10 New Foods Your Body Will Thank You For Eating In 2014

Eat the Western diet of highly refined sugars and fats, processed foods and meats and you are likely to reduce your chances of living into old age, a study published last April found. No one less than the United Nations has sponsored an initiative seeking to promote traditional, indigenous cuisine as a solution for food insecurity, in an effort to encourage people to cook with native ingredients and combat the seemingly endless expansion of McDonalds and other fast food companies into every corner of the world.

Whether one of your resolutions in the New Year is to eat more healthfully or if you just want to try something different, here are ten indigenous fruits and vegetables from around the world from a list compiled by the Food Tank: The Food Thinktank. (If ten aren’t enough to satisfy your palate, check out the Food Tank’s list that contains 15 more such indigenous foods).

1. Cowpea

Wild and cultivated cowpea (7856427546)Photo via Wikimedia Commons

This legume from central Africa is among the region’s oldest crops and of crucial importance to the livelihoods of millions. The cowpea is drought resistant and thrives even in poor soil conditions; it can grow in the hot savannas and in very arid Sahelian agro-ecological zones. Its leaves as well as its peas can be eaten as a vegetable.

2.  Spider Plant

Cleome gynandra 2 (4546001972)Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as “African Cabbage,” spider wisp and cat’s whiskers, this green leafy vegetable can grow throughout Africa. Generally considered a weed and not cultivated, it provides an important contribution to the diets of rural Africans on a limited food budget. Fortunately, spider plant has many health benefits as it is high in protein, antioxidants, vitamins (including high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C) and micronutrients.

3. Perinaldo Artichoke

Bildtankstelle 1 036Photo via Wikimedia Commons

If you thought this vegetable looks like an overgrown thistle, you’re right: it is variety of artichoke, a species of thistle cultivated for food. Originally cultivated in ancient Greece, Perinaldo artichokes now hail from Perinaldo, a small Italian town near the French border; they lack spines or a choke and have a tasty center. The flower is edible and a good source of fiber, vitamin C, folic acid and various minerals.

4. Formby Asparagus

Photo via Christian Guthier/Flickr

These multicolored asparagus (white base, green stem, purple-tinged tips) are both rich in protein, fiber, vitamin B6 and minerals including magnesium and zinc and are said to have a “uniquely sweet flavor.” Eating them assists in protein synthesis and reduces calcium loss (calcium being another mineral these asparagus contain).

5. Bitter Melon

BittermelonsambalPhoto via Wikimedia Commons

Whenever my grandmother made bitter melon soup, I readied myself for an unpleasant eating experience. These melons, which resemble warty cucumbers and are originally from the Indian subcontinent, really do taste bitter (and not, as one columnist writes, “sour”!). If you can adapt to the taste (as I have over the years), bitter melons have many health benefits including cancer-fighting properties; they are thought to help cleanse the body of toxins, too.

6. Pamir Mulberry

Photo via Luigi Guarino/Flickr

The Pamir Mulberry grows in the mountain region of Gorno-Badakhshan province in Tajikistan — in terrain where grains like wheat and barley cannot thrive. The mulberry can grow at heights between 1100 and 2400 meters above sea level; its berries can be eaten raw, dried, whole or ground. They can also be made into a jam or into pikht, which, when mixed with other seeds and cereals, is a traditional sweet food. Families harvest the mulberries to eat in the winter, often setting aside 20-30 sacks of dried mulberries as a reserve.

7. Lifou Island Yam

Photo via Cherrie Mio Rhodes/Flickr

For many Pacific Island nations, this starchy and very versatile tuber is an important dietary staple that can be stored for long periods of times. The yam can be roasted, fried, grilled, boiled, smoked or grated and is a symbol of Lifou, the largest of the Loyalty Islands. While taro and yam were once routinely served to island school children, they are now served a “French” style diet.

8. Bunya Nut

Photo via J Brew/Flickr

Bunya nuts come from enormous pine trees and have long been a staple food and cultural symbol for Australian Aboriginals who were known to travel far to attend festivals celebrating the Bunya season prior to European settlement. The Bunya nut is said to taste like a  ”deliciously nutty flavored potato, or chestnuts” and can be roasted or even made into a pesto or mixed with honey to make a spread for toast. Bunya pines grow in Australian continent’s few rainforest regions on the continent; they are increasingly harder to find with many trees growing in endangered regional ecosystems.

9. Yacón

Yacon roots (Smallanthus sonchifolius)Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Also called the Peruvian Ground Apple, the yacon is actually a root vegetable that has been cultivated for more than a millennium in the Andes. It tastes somewhat like jicama, has a high water content and contains inulin, which is a low-calorie, high-fiber sweetener that aids digestion, alleivates diabetes and keeps away toxic bacteria. Yacon can be made into both a syrup and a tea, both of which are used by diabetics.

10. Papalo

Photo via drazz/Flickr

An herb that smells strongly of skunk, papalo is used in the American Southwest, Mexico and South America as a garnish. The plant is hardy and able to flourish in hot and harsh climates; it is sometimes known as “summer cilantro” and has a stronger taste than that herb. Papalo also has a number of medicinal properties as it can regulate blood pressure, alleviate stomach disorders and help with liver problems.


Photos via Bettina/Flickr


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R10 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R10 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for the article.

Grace Owen
Past Member 3 years ago

thank you

Ariya Mendy Hembran
H e m b r a n d3 years ago


Brianne Resor
Past Member 3 years ago

promote by emailing this

Tara W.
Tara W3 years ago

I've tried the bitter melon (karela) and have to admit I didn't enjoy it. Many healthy foods are an... ahem... aquired taste! I guess for the benefits, it's worth a second try. Thanks for the head's up!

Melissa DogLover
Melissa DogLover3 years ago

thanks for the list of these new interesting foods to try!!!

Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson3 years ago

This is silly and not at all helpful. Once these items become available then this might be of interest to me. Otherwise, I question the practicality of these suggestions.

Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

Appreciate this very valuable information.