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
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Heliconia latispatha - Orange Gyro Lobster Claw
Edible portion : Shoots, Leaves, Fruit
A large herb. It grows 4 m tall. The flowering shoots are erect and 45 cm long. The flowers are green, yellow or orange. They have red or orange bracts around them.
It is a tropical plant. It grows in the moist lowlands. Cairns Botanical Gardens.
Saccharum officinarum - Sugarcane
Edible portion: Sap, Roots, Flowers
A tall thick stemmed clumpy grass. It has many nodes. It grows 1-6 m tall. It spreads 100 cm wide. A large number of different cultivated varieties occur. The leaves are long and narrow. They taper to the tip. They are rigid and droop at the tip. The cane varies in thickness, length of nodes, colour etc. The stalks have distinct nodes and the bottom of the leaf is wrapped in a sheath around the stalk. The flower is brownish. It is surrounded by dense silky white hairs.
It is a tropical plant. It occurs throughout the country of Papua New Guinea up to 2,750 m above sea level. It needs a temperature over 21°C for sprouting. It is frost sensitive. In Nepal it grows up to about 1400 m altitude. It suits hardiness zones 9-12. In Sichuan and Yunnan.
Rosenbergiodendron formosum - Blackberry Jam Fruit
Edible portion: Fruit
A shrub. It grows 4 m high. The fruit is a round berry 2-3 cm long by 1.6 cm wide. The fruit are green but turn yellow outside and black inside and are sweet. There are 2 rows of seeds
It is a tropical plant. It suits the hot, wet tropical lowlands. It grows on sandy ridges in the coastal plain. It also grows in dry savanna and along roadsides. It can grow in acid soils. It needs a USDA hardiness zone 10.
Prosopis juliflora - Honey Mesquite
Edible portion: Seeds, Leaves, Fruit, Flowers, Flowers - tea, Gum, Vegetable
A small tree up to 15- 20 m tall with long cracks in the bark. It is often a smaller tree about 3-5 m high. It is spiny and deciduous. Some kinds have thorns 5 cm long. The young branches are smooth and green. The bark is thick and rough greygreen. The leaves are twice divided. The leaflets are oblong and narrow. They are 1.5 cm long. There is no leaflet at the end. The flowers are golden yellow and crowded into dense spikes. These are 5-10 cm long and have a smell. The fruit is a yellow pod 10-20 cm long. The pod is brittle. It has brown seeds embedded in a whitish pulp. There are 10-20 seeds inside. It is a legume.
A tropical plant. It grows well in arid regions. It can grow on poor, sandy or rocky soil and can grow on salty soils. It grows in the Sahel. It has been introduced and is grown in some coastal areas of Papua New Guinea. It has also become self sown. It grows in areas with an annual rainfall between 150-750 mm. It grows between 600-2,400 m above sea level. It is wind resistant. It can grow in arid places.
Ziziphus mauritiana - Jujube tree
Edible portion: Fruit, Leaves, Seeds
A medium sized tree. It is thorny. It loses many of its leaves during the year. It grows up to 10-12 m high. The bark is grey, brown or pale red. Branches and the under surface of the leaves are densely hairy when young. The thorns arise from the base of the leaves. The leaves are alternate and simple. They are finely toothed. They can be oval or round and 8 cm long by 5 cm wide. The flowers are green and have a scent. They occur as 3-5 flowers together. The flowers are 1-2 cm long and on slender branches. The fruit are small, oval and yellow or brown. They are sweet. They are 2-5 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. The fruit are green when young and turn yellow or brown when ripe. The pulp is fleshy, acid and edible. The fruit have one seed imbedded in the flesh in a hard stone. The fruit wrinkle on drying. Many varieties exist.
A tropical plant. It grows well on sandy soils. It can survive droughts. It grows rapidly in dry places such as the Sahel. It can tolerate temperatures up to 44°C as well as periodic frosts once the trees are mature. It does best when the mean annual temperature is 22-30°C. It thrives in hot dry climates and arid zones. It grows in the Sahel. It needs adequate water during the fruiting season. It can grow at elevations up to 1,000 m in the tropics but does best below 600 m. It suits the lowlands. It grows in areas with rainfalls of 150-900 mm and is most common where rainfalls are 300-500 mm annually. It does not like excessive humidity for fruiting. It will grow on a range of soils but deep sandy loams with a pH of 7 or slightly higher are best. It can tolerate some salinity and water-logging. It can grow in arid places. It grows in Miombo woodland in Africa. In Sichuan and Yunnan.
Trichanthera gigantea - Giant Trichanthera
Edible portion: Leaves
A tree. It grows 5-25 m tall. The branches are 4 angled. The tips have a brown coating. The leaf stalk is 1-5 cm long and has a channel along it and is slightly hairy. The leaf blade is oval and 13-26 cm long by 6-14 cm wide. It is slightly hairy underneath. The flowers are in a loosely branched group at the ends of branches. This is 3-8 cm long by 2-3 cm wide. The fruit capsule is 17 -20 mm long by 6-7 mm wide. It has silky hairs. The seeds are 3-4 mm across.
It is a tropical plant
Eugenia uniflora - Surinam Cherry
Edible portion: Fruit, Leaves - Tea
A small tree up to 5-7.5 m high. It is often a much smaller shrub. Branches often develop close to the ground. The branches are thin and wiry. It has attractive oval and pointed leaves. They are dark green and shiny. The leaves are 2.5-6 cm long by 1.5-3 cm wide. New leaves are dark purple or red. The flowers are small and white and the fruit is lobed and red. There is a single large seed inside. The fruit is about 3 cm across. The tree is used as a hedge plant. The flesh of the fruit is edible. There are several named cultivated varieties.
It is a tropical plant. It grows in the lowlands. It is native to South America. It grows in the tropical lowlands from sea level up to about 800 m or higher in Papua New Guinea. In south India it grows to 1700 m altitude. In Argentina it grows from sea level to 1,500 m above sea level. It is suited to a warm moist climate. Adequate moisture is needed during fruit development. It can be grown in the subtropics. It can stand some frost. Mature trees can withstand frosts down to -3°C. It does best with a pH of 5-7. It grows in Miombo woodland in Africa. It suits hardiness zones 10-12. In XTBG Yunnan. In Sichuan.
Musa balbisiana - Lotus banana
Edible portion : Stem, Flowers, Fruit, Buds, Seeds, Roots
A large herb. It grows 3-10 m tall. It keeps growing from year to year by re-growing new stalks from the underground root stock. The leaves are green and 3 m long. The flowers are purple. The fruit are pale yellow. They are 3 sided and 8 cm long. The fruit have seeds. This is the small diploid. The flower is pink and yellow and resembles a lotus bud. The fruit are in an upright spike. It needs pollination to produce seeds. Many bananas are hybrids between acuminata and balbisiana. See Musa x paradisiaca
A tropical plant. It grows in damp forests in N Thailand. It suits hardiness zones 10-12.
Pouteria glomerata - Abio
Edible Portion: Seeds, Fruits, Nuts
A medium sized tree. It grows 20 m tall. The trunk can be slightly fluted. The leaves are simple and alternate. The leaves are clustered at the ends of branches and arranged in spirals. They are 6-20 cm long by 3-6 cm wide. The leaves are widest above the middle. The leaves are silvery underneath. The flowers are small and in clusters on the branches below the leaves. There are 2-10 in a group. The fruit are round with a short sharp point. They are 3-9 cm long. The fruit turn yellow when ripe. There can be one or several seeds.
A tropical plant. It grows in wet forests. It is often along river banks and in flooded land. It grows from sea level to 1,300 m above sea level. It is native to Mexico and El Salvador. It can grow on limestone soils.
Crescentia cujete - Calabash-Tree
Edible portion: Fruit, Kernel, Nuts
A tree up to 8 m high. It can be 30 m high. It is evergreen and has an open crown. The branches are mostly horizontal. The leaves are oval but taper towards both ends. They can be 6-25 cm long by 2.5-8 cm wide. They are shiny and bright green. The leaves are clustered near the ends of the twigs. The leaf stalks can be 5-25 cm long. The small flowers grow in clusters of 2 to 5 on young wood. The flowers have a scent. The fruit is round, slightly pointed at the end, orange yellow and up to 10 cm long. The skin is thin, tough and waxy. The flesh is orange and has a musky smell. The seeds are about 2-3 cm long, dark brown and shiny. There are often 1-3 seeds per fruit.
It is native to C and S America. It is a tropical and subtropical plant. It suits the coast in the tropics and is damaged by frost. It can grow up to 1400 m in the tropics. It will grow on fairly poor soils. It does better on fertile well drained soils. It can tolerate reasonably dry periods. In Brisbane Botanical Gardens. In XTBG Yunnan. It suits hardiness zones 10-11.