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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

7000 Legumes

6000 Leafy Greens

5000 Fruits

4000 Vegetables

3000 Nuts, Seeds, Herbs, and other foods


413 Issues in this Publication (Showing issues - 8000)

Calathea allouia - Guinea Arrowroot


Edible portions : Tubers, Root, Flowers, Leaves - flavour, Vegetable

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.

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.


Arundo donax - Biblical Reed, Giant Reed


Edible parts : 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

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

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.

Distribution : A tropical plant. It is native to SE Asia. It grows in forests ad can grow in full sun or light shade.


Colocasia esculenta - Taro

Starchy Staple

Edible portion : Corm, Leaves, Stalks, Vegetable, Root, Flowers

This plant has large flat leaves on the end of upright leaf stalks. It grows up to 1 m high. The leaf stalk or petiole joins the leaf towards the centre of the leaf. The leaves are 20-50 cm long. Near the ground a thickened rounded corm is produced. Around this plant their is normally a ring of small plants called suckers. Many different varieties occur. If left to maturity, a lily type flower is produced in the centre of the plant. It has a spathe 15-30 cm long which is rolled inwards. The flowers are yellow and fused along the stalk. There are many named cultivated varieties.

Taro comes in two basic forms. The Dasheen type Colocasia esculenta var. esculenta and Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum or the Eddoe type. The basic difference is the adaptation of the Eddoe type to storage and survival in seasonally dry places, while the dasheen type needs to be maintained in a more or less continuously growing vegetative stage. These are now recognised as separate species names.

Dactyloctenium aegyptium - Comb fringe grass

Starchy Staple

Edible portion : Seeds, Cereal, Rhizome, Root

An annual grass. The stems are slender. They can lie along the ground. These can form roots at the nodes. They can have runners and form mats. It is 15-60 cm high. The edges of the leaf sheaths have small hairs. The leaf blades are flat and 5-20 cm long by 0.2-0.6 cm wide. The surfaces are lumpy/hairy. It tapers to the tip. The flowers spread like fingers on a hand. There are 2-9 flower stalks. They are long and narrow. They often spread out horizontally. The spikes are on one side of the stalk. The tip is bare. The seed grains are about 1 mm across.

Hordeum vulgare - Barley

Starchy Staple

Edible portion : Seeds, Cereal, Seeds - Tea

An erect annual grass. It grows 80-120 cm tall. The nodes are solid and the internodes are hollow. The leaves are narrow.  There are 5-10 leaves. They are produced alternately on opposite sides of the stem at the nodes. The leaves are narrowly sword shaped and 5-40 cm long by 0.5-1.5 cm wide. The flowers are greenish. Flowers have long awns. The fruit is a grain. It is oval and narrow. There are a range of named cultivated varieties.

Ipomoea batatas - Sweet Potato

Starchy Staple

Edible portion : Tuber, Root, Leaves, Vegetable

This is a root crop which produces long creeping vines. The leaves are carried singly along the vine. Leaves can vary considerably from divided like fingers on a hand to being entire and rounded or heart shaped. At the end of the vine, trumpet shaped flowers grow. They are purple. Under the ground fattened tubers are produced. There are a large number of varieties which vary in leaf shape and colour, tuber shape, colour, texture and in several other ways.

Manihot esculenta - Cassava

Starchy Staple

Edible portion : Root, Leaves, Flowers, Vegetable

A plant which can re-grow year after year from the thickened roots. It has several stems. The stems are woody and have some branches. Plants grow up to 2 or 3 metres high. Stalks have distinct scars where leaves have fallen. The leaves tend to be near the ends of branches. The leaves are divided like the fingers on a hand. The leaves have long leaf stalks. The leaves have 3-7 long lobes which can be 20 cm long. These are widest about 1/3 of the distance from the tip and taper towards the base. The colour varies. It produces several long tubers. These can be 50 cm long by 10 cm across. The flowers are on short stalks around a central stalk. They are produced near the ends of branches. The female flowers are near the base of the flower stalk and the male flowers higher up.