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+Science In AM, researcher cultivates PANC and promotes food autonomy to fight hunger

Valdely Kinupp displays the mangara, popularly known as the "heart of the banana" (Ricardo Oliveira/ CENARIUM)

Marcela Leiros – Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – In a farm in the East zone of Manaus, a fragment of land of at least three hectares, about 30 thousand square meters, has been transformed into fertile soil for the development of a method of food autonomy known as Non-Conventional Food Plants (PANCS). At Sítio PANC, the PhD in Phytotechnology Valdely Kinupp works daily to promote and also spread the culinary potential of plants that are underused or neglected in food. For him, PANCs are an option to combat the food insecurity potentiated by the pandemic.

Living in Manaus for 16 years, the “carioca” (from Rio de Janeiro) moved to the capital of Amazonas to do his master’s degree in Botany at the National Institute for Amazon Research (Inpa). Kinupp is also one of the authors of the book ‘Plantas Alimentícias Não Convencionais (PANC) no Brasil: guia de identificação, aspectos nutricionais e receitas ilustradas’.

Valdely Kinupp with his book. (Ricardo Oliveira/CENARIUM)

Raised in a family of farmers and market traders, he has always been curious and skilled with plants and animals, such as goats, pigs and rabbits. It is this experience that Kinupp uses to take care of the ‘school site’, offering courses, food consulting services, agroecological products, foods without pesticides, and opening the doors for technical visits and hosting.

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To CENARIUM, the researcher recalled that the study of the use of these plants, in food, already occurs for almost 20 years, however, it was only more recently that the culinary potential began to be explored more popularly, appearing even in culinary programs on television.

“In 2002 we were already talking about edible plants, and in 2003 we started the work properly. The idea of my work, of my book, is to show that this has culinary potential. So, as soon as it is in the book, many people start to look for it; we have, for example, Bela Gil, who started to do this in a program on GNT. So, today, there are a lot of people doing it with more accessible plants”, explains Kinupp.

Crops

The researcher reminds us that the acronym PANCS includes not only plants and their fruits, but also other parts of the plant and ways to prepare them. Therefore, at ‘Sítio PANC’ it is common to be surrounded by the various plants used daily in food preparation. Some are highlights on Valdely Kinupp’s menu, such as ariá, banana, and cará-de-espinho. From the fertile soil, the fruits reach unusual weights. “The potato weighed 151 kilos from one plant, so where are you going to get that?”, asks, excitedly, the professor.

The ariá (calathea allouia), also known as areiá and batatinha-ariá, for example, is a plant with dense foliage and tuberous roots, like small potatoes, which can be consumed as an important source of protein, because it has high levels of essential amino acids in its composition. “It is more traditional in Rio Preto da Eva (in the interior of Amazonas), but even there people don’t take cultivation seriously. It used to be cultivated in a regional café in Rio Preto da Eva, but on a small scale”, he points out.

One of the PANC Site’s employees, Ronald Charitaba, harvests arias. (Ricardo Oliveira/CENARIUM)

With the original idea of food autonomy, the researcher also reminds that the goal is to show people that it is possible to eat the ripe, conventional banana, but also to use the peel and the ‘heart of the banana’, the mangara. “Besides being supermedicinal, it is a wonderful food plant, with multiple uses. With the possible flowers (of the mangara) it is possible to make preserves. You can also just cook them, soak them, change the water twice, and eat them like shrimp”, he explains.

In times of pandemic and consequent increased food insecurity, developing food autonomy through PANCs can become an affordable option. “Currently, what motivates me is the issue of food autonomy. Today, with the pandemic, with the issue of political, health, economic insecurity, I see that more than ever I am on the right path of sovereignty, of autonomy”, he says.

Income Generation

The discovery and promotion of the hundreds of possibilities of using the various PANCs can also enhance income generation for small entrepreneurs. Sítio PANC’ is one of the suppliers of the Caxiri restaurant, located in downtown Manaus, and the main supplier of the ‘Expedition Boto da Amazônia’, conducted by scientists from Sea Shepherd Global, in Brazil, and the National Institute for Amazon Research (Inpa) in the period from October 1st to October 25th of this year. “There are many others, such as the Ariá, that not many people know about, not even here in the Amazonas, let alone outside of here, but it has a huge potential to generate employment, generate income, generate healthy food”, Kinupp points out.

The research mixes with the researcher

In 2004, Kinupp submitted for his doctoral selection the theme about PANCs, but he remembers that the term used was not that one yet. The acronym was gaining ‘body’ during the project. We arrived at “Plantas Alimentícias”, an expression that was not so usual in Brazil. After the defense (of the project), in 2008, with the defense of Irany (Arteche), we arrived at the acronym PANC that nobody had used, not even me in my thesis”, he explains.

Besides being a researcher, Valdely Kinupp is also a professor and founder-curator of the Herbarium of the Federal Institute of Amazonas (Ifam). His interest in PANCs arose from his love for cooking, for cooking “different things”, and from the opportunity to grow plants and create recipes with his students. For him, the world of Non-Conventional Food Plants is still a “bubble”, but it has become a “giant bubble”.