. There are several large leaves. The leaf is oblong and 20-60 cm long by 5-20 cm wide. The flowering stalk is 5-10 cm long. The flowers are in a spiral. They are white. The underground tubers are 1-5 cm long and 0.5-3 cm wide. They can be larger. They are covered with a yellowish-grey paper like skin. The tubers develop at the ends of the fibrous roots.
Distribution : It is a tropical plant. It requires a hot, even temperature. It does best with temperatures between 25-30°C. It needs a moderate rainfall. (1500-2000 mm). When there is plenty of humidity, nutrients and good soil drainage, plants do best in full sunlight. It is often grown in shade. They need soils rich in organic matter. In SE Asia it probably grows up to 600 m altitude. In Guatemala it grows to 1,400 m above sea level. Brisbane Botanical Gardens.
Digitaria exilis - Fonio
Food Plants International
Edible portion : Seeds, Cereal
A millet grass. It is erect. It grows from seed every year. It grows about 50 cm high. It forms tillers or new shoots are the base of the stem. The leaves are narrow. They can be 15 cm long. It has 2 to 4 racemes per inflorescence. These are 15 cm long. The grains are very small and usually yellow. They are about 1.5 mm across.
A tropical plant. It can grow on poor, shallow soils. It grows on the edge of the Sahel. It grows in the savannah. It can tolerate drought. It grows in arid locations. It can grow with 400 mm average rainfall. It can grow in acidic soils with a high aluminium content. It can grow in arid places. It grows in areas with a temperature between 20°C to 30°C. In West Africa it grows between sea level and 1,500 m above sea level.
Plinia cauliflora - Jaboticaba
Edible portion : Fruit
A medium sized evergreen tree. It grows to 5-13 m tall. The trunk is 15-20 cm across. It often has several stems. The bark peels off in patches. The leaves are opposite and small. They are dark green. They are 5 cm long by 2 cm wide. Flowers are produced on larger trunks and branches. Flowers are small and white and only last one or two days. Fruit can occur in clusters of 2 or 3 on short stalks on the trunks. The fruit are purplish black. Fruit are 2-4 cm across. They resemble a grape. The fruit have a white pulp and several seeds.
A tropical plant. It is native to S Brazil. It grows in humid higher mountain forests in Brazil. They suit tropical and subtropical climates. Trees cannot tolerate salt wind. Trees once established can survive temperatures down to -5°C for short periods. They do best in acid soil with pH of 5.5 to 6.5. On alkaline soils micronutrient deficiencies often occur. Heavy mulching and an organic soil are best. Because of the shallow root system plants suffer from drying out. Plants can survive extended flooding. They can stand full sun or shade. In Bolivia it grows between 300-1,700 m altitude. It suits hardiness zones 10-11.
Also, Myrciaria cauliflora
Garcinia aristata - Cuban Mangosteen
Edible portion : Fruit
A small tree. The leaves are dark and glossy with a hard spiny tip. The fruit are small and yellow. They have a white slightly sweet pulp. There are 1 or 2 large seeds.
A tropical plant. It is cold hardy down to 0°C. It can tolerate salty conditions. It suits lime soils.
Clausena lansium - Wampi
Edible portions : Fruit, Leaves
A small evergreen tree. It grows up to 6-10 m high. The leaves are 10-30 cm long and with leaflets along the stalk. There are 7 -15 pairs of leaflets which are 7-10 cm long. The flowers are in open flower stalk arrangements on the ends of branches. The fruit is small, round and yellow-green. It has a sweet smell. Fruit are 2.5 cm across. The skin is thin and easily peeled off. It is pliable and leathery. The flesh has five segments which are colourless. There are 1-3 flat green seeds. There are some named cultivated varieties.
It is native to S. China. A subtropical fruit. It can withstand light frosts. They can grow in dry situations. It can grow on a range of well drained soils. It can grow in acid and alkaline soils. Iron chlorosis occurs on alkaline soils. In the Cairns Botanical Gardens. It suits hardiness zones 10-12. In Sichuan and Yunnan.
Averrhoa bilimbi - Bilimbi
Edible portion : Fruit, Flowers, Spice
A small evergreen tree up to 7-10 m high. It can spread 3 m across. The stem is erect and short. Leaves are large. Leaves have from 5 to 17 or 34 pairs of leaflets. Leaves are pale green. The leaves are often clustered near the branch tips. Flowers are crimson. They are produced on old branches and the stem. The flowers are in 15 cm long clusters. These then bear clusters of cucumber shaped fruit on the trunk and older branches. Fruit are 8-10 cm long and yellow or green. They are soft and fleshy with a few flat seeds in the centre. Fruit are sour but edible.
A tropical plant. It suits the hot, wet tropical lowlands. The tree is drought resistant. It will grow from sea level up to at least 750 m altitude in the tropics. It prefers well composted, moist soil, in a protected, partly shaded position. It is frost tender. In the Cairns Botanical Gardens. It suits hardiness zones 10-12. At MARDI.