Researchers affiliated with the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, the United Kingdom, released a list of climate-resilient foods in their quest to expand food diversity and secure future generations’ diets as the planet’s climate gets hotter and drier.
“In the past, it’s been a mistake to try to somehow have all these major crops everywhere in the world,” explains Tiziana Ulian, a conservation biologist and senior research leader of Sustainable Use, Seeds and Solutions at Kew Gardens. “Why do we have to eat the same crops everywhere? Every country needs to think about and plan ahead for crops that are really adapted to their own conditions.”
Among the most climate-resilient foods is the Marama bean, a legume native to Southern Africa that grows in arid, sandy, and nutrient-poor soil. The cactus is a drought-tolerant and versatile plant. Ethiopia’s enset – nicknamed “the tree against hunger” – can live up to 12 years, and 60 plants could sustain a family of five for an entire year. Originating in Southern Mexico, the Chaya is highly resistant to pests and has a high tolerance to drought and high winds. As for the Pandanus, it is used for salt spray and high winds. Ocean farming is gaining popularity and utility, and seaweed has the potential to become one of the vegetables of the future since it doesn’t require fresh water, fertilizer, or land to grow. Beans (lentils, chickpeas, pintos, favas, and more) are already known as good foods, and new ones could be added to the list, such as the Yeheb nut – or the edible lupin – from Somalia and Ethiopia. If coffee isn’t necessary for life, its financial importance cannot be denied. “From a livelihood point of view, [climate change-proof coffee] makes a big difference,” and Sierra Leone’s rare species of wild coffee is much more heat-tolerant than other species.