Staple Fruits of the World

This article is an excerpt from my forthcoming book Carbon Farming: A Global Toolkit for Stabilizing the Climate with Tree Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices, and is part of a series promoting my kickstarter campaign to raise funds with which to complete the book.


Breadfruit is a remarkable staple starch that grows on trees. This species should
be much more widely grown in the humid tropics. It represents a fully-developed
perennial staple crop. Photo Wikimedia Commons.

Staple fruits provide starch, protein, and fats from fresh fruits. This is a marvelous category of perennial foods and offers much promise in sequestering carbon. Sadly for those of us in cold climates, not even one of our perennial fruits are high enough in starch, protein, or fat to make the cut. In fact almost all of these are for humid tropical climates – probably because it takes a lot of sunlight and water to produce that much food value. My source for the data here is Janick and Paull’s remarkable Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts, with some help from Lost Crops of Africa Volume III, Plant Resources of Southeast Asia, and Useful Plants of Neotropical Origin. I’ll profile additional species in the book.

These ‘superfruits’ can and should play an important role in carbon-sequestering agriculture, agroforestry, and productive reforestation efforts.

As my standard I determined that fruits should be used as a starchy vegetable or, when fresh, should demonstrate at least 5% protein or fat. I’ve also added the date palm, which though sugary rather than starchy has been an important staple for millennia. Percent starch figures are not available as most sources do not distinguish between dietary carbohydrates and inedible carbohydrates like starches and lignins. I hope to find more information to show that Pouteria species, for example, are as nourishing as they seem when eaten.

Latin Name Common Name Origin Climate

Protein

Fat

Starch

Artocarpus altilis breadfruit New Guinea humid tropical lowlands

1.3

0.2

high

Artocarpus heterophylla jakfruit Asia humid tropics and subtropics

1.6

0.2

high

Artocarpus integer champedak Asia humid tropics and subtropics

2.5

0.4

high

Bactris gasipaes peach palm tropical Americas humid tropical lowlands

3.3

6

Balanites aegyptica balanites North Africa arid tropics and subtropics

1-8%

<1

high

Blighia sapida akee West Africa humid tropics

24.30%

45.50%

Caryocar villosum Pequia Amazonia humid tropics

unknown

64.5

Dacryodes edulis safau, “Africado” West Africa humid tropics

13.5-14.4%

33-65%

Gustavia superba membrillo tropical Americas humid tropics

10.3-10.8

52.4-63.2

Iryanthera laevis cumala Amazonia humid tropics

6.4

31.1

Musa acuminata, M. balbisiana, & hybrids banana & plantian Asia humid tropics

1

0.2-0.4

high

Persea americana avocado Mesoamerica humid or monsoon tropics and subtropics

1.0-1.5%

9.3-21.8%

Phoenix dactylifera date palm Middle East arid tropics

1.8

0.5

Sugar


Akee is incredibly high in protein and fat, but can be fatal if under ripe.


Safau is a remarkable African parallel to the avocado, high in protein and fat.
Photo Wikimedia Commons.


Peach palm is a nutritious staple palm fruit. Photo Wikimedia Commons.


The avocado is an important staple and also a delicious fruit.
Photo Wikimedia Commons.


The date palm has been a vital staple food to desert peoples for millennia.
Photo Wikimedia Commons.


Pequia flesh has incredibly high fat content,
and also features a delicious edible nut.
Photo Wikimedia Commons.


Balanites fruit is 40% sugar. This species also has edible nuts.
It grows in intensely arid deserts. Photo Wikimedia Commons.


Bananas and plantains are widely grown starchy staples.