More than a thousand vegetables, many of them forgotten

Bioversity International and partners reveal that most of the world’s vegetable species are poorly documented, and present a study and database with the aim to help promote and recognize the value of these ‘forgotten foods’.

 

Vegetable displays in small urban grocery shops, supermarkets, and open-air markets are typically abounding in colour. While this diversity can seem quite rich for one location, it has become surprisingly similar in markets around the world, which offer primarily ubiquitous commercial vegetables such as tomato, eggplant, onion, carrot, beet, lettuce and broccoli. In other words, world diets are actually becoming more similar and based on fewer crops.

A much greater diversity of vegetables exists in traditional food systems, but many of these crops are poorly integrated in current markets and diets. A recent study by Bioversity International scientists in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations revealed that a total 1,097 vegetable species, with a great variety of uses and growth forms, are cultivated worldwide. Still, we only seem to be familiar with less than 7% of these species.