Alternative Food Sources that Bestow Availability, Nutrition and Other Uses

Alternative food sources in a world of shrinking resources are those that offer a diverse profile in terms of availability, nutrition and other important uses. Some food plants grow well in marginal soil, offer high nutrition, and have medicinal uses that could make them high priority in years to come. Easy propagation, tolerance of diverse growing conditions, multiple uses of its products, and beneficial nutrition would be earmarks of life-saving food crops. Another food source already utilized in other countries is insects. An online search for nutritious foods yields results such as broccoli, kale, avocadoes, bee pollen and others equally well-known. While these all-stars undoubtedly have a place in the pantheon of nutritious foods, a few other candidates could nose them out.

Moringa oleifera, also known as horseradish or drumstick tree, is a miracle tree grown throughout the tropics that can nevertheless withstand frost and frozen soil. It propagates easily from stumps, seeds, direct sowing, cuttings or natural regeneration. It is drought-resistant and fast-growing.  Its seeds, which have antibiotic properties, can purify water. Its edible leaves are very high in protein, and they have an amino acid ratio comparable to that found in meat, which is very rare in plants. The leaves contain four times the vitamin A found in carrots, seven times the vitamin C in oranges, and three fourths the iron in spinach. In fact, if there were no other food, a moringa tree alone could sustain life.

The yam bean, or jicama, is another vigorous performer. This tuberous legume releases abundant nitrogen into soil in which it is grown. It produces large yields even in poor soil and dry conditions, and it resists disease and insects. Delicious raw, it can be juiced, made into soup, or prepared as a salad. It can also be cooked, toasted, soaked, fried, pickled or fermented. Oil can be made from its seeds, and its leaves can be fed to animals. Typically grown in Mexico and Central America, it is known by various names. It contains high amounts of vitamin C. It needs a long growing season.

Finally, insects already constitute an alternative food source in countries such as Mexico, Central America, Korea and Africa. Grasshoppers or locusts are common fare, as are caterpillars and beetles. Insects contain protein, iron and sometimes calcium. Many are easy to grow, and they can be purchased at bait and pet shops. If nothing else, insects can be fed to chickens, increasing egg and meat yields.

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