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Letters to Nature
Nature 232, 495 (13 August 1971); doi:10.1038/232495a0

Wolffia arrhiza as a Possible Source of Inexpensive Protein


*Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok 4, Thailand
Division of Environmental Engineering, Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok 5, Thailand

THE development of new foods is vital to the needs of the rapidly expanding population in Asia. But apart from the necessity of being competitive in market price, they must be acceptable to the human palate, a requirement that has often frustrated attempts to introduce new foods. In this light, the improvement of production and processing of a commodity which is currently marketed for direct human consumption but on a small and inefficient scale has several advantages. Such a commodity is the aquatic plant, Wolffia arrhiza Wimm., Lemnaceae, known to have been used as a vegetable by the Burmese, Laotians and the people of northern Thailand for many generations. The local Thai name for the plant, “khai-nam”, may be literally translated as eggs of the water and suggests the oval shape of the plant (length 1.5 mm, width 1.0 mm). Khai-nam is generally regarded as a poor people's food and has attracted little attention as a potentially significant source of human food. The species also occurs in India1, but no report has been made pertaining to its application as a food source in that country.



1. Fischer, C. E. C., in Flora of the Presidency of Madras, Part IX (edit. by Gamble, J. S.) (Adlard and Son, London, 1931).
2. Sakdisuwan, S., thesis, Chulalongkorn Univ., Bangkok (1967).
3. Vacharabhaya, M., thesis, Chulalongkorn Univ., Bangkok (1969).
4. Composition of Foods, Agricultural Handbook No. 8 (United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, 1963).
5. Production Yearbook, 23 (Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, 1969).

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