Did you know that the fruit from the Baobab tree (Adansonia digitata L.) can contain up to six times more vitamin C than the same serving size of oranges and twice as much calcium as milk? Or that tamarind fruits are rich in protein and antioxidants, containing 40 percent more protein than the same serving size of avocado?
Though often unstated, forests and trees are much more than greenhouse gas banks (GHG) and ecosystem service providers; they are some of the world’s most valuable food producers. Their fruits and vegetables provide essential nutrition, dietary diversity, medicine and sources of income to people everywhere. When sustainably managed in agroforestry systems, increasing evidence shows that food trees are also primary engines of sustainable agricultural transformation, limiting deforestation while enriching the soil and generating valuable crops and wood products.
Both the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV) and the start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration make 2021 an especially relevant time to reflect on the essential role of tree foods for human health, nutrition and food security. Several FTA events this year have already spotlighted these benefits. For example, during an event that was co-hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization last February, FTA’s FP1 Leader, Ramni Jamnadass, presented on the challenges of conserving fruit tree species and sharing genetic resources to make food systems more resilient. The UN Food Systems Pre-Summit last month also featured sessions in which FTA scientists such as Fergus Sinclair, Amy Ickowitz and Stepha McMullin championed agroecology and food trees conservation.
In this context, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is launching “From Tree to Fork” – a communication campaign to raise awareness about some of the most unrecognized and underappreciated fruits and vegetables that come from trees.
With its captivating graphics and scientist-reviewed information, “From Tree to Fork” is aligned with the current global agenda to celebrate these benefits. Many of the tree foods compiled here supply key nutrients in local and indigenous diets around the world. Other parts of these trees including their leaves and bark are often used for medicine, carpentry, cultural traditions and in agroforestry systems where they can enhance soil fertility and improve crop survival rates. Together, the nutritional and livelihood functions of food-tree species contribute to community stability, income generation and dietary diversity.
New fruits and vegetables with colourful infographics to download will be released one-by-one over the rest of 2021 on a weekly basis, so stay tuned to never miss out on the updates. In the meantime, here are some quick facts to snack on!
- The leaves of Jacote trees have been shown to exhibit anti-bacterial properties. A single 100 g edible portion of Jacote contains 63% of the potassium requirements for children aged 4-6 years old!
- Rich in antioxidants and high in vitamin C, bitter beans are also enjoyed by hornbills, monkeys, squirrels, deer, elephants and wild pigs. The wood of the tree is used for pulp to manufacture paper and in carpentry.
- The productivity life-time of a Palmyra Palm is over 100 years! The tree in India is said to have “800 uses” and it is considered a cultural symbol in many Asian countries.
- The seeds of the African Breadfruit contain more protein than soybeans!