Scholarly article on topic 'Food plants of the world. Identification, culinary uses and nutritional value'

Food plants of the world. Identification, culinary uses and nutritional value Academic research paper on "Biological sciences"

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South African Journal of Botany
OECD Field of science

Abstract of research paper on Biological sciences, author of scientific article — Catherine W. Fennell


Academic research paper on topic "Food plants of the world. Identification, culinary uses and nutritional value"

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South African Journal of Botany 72 (2006) 484 - 485

Book Reviews

Herman, Edwin B., 2004, Recent advances in plant tissue culture volumes VIII and IX, Volume VIII microbial "Contaminants" in Plant Tissue Cultures: Solutions and Opportunities 1996 - 2003, Agritech Consultants Inc., Agrilec Report, PO Box 255 Shrub Oak, NY 10588, USA (116 pages, loose leaf, Price $83 plus shipping and handling, Email:, Website: Herman, Edwin B., 2005, Volume IX Media and Techniques for Growth Regeneration and Storage 2002 - 2005, Agritech Consultants Inc., Agricell Report, PO Box 255, Shrub Oak, NY 10588, USA (129 pages, loose leaf, Price $97 plus shipping and handling, Email: Agritech@Agri, Website: www.AgritechPublica

These two volumes have now been added to this series. Volume VIII contains very useful information and has been itemized in four Chapters. Chapter One deals with sources of contamination, its detection and identification, and a very useful section on latent contamination. Chapter Two gives extensive information on methods to eliminate contamination of not only microbes, but also mites and thrips, nematodes and viruses from a whole range of cultivars. This information is valuable to have within a single reference and will be useful to both new and established tissue culturists. A large part of volume VIII covers non-axenic tissue culture. Here there is extensive information on the advantages of co-culture with micro-organisms both for micropropagation and the production of secondary products.

In Volume IX the author covers many aspects related to tissue culture media. This is followed by a second Chapter covering many new techniques and systems in order to deal with a protoplast culture, the use of markers for somatic hybridization, bioreactor systems for cell culture, root culture techniques, control of explant browning, somaclonal variation, chromosome doubling and the control of sex expression in regenerated shoots. There is a wealth of information in this Chapter and all tissue culturists would be well advised to read this section. It is easy to read and nicely referenced.

In Chapter Three, considerable attention is given to the chemical, physical and biological environments of plant cultures. This volume ends with very important aspects related to commercialization of plants. Cryopreservation for shipping and long term storage of material, the production of synthetic seeds and lastly shipping techniques.

The volumes are easy to read, well constructed and all students would be well advised to spend a little time in reading them prior to embarking on their projects. These two volumes will prove to be most useful as a preliminary reference before entering into a lengthy literature review as they certainly point you in the right direction.

Johannes van Staden

Research Centre for Plant Growth and Development, School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville 3209, South Africa E-mail address:

doi: 10.1016/j.sajb.2006.03.002

Ben-Erik van Wyk, Food plants of the world, Identification, culinary uses and nutritional value, Briza Publications, PO Box 56569, Arcadia 0007, Pretoria, South Africa, 2005, 480 pages, including photographs and chemical structures, ISBN 1-875093-56-7, Internet:

This is a book about plants that are consumed as foods around the world — a mini encyclopedia of 354 commercially important food and flavour plants in common use. The reader is treated to a broad, yet scientifically accurate, overview of food plants in a compact and colourful format.

By way of an introduction, there is a brief account of the origins of agriculture and a list of the 12 regions of diversity (including the most important economic plants from each region). There follows an explanation of the nutritional importance of cereals; pulses/legumes; nuts and seeds; fruits; vegetables; culinary herbs; sugars, gums, gels and starches; beverages; and spices and flavours. The body of the book describes each plant, providing details of its origin and history; parts used; cultivation and harvesting; culinary uses and properties; and nutritional value. The plants are listed alphabetically by their scientific names, although, for the non-botanists, there are lists that cross-reference common and scientific names in the introductory pages. The importance of nutrients in diet and health are explored briefly towards the end of the book.

The book clearly meets its objectives. It provides, in a portable format, a comprehensive list of "commercially important plants that are regularly cultivated or wild-

Book Reviews

harvested or traded" — those typically "encountered in fresh produce markets and restaurants in various parts of the world". Thus it is not a book about ALL edible plants since there are too many to provide a detailed account of in such a concise volume. Rather than being cumbersome, the layout is user-friendly, giving the facts at a glance. Apart from the 350 plants treated in some detail, there is an additional list provided in the form of a quick guide to commercialized food plants. Then there is the index which includes both scientific, vernacular and other common names which allows one to quickly access relevant information about a specific plant even in other parts of the world where local names for the foods may be used exclusively. Although the book aims to be compact, it goes beyond the format of a dictionary. Each page in the main section of the book is dedicated to one of the plants — half the page being photographs. The encyclopedic descriptions are easily referenced under headings, highlighting for the reader the economic importance of the crop. Written by a botanist whose companion volumes include "People's Plants", "Medicinal Plants of South Africa" and "Medicinal Plants of the World", the text is rich in technical details. Nutritional values for each plant are cited from a range of published papers, for which full references are included for further reading, and authorities for scientific names are provided. For the amateur taxonomist, the clear and high-quality photographs provide a quick reference for identifying the plants as well as the fruits and seeds.

The book has wide appeal as a botanical reference as well as a book of history and folklore. For professionals in the fields of botany and food science, students studying economic plants or anyone curious enough about the lipstick tree, or why the seeds of the carob tree were used as weights by jewelers, or why the durian fruit is banned by hotels and airlines, or what devil's dung is doing in Worcester sauce — this is an intriguing read.

What sets it apart from other books written on food plants are the colour photographs (more than 1000 of them) and emphasis on the nutritional importance of the plant parts consumed. It is a book that invites discovery of the crop's origins and nutritional value, especially of roots, stems, leaves and fruit commonly encountered on supermarket shelves or at the local market. As one other reviewer suggested — it is "bound to settle any argument about a food item".

Catherine W. Fennell

Research Centre for Plant Growth and Development, School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville 3209, South Africa E-mail address:

Genetic resources, chromosome engineering, and crop improvement series, Grain legumes Volume 1, Published by CRC Press 2005, Taylor and Francis Group, 6000 Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton Fl. 33487-2742 USA, ISBN 0-8493-1430-5 £85, Internet:,

This book was written as a basic resource handbook for grain legume breeders, focusing on common bean, pea, pigeon pea, faba bean, chickpea, cowpea, lentil, lupine, mungbean and azuki bean. Each chapter was written by a highly respected scientist with a short introduction and then covering comprehensive information on the origin, genetic resources, cytoge-netics and strategies for breeding methods. Both conventional breeding, as well as molecular breeding methods are covered. The different gene pools for each crop are identified in the light of breeding for high yielding varieties with resistance traits. One of the major contributions of the book is the comprehensive data incorporated on the germplasm resources. The book also has an excellent collection of references associated with each chapter.

Grain legumes are the major protein resources in the diets of humans, and animal husbandry. Grain legumes and cereals are complementary components of the world's agricultural systems; for example the common bean and maize in South America, lentil, peas and wheat in the Middle East and soybean and millet in northern China. Due to their importance in the food chain and their value in breeding programs, several International Research Centers are working on their genetic improvement. The CGIAR support large research facilities and are maintaining breeding programs such as CIAT in Columbia on common bean; ICRISAT in India on pigeon pea and chickpea; ICARDA in Syria on chickpea, lentil and faba bean.

I highly recommend this book for those who are actively working on breeding of these important species, as well as to those scientists who are interested in the enormous biological diversity of grain legumes. An advantage is that each author summarizes their future prospects for each crop, forming a 'think tank' for the future. The book is clearly written and contains very important information. PhD students could use this book as an important reference in their studies. The book is strongly recommended to those committed to higher education and it should be on the shelves of all Libraries at Universities and Research Establishments.

Ervin Balazs Agricultural Research Institute, Department of Applied Genomics, H-2462 Martonvasar, Brunszvik u 2, Hungary E-mail address: