When Australian Bruce French went to Papua New Guinea as an agriculture instructor 40 years ago, his students asked him to teach them about native edible plants.

“I knew nothing about Papua New Guinea food plants,” he recalls. “So I had to start learning.”

The result was a series of books on indigenous food plants, and the not-for-profit Food Plants International, which maintains a database of 25,000 edible plants that includes descriptions, lists of countries and climates where they grow, photos and drawings, and cooking methods.

“There are thousands of nutritious plants, but people don’t have any information about them,” says Buz Green, an agriculturalist and member of the Rotary Club of Devonport North, Australia. “We’re trying to bridge some of the gaps.

“Rotarian teams in developing countries inevitably identify hunger, malnutrition, and food security as critical issues,” Green explains. “They tend to look to Western solutions to address food production issues.”