A Craze for a Traditional Treat Is Endangering Wild African Orchids

There are lots of edible orchids besides vanilla. I’ve blogged about chikanda before, a traditional African dish made from orchid tubers. The tubers are ground up with peanuts and chilies, and cooked into a savory loaf. Over the past few decades, chikanda has gone from being a rural famine food to a trendy urban staple. In Zambia’s capital, it’s now sold on city streets, in supermarkets, and in restaurants. This increased popularity among the growing population is devastating the area’s terrestrial orchids. Fortunately, environmental groups are taking action. They are trying to develop varieties which can be farmed to ease demands on wild plants. In addition, they’re creating conservation plans with local communities to better manage their wild resources. If they’re successful, orchids will continue to enrich Zambian meals.

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