Non-Conventional Food Plants (NCFPs) symbolize diverse, healthy and accessible food
Most of these plants sprout on their own and grow spontaneously in the earth beds. Some receive pejorative classifications such as ‘harmful.” Many of them, meanwhile, are edible and have a high nutritional value – equal to or superior to those of the vegetables, roots and fruit that we are accustomed to eating.
The term Non-Conventional Food Plants (NCFPs) refers to all the native or exotic plants that have some edible part but are not included in our daily meal plan, like lettuce, cabbage, arugula are, either because it is not customary or through a lack of information.
Some of the more well-known are milkweed, elephant’s ears, purslane, sorrel, hibiscus, and the now famous lemon vine – rich in protein and essential amino acids, fiber, Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, which greatly benefits the intestinal flora.
In Brazil, there are at least three thousand species of known eatable plants. It is estimated that this number may reach five thousand, which is equivalent to 10% of the native flora.
The NCFPs adapted to different environments try to reseed naturally and thus contribute to the recovery of the processes of the living systems, contributing to the formation of biodiverse cultures. Futhermore, in integration with the human communities, they are fundamental in planning for food and ecologic sovereignty – which symbolizes a guarantee of diverse, healthy, and accessible foods.
“They do not need to be cultivated, just maintained and managed according to the conditions of the soil and interest in their propagation. Because they have sprouted in diversified environments, they interact with the rest, maintaining the diversity, the base of life,” affirms a monk of the Grace Mercy Order, Friar Renatto.
Non-conventional plants, in the form of permanent cultures, such as permaculture, maintain the water cycle and are responsible for diminishing the compaction and increasing the life in the soil, requiring less use of energy in the system, explains the Friar.
In this way, they contribute to the ecologic balance and show themselves to be good choices of food for vulnerable social groups. For example, according to the monk, the NCFPs are rich in essential vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and mineral salts.
The members of the Light-Community of Figueira integrate the NCFPs into the agroforestry systems, which according to Friar Renatto, fosters the creation of natural ecosystems and generates food without so many demands. “We are submerging deeper into the recognition and consumption of these plants,” he says.