Research Underway to Utilize Controversial Alaskan Lupine Skip to content
Photo: Golli.

Research Underway to Utilize Controversial Alaskan Lupine

A team of researchers at the University of Iceland is looking into the possibility of using Alaskan lupine for human consumption. The lupine’s presence in Iceland has divided opinion since it first arrived. The plant was originally planted around the middle of the 20th century to revegetate barren areas. The controversial lupine has spread all around the land since the 90s.

Where some see a problem, others see an opportunity. Such is the case with Braga Stefaný Mileris, Axel Sigurðsson, and Björn Viðar Albjörnsson, Ph.D. students in nutrition at the University of Iceland. “I think it’s fair to say that the lupine is the most political plant of the country, but the population splits into two factions when it comes to opinions on it. We’re now researching how we can utilize the plant,” he said in an interview with Vísir. The nutritious qualities of the lupine have not been researched extensively. “It’s an underutilized plant which grows all around Iceland, a setting and a climate where it’s not easy to grow things. So it creates value to find clever ways to utilize it, no matter for what,” said Braga.

They are looking into ways to make a drink out the lupine, both for human consumption as well as looking into using it for animal fodder. “Abroad, such as in Spain, lupine beans are easily reached in supermarkets. They’re stored in water just like other beans, and used in the same way. You can eat them as a stand-alone snack, make hummus or add them to bean dishes,” Braga says. The plant is naturally bitter, so the bitter agents need to be separated from the product. Measurements of the biological agents are currently underway and could open up the door for further research.

“Biological agents have health-improving effects, and there are a lot of biological agents in lupine found in Iceland. So, there are a lot of possibilities to possibly use it for drugs or active food products, which are foodstuffs with health-improving properties,” Braga said.

Dividing opinions

The Alaskan lupine becomes dominant where it manages to set foot. It was originally introduced by the Iceland Forest Service to combat barren landscapes and soil erosion. But plants that were already in place might be replaced in areas which the lupine spreads to. The plant spreads around at a rapid rate as the lifetime of its seeds is quite long. They spread with the wind in large stretches of barren land and are found in large spreads. Grass species that can well handle a lot of shade are often found in abundance along with the lupine. The ground can become more fertile and allow species to increase in numbers, compared to the situation beforehand. Many believe the colorful, purple plant lands an extra touch to the landscape. In parts of the country, measurements have been taken to reduce the spread of the lupine.

Red areas show the spread of lupine in 2016. Photo: Icelandic Institute of Natural History

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