Duckweed may be the food of the future

Duckweed, considered one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, could represent one of the key solutions to fight hunger in the world, especially in the coming decades as it is expected that the world population should reach a peak of 9.7 billion people in 2050.

Duckweed is an aquatic plant that reproduces very quickly so that often the freshwater mirrors in which it grows can be completely covered by a carpet of leaves. It is mainly used to produce starch which in turn can be used for the production of ethanol. However, it represents a source of traditional and primary food for different populations living in south-east Asia.

According to Eric Lam, a professor in the Plant Biology Department of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, this small plant, relatively easy to grow, could be the solution. It is more nutritious than salad, has an excellent content of vitamin fibers and offers different nutritional benefits so that some species (the family includes 37) are also used in traditional folk medicine in various regions of Southeast Asia.

It tastes not very strong and chopped or smoothed it can be mixed with other ingredients. Lam himself claims to have tried it also in a sandwich with a hamburger. The same researcher has calculated that the variety of lentils of water that grows faster can produce up to 20 grams (once it has been dried) per square meter every day, a quantity 50 times higher than what can be obtained from corn.

The same seedling, not being very large, can also be cultivated at home or in small gardens with very limited extensions. The same researchers in Lam’s laboratory are trying to maximize culture techniques even further and are also working on automated harvesting methods to reduce reproduction costs even further.

In 20 years these little seedlings, which are almost unknown here in the West, could be one of the typical dishes or side dishes on our tables.