23 December 2002, Rome -- Have you ever brought home a new product from the "international foods" section of your grocery store -- and then watched it spoil in your refrigerator because you couldn't figure out how to prepare it?

We have help for you -- an international cuisine cookbook available on Web and CD-Rom.

In recent years, many exotic products have been introduced on the shelves of supermarkets in the industrialized world. As a result, people have found out about food items like quinoa, taro, agar-agar and cocoyam and many are curious to try them out.

Now you can find recipes to cook these products in the international cuisine cookbook prepared by FAO's Information Network on Post-harvest Operations (INPhO), available both on the Web and on CD-Rom.

Traditional recipes from every corner of the globe

The cookbook [http://www.inpho.org/] contains over 850 recipes from 54 countries. Contributions come both from national nutrition institutes and users, who are encouraged to submit their recipes on the website.

"People contact us because they are looking for a lost recipe," says François Mazaud, the creator of INPhO , "or because they forget proportions of recipes they used to make. A woman called me from New York to find out how to make a dish her mother used to cook in Mali. The cookbook helps to keep traditions alive."

Recipes can benefit everyone, everywhere

A virus destroyed much of Uganda's cassava , the country's staple food, in the mid-1990s. Sweet potatoes were introduced as a replacement, but many people didn't know how to use them. An FAO post-harvest project was set up to train people to incorporate the new product in their diets.

Many foods are unknown outside places of origin -- and there are many reasons why this should change. Introducing exotic foods helps open up markets, diversify diets, cope with catastrophes that interrupt food supplies and protect the environment when the main food is a rare one.

"For example," explains Mr Mazaud, "in Mali, baobab leaves are used for Orodjó a popular sauce in the Dogon region, on the border with Niger. But baobabs don't have many leaves, and after five years of continuous defoliation, the tree dies. We hope to show people how to cook the same dishes with different products, thereby protecting their environment."

Isn't post-harvest about storage?

Post-harvest is usually defined as covering harvesting, handling, storage, processing, equipment manufacture and food marketing.

But that definition lacks the last link in the chain -- making sure the product arrives on the consumer's plate... and that it provides a tasty meal.


The cookbook receives the majority of INPhO's 84 000 visits a month, but it's only a small part of the site's content. It also includes a database of experts, a photo database, a virtual library and links to other relevant institutions.



Contact:

François Mazaud
Senior Officer
Post-Harvest Management, FAO
francois.mazaud@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 53606

or

Anna Manikowska
Information Officer, FAO
anna.manikowska@fao.org
(+39) 06 570 55641