Cassava is currently the sixth most produced crop in terms of global production, and is the staple for millions of people in the poorest and most marginal regions of the world. Cassava is a perennial woody shrub with an edible root, which grows in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. It is also called yuca, manioc, and mandioca. It is very hardy and has the ability to grow on land where drought is frequent and in soils low in nutrients, where cereals and other crops do not grow well. Cassava’s high starch content provides a valuable source of carbohydrates, much higher than those of maize or rice, and the roots can be processed into a wide variety of granules, pastes, flours, or consumed freshly boiled or raw. In Africa, people also eat the leaves of the cassava as a green vegetable, which provide a low-cost source of protein and vitamins A and B.
Food Forever Experience
On 5 February 2019 in San José Costa Rica, we teamed up with world-class chefs and the conservation community to organize an inspirational meal at the 2nd Global Conference of the One Planet Network: Sustainable Food Systems Programme. Featuring algae, unusual tropical fruits, and other lesser-known ingredients, we celebrated the transformative power of sustainable, diverse and healthy diets and addressed the challenges facing our food system.
Meet the Chefs
Petiveria alliacea goes by many names. In Tobago, it’s known as “Gully Root;’ in Jamaica it is identified as “Garlic Weed” or “Guinea hen weed” and South Americans recognize it as “Anamu.” Regardless of what you call it, the herb is rich in antioxidants and has a long history of medicinal uses where it’s grown. It’s been said to cure everything from arthritis to digestive problems, and adding it to your favorite dish or brewing it into a tea, only adds a nutrient punch.
Malanga is a nutritious root vegetable similar in texture to the potato but higher in fiber and more nutrient-dense. It’s an important crop across the Caribbean, Central America, and certain parts of Africa and Asia. Often confused with taro, malanga is differentiated by its hairy texture and more elongated shape. It’s a star in many Latin American dishes and can be baked, fried, stewed or ground into a flour.
Pejibaye, also known as peach palm fruit, grows in large clusters on a special type of palm tree scientifically known as Bactris gasipaes. The fruits, which are smaller than a peach and range in color from red to yellow and orange, are packed with vitamins and nutrients and have a savoury taste. Pejibaye is native to South and Central America. While it’s not a crop widely exported, Costa Rica is a major producer of peach palm, and it is an important part of the local economy. Peijbaye gained international attention when Spanish explorers discovered thousands of peach palms on the country’s shores. Today, it’s still a beloved snack across the country and can be eaten fresh, or used in cakes, stews, soups, and even liquor.
Bananas and plantains are grown in more than 130 countries across the tropics, and about 90% are produced on small farms and consumed locally. They are particularly important in East Africa where they constitute the main staple food for about 50% of the population. In terms of gross value of production, bananas and plantains are the developing world’s fourth most important crop after rice, wheat and maize. The fruits are highly nutritious, containing large amounts of carbohydrates and minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, and potassium as well as vitamins A and C.
Star fruit is a tropical fruit native to the Malayan archipelago with a flavor that’s sweet and sour. First discovered by the Portuguese, the fruit was called carambola in India in the Malayalam language, meaning “food appetiser.” The Portuguese took the fruit from India to Africa and South America and then on to Europe in the 18th century where it was considered a highly fashionable fruit and served only in exclusive restaurants. Today, star fruit is eaten raw, as a juice and also used in making jellies and sweets.
Tacaco is a crawling vine that grows in tropical regions. It produces a small green football-shaped fruit that’s slightly spiny but edible. To prepare tacaco, you boil the fruits, and discard the bitter pit. The result is a fibrous dish with a flavor reminiscent of artichoke.
In Costa Rica, they’re called Tiquisque. Around the world, they belong to a crop as important and widely eaten as rice and potatoes. Taro is typically eaten boiled, stewed, sliced or fried (to chips or tempura), or dried and ground into flour. The leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals, and it’s been a staple crop across Southeast Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands for centuries. Today, taro continues to be important to farmer livelihoods, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.
Deep green and with a satin-like texture, wakame seaweed is a nutrient-rich algae that’s easy to grow. It’s been cultivated for centuries by sea farmers in Korea and Japan and can be harvested year-round, growing quickly without the need for chemical inputs. It also supports the water’s biological balance where it grows and is one of the few plant-based sources for omega 3 fatty acids. Packing a salty unami flavor, wakame is typically sold dried and can be added to soups, salads and main dishes.
The experience was made possible by the commitment of our partners