Duckweed is suitable as a food: duckweed as a protein source
“Duckweed” could become a source of protein in the future. Scientists have shown that the small, green duckweed is suitable for human consumption. In addition to a lot of protein, the plants also contain a lot of valuable omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein source of the future
Whether for ecological, ethical or health reasons: More and more people are choosing to eat less meat. The supply of protein is not a problem for them either, there are enough plant-based alternatives that, according to scientists, are considerably healthier than animal ones anyway. In a study, US researchers found that people could live longer thanks to vegetable proteins. German and Indian scientists are now reporting on a protein source that was not yet on the menu in Germany: "duckweed".
Cockroach milk and duckweed
Last summer, doctors reported that cockroach milk would be an option as a future protein donor. It didn't sound particularly appetizing. "Duckweed" also sounds unsavory. This term, however, hides a plant: the duckweed. And the "obviously has what it takes to make it big," writes the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in a message.
Valuable omega-3 fatty acids
In cooperation with colleagues in India and Germany, researchers at the University of Jena have therefore investigated the potential of various duckweed for human consumption. The promising results were published under the title "Nutritional value of duckweeds (Lemnaceae) as human food" in the journal "Food Chemistry".
"The duckweed could certainly serve as a source of protein for human nutrition," said Prof. Dr. Gerhard Jahreis from the University of Jena. According to the nutritionist, duckweed would not be called "green machines" for nothing.
According to the expert, duckweed is comparable in protein content to lupine, rapeseed or peas. The protein yield is 30 percent of the dry matter. The tiny plants also contained valuable omega-3 fatty acids such as stearidonic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. Possible uses of duckweed are smoothies or pastries that are produced gluten-free.
Duckweed does not require additional acreage
"The duckweed reproduce very quickly, but does not require any additional acreage," said PD Dr. Klaus Appenroth from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. In view of the dwindling arable land, this is an enormous advantage over soy, for example.
According to the message, duckweed has been on the menu in Asian countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Laos for millennia.
The species Wolffia globosa, which is served as soup, side dishes or omelets in Asia, was the most promising in the research group's current tests.
Compensate for nutritional deficiency symptoms
So far, the “duckweed” was not cultivated, but simply “harvested” from water. In Israel and the Netherlands, however, there are first pilot plants in which duckweed is produced on an industrial scale.
The Wolffia globosa, which is only 0.7 to 1.5 mm in size, reproduce vegetatively so quickly that the “duckweed” quickly covers entire water surfaces.
According to the researchers, the use of plants in human nutrition is also supported by the fact that duckweed can easily absorb trace elements that are dissolved in water. In this way, nutritional deficiency symptoms could be compensated for with little effort.
Other potential areas of application for duckweed are fish farming and water purification. And they could be used to make bioethanol. (ad)