FOOD can be grown on the moon — paving the way for humans to colonise space.Scientists say lunar leeks and carrots could be even healthier than fruit and veg from Earth.
Scientists say they found the stress of growing in alien soil boosts levels of protective compounds in plants. Credit: SWNS
They found the stress of growing in alien soil boosts levels of protective compounds, commonly found in superfoods such as blueberries and kale.
The experts cultivated thale cress — a small flowering plant from the same family as cauliflower and broccoli — in 12 soil samples from the Apollo 11, 12, and 17 lunar landings.
It is the first time the experiment has been allowed, as the five-decades-old moon scrapings are considered “precious national treasures”.
All the seeds sprouted after fertiliser, water and light were added.
But while the thale cress is edible, it is far, far away from tasty.
Researchers also found the seedlings grew less well in soil from more exposed parts of the moon. These plants were more stunted with much darker but more nutritional leaves.
Professor Robert Ferl, of Florida University, said: “It’s really good news that plants can grow in the lunar soil.
“Showing plants will grow in lunar soil is actually a huge step in the direction of being able to establish ourselves in lunar colonies.”
The breakthrough, published in the journal Communications Biology, comes as Nasa plans to return to the moon in 2025 as part of its Artemis mission.
Space biologist Prof Anna-Lisa Paul said: “The plants that were responding the most strongly to what we would call oxidative stress responses . . . they are the ones that turned purple.
“And that’s the same thing that’s in those dark red and purple fruits that are healthy for humans because of their anti-oxidative properties.”