Sunday, December 13, 2009


Every country has its own native foods, be it fruits, vegetables, herbs, animal species or food preparations, for which it is well known and which native people cherish. International literature is replete with examples of such foods with some USPs and some time unique nutrients and health benefits. Lack of scientific research on these foods by the local scientists, probably due to their limited news value, has kept them from the notice of the world for long. Once in a while some of them gain recognition due to efforts by some institutions. Here is an example from Australia which is one of the countries with substantial native population with centuries of history behind them.

"With the bush food industry now valued at AUS$10-$16 million ($9-$14 million) a year, high performers are gaining a global reputation that is driving sales and awareness.Jenny Cleary, a researcher at the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) is assured of bush tucker's place in the market, 'The kakadu plum has a higher Vitamin C content than any other fruit on the planet, so it's highly marketable as a super-food. People are looking to these foods as a healthier alternative. But while kakadu plums join wattleseed and lemon myrtle as some of the better recognised bush foods nationally and internationally, it's the bush tomato that best represents the current state of Australia's native food industry. Hand-harvested by indigenous women in central Australia, these bite-sized fruits are in high demand and short supply".

It is a tribute to the farsighted vision of Australian government that it had set up an exclusive R & D Center to study the local foods grown in the dessert areas in Central Australia which is paying dividend in the form of global recognition for some of the fruits grown in the region. What sustained research and promotion can do a fruit is amply borne out by the New Zealand initiative 2 decades ago in bringing to surface the Kiwi fruit which to day enjoys the status of a premier fruit in the global market. If India can learn some lesson from these examples, specialized institutions must be set up to learn more about hundreds of indigenous fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants with food and health value in different regions of the country. The pioneering efforts of IARI, New Delhi during sixties and seventies of last millennium were able to bring to surface the value of many indigenous fruits but they still continue to be ignored by the industry with its over focus on Mango!


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