There are about 300 thousand food plants around the world, however, we almost always consume the same. The options we conventionally have are several, but how about varying a little and trying out the calls Unconventional Food Plants, PANC’s? In addition to increasing our range of options, the benefits for us, the environment and the future of the planet are truly incredible and inspiring. Shall we understand a little more?
PANC is exactly what its acronym proposes: Unconventional Food Plants, that is, that we commonly do not find in the supermarket. And to conceptualize them in a better way we can start with an example: the picão – that “bush” or “weed” that you find on the sidewalk with a yellow and white little flower – is edible and has flavor and nutrients as much as a lettuce. However, few people think about consuming it and there is no large-scale production, so it is a PANC.
Although they have been around for a long time, the term PANC was recently given by the biologist Valdely Kinupp and continues to have a steady growth in searches in recent years. Still, it is important to think that these plants have not actually been discovered now. It is not known exactly how and which, but most likely several have already been consumed in other times by native peoples. What is being done is to find them again and catalog them.
There are also many plants that we already consume and that were “unconventional” before. THE açaí is a great example, as it is now quite common in various parts of Brazil and the world. But before it was known only by people from the North of Brazil. Some plants are also known and cultivated, but not all parts are consumed. Gives banana tree, for example, we can consume in addition to the fruit the “heart” and the heart of palm (internal part of the stem).
THE AGROECOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
Within this definition of PANC, there is no escape from the discussion related to agroecology and use of agriculture by small producers, consciously and not industrially. PANC’s are an environmental response to current production methods based on huge plantations of one culture – monoculture.
They are born, often, in “less favorable” conditions, in quotes, after all, if it develops it is favorable, isn’t it? Exact! A placement of PANC’s in the monoculture system would remove it from its condition and probably give other characteristics and problems for the production. For this reason, those born behind their house, in forests or even plantations of a single species, are showing us that plants need to “live in society” together.
The fact that the plants are considered unconventional also concerns the culture and climatic conditions of the place. Before the açaí spread, it existed only in the North. And in Russia, for example, there may be PANCs that are different from the ones we consume here. That’s right: each climate, ecosystem and culture with its own plants native – this is the ideal world.
WHAT BRINGS YOU GOOD?
And what are the benefits for the environment and for us when consuming PANC’s? If we think from the side of Cheers, the benefits are diverse and already known to us. Consuming vegetables, medicinal plants and free of pesticides are basic recommendations for a healthier diet. However, there are still other important points.
The first one is about diversity to feed and the escape from monotony. With PANC’s it is possible to discover other foods, other flavors and thus transform our food into something much richer than it already is. In addition, the fact that we can find varieties of PANC’s in the place where we live, is one of the ways to fight waste, generate autonomy and contribute to the conscious consumption of food.
HOW TO FIND?
Okay, but just look around the street for some plant? Almost that. Unconventional Food Plants can be anywhere same. It can be in your backyard, in a community garden, in the middle of your conventional garden or in establishments (or fairs) of small producers near you. The ones you find on the sidewalks are not suitable for consumption due to pollution 🙁
The way to consume a PANC is: (1) find something that you think is one; (2) ask someone who understands or look in books (like this one) to find out exactly what it is and if it can be safely consumed; and then (3) test on recipes. You can also already know which one you want to try and put it on your social networks by asking friends if anyone has it. Or ask the marketer if he knows any small producers who sell. Planting in a house or apartment is also a possibility, see?
- Knowing what the plant is and how to consume it is essential, so be very careful! There are some plants that can be toxic or that need some special preparation to be digested safely.
THE PROBLEM OF GOURMETIZATION
There is an immense discussion about how much the PANC’s represent for the culture and are active in movement political. And, as they become popular, they will be subject to join the wave of big producers and end up becoming a “fashion”. It won’t be a bad move, after all, it shows that they are getting more popular.
But it is very important to respect the origin and to know that PANC’s were not discovered or named in this way for this purpose, that is, it is necessary to have the critical thinking in the face of industry and gourmetization. The idea is to ensure that we do not have paths similar to that of açaí, for example, which receives many additives and becomes the basis for products that are no longer considered healthy. Consequently, the food becomes part of an industry that used the “fame” of the food to sell more and more. The solution would be to always try to consume products from our region.
- A report made by the website The chaff and the wheat brings a very interesting reflection: read here.
SOME PANC’S TO KNOW
Given what these wonders really are, how to find them and the discussion about some issues that involve the topic, the most important thing now is democratize this information of what they are and mainly what are the PANC’s. Imagine walking down the street, looking at a plant and knowing exactly its name and what to use it for. It would be beautiful, wouldn’t it?
So, we have separated some of the best known and easiest to find to help you get started! Of course, there are MANY options and every day new variations are discovered – it is always worth researching!
ORA PRO NÓBIS (PERESKIA ACULEATA)
In addition to being very ornamental, now for nobis it is already well known in many places in Brazil. It has a very juicy leaf and can be eaten raw or in cooked dishes.
PEIXINHO (STACHYS BYZANTINA)
It’s called little fish for its appearance and taste after breaded and fried. Yes, it tastes like fish! This is the most consumed form of the plant and fits very well to eat as an aperitif with a special sauce or for lunch.
TAIOBA (XANTHOSOMA SAGITTIFOLIUM)
THE taioba is one of the largest on that list. It resembles a Adam’s rib due to the shape of the leaves, but also a yam. The leaves can be eaten (always sautéed or cooked), the stalk and even its tuber.
PICÃO (PILOSA BIDENS)
THE prick it is the one that with white or yellow flowers and that we always struggle to pull out of the yard. And yes, they can be consumed in teas, soups and other cooked dishes (yes, the picão must always go through the cooking process).
CAPUCHINHA (TROPAEOLUM MAJUS)
THE capuchin it is also being consumed a lot in recent times, both the flowers and the rest of the plant: leaves, fruits and pods. The leaves go well in juices, the flowers can serve as a filling and the fruits replace the capers.
And you, have you consumed any PANC? Comment here what you think.