Quantcast

10 Indigenous Foods You Should ​Be Eating

Food

Indigenous crops are a testament to how a community may be nourished and sustained by locally sourced foods, without the help (or hurt) of processed products. Not only do indigenous crops provide much-needed nutrients and diet diversity, but they can help the communities that produce them thrive. Try out some of these 10 indigenous foods to up the nutrient level in your diet and help support agricultural communities around the world.

1. Cape Gooseberry (Peru, Colombia, Ecuador)

This little fruit has many uses. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Nowadays, this sweet yellow berry is cultivated in South Africa instead of its South American home, hence its namesake. The cape gooseberry is able to grow easily in degraded soil, making it a high-yield crop for farmers with limited access to fertilizer. This little fruit has many uses, similar to those of the tomato, but may also be made into jams or desserts.

2. Cloves (Indonesia)

Clove is a versatile spice. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This versatile spice has been widely recognized for its medicinal properties, particularly in relieving digestion, numbing pain and alleviating nausea. Its main component, eugenol, is an anti-inflammatory substance and gives the spice its distinctive intense, aromatic flavor. Cloves are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, calcium and magnesium.

3. Flax (Middle East and Western Asia)

Flax seeds are high in fiber. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The flax plant has been cultivated since ancient times, due to its variety of uses. Flax may be made into edible oil, taken as a supplement, grown ornamentally or its fibers woven into linen. Flax seeds, which may be sprinkled on salads for crunch or added to baked goods, are very high in dietary fiber and micronutrients.

4. Fonio (West Africa)

Although fonio is a labor intensive crop, it is a very important source of nutrients for its West African cultivators during the hunger season, the period of time before the next harvest when food is scarce. This grain is extremely multifunctional and may be used to make porridge, couscous, beer, cereal, bread, pasta or feed for livestock.  

5. Lemongrass (Oceania)

Lemongrass may be added to a dish for a light citrus flavor. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This subtle herb, which is often used in Asian cuisines, is known to have anti-microbial, anti-fungal, antioxidant and anti-septic properties. Lemongrass may be added to a dish for a light citrus flavor or planted in a home garden (with barriers between crops) to ward off insects.

Read Page 1

6. Macadamia Nut (Australia)

Macadamia nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Australian Aborigines often incorporated this nut into their diets, due to its high nutritional value. Macadamia nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, dietary fiber, calcium, vitamin E and are touted to lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease. This sweet nut may be eaten raw or used variously in cooking, baking and as a topping for desserts.

7. Mesquite (Mexico, southwestern U.S.)

Mesquite beans have a sweet, nutty flavor. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This hardy plant is both drought-tolerant and nitrogen-fixing, meaning it can enrich soil fertility where it grows. Its beans have a sweet, nutty flavor when ground into a flour and it also yields a resin which Native American groups used to treat cuts and abrasions. Mesquite bean flour is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, sulfur, zinc and dietary fiber.

8. Yacón (northern and central Andes)

The sweet, tuberous roots of this perennial plant contain fructooligosaccharide, a very low-calorie and prebiotic substance that aids digestion. Yacón may also be made into a syrup for a low-sugar, natural sweetener.

9. Yellow Dock (northwestern North America)

First Nations tribes use yellow dock medicinally. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Also known as Indian rhubarb, yellow dock roots were often used medicinally by Native American groups. First Nations tribes still use the plant to treat bad digestion, skin ailments and swellings. Yellow dock leaves may also be cooked and eaten similarly to spinach.

10. Teff (Ethiopia, Eritrea)

Ethiopian flat bread, injera, is made from fermented teff. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

According to a study by the Southern Agricultural Research Center, teff is a low-risk, high-gain crop for its farmers due to its ability to grow in a variety of environments, its relative resistance to disease and its ease of harvest and storage. As a result, this high protein and calcium grain provides much of the nutrition of the Ethiopian diet, especially in the famous flat bread injera, made from fermented teff.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Waterloo Bridge during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London. Martin Hearn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Money talks. And today it had something to say about the impending global climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Sam Cooper

By Sam Cooper

Thomas Edison once said, "I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!"

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
A NOAA research vessel at a Taylor Energy production site in the Gulf of Mexico in September 2018. NOAA

The federal government is looking into the details from the longest running oil spill in U.S. history, and it's looking far worse than the oil rig owner let on, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Damage at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from the 2016 occupation. USFWS

By Tara Lohan

When armed militants with a grudge against the federal government seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon back in the winter of 2016, I remember avoiding the news coverage. Part of me wanted to know what was happening, but each report I read — as the occupation stretched from days to weeks and the destruction grew — made me so angry it was hard to keep reading.

Read More Show Less
Computer model projection of temperature anomalies across Europe on June 27. Temperature scale in °C. Tropicaltidbits.com

A searing heat wave has begun to spread across Europe, with Germany, France and Belgium experiencing extreme temperatures that are set to continue in the coming days.

Read More Show Less
Skull morphology of hybrid "narluga" whale. Nature / Mikkel Høegh Post

In the 1980s, a Greenlandic subsistence hunter shot and killed a whale with bizarre features unlike any he had ever seen before. He knew something was unique about it, so he left its abnormally large skull on top of his toolshed where it rested until a visiting professor happened upon it a few years later.

Read More Show Less