Researchers are growing vegetables in simulated Martian soil and plan to create a “Martian Meal” from their harvest.
In an effort to determine if long-term colonies are sustainable on Mars, The Mars Food Project has successfully grown produce in conditions and soil similar to those found on The Red Planet. Using “Martian” soil—extracted from a Hawaiian volcano and supplied by NASA—scientists have grown sting nettle, tomato, chives, radish, leek, rye, quinoa, pea, rocket, garden cress, spinach, and a legume called lupine. However, due to the heavy metal-rich soil composition, scientists must now determine whether these foods will be safe for human consumption. Once all of the crops are deemed safe to eat, project organizers plan to serve a “Martian Meal” as a treat for crowdfunding investors using only the products available to them during the simulation, including butter that lead ecologist Wieger Wamelink plans to create solely from plants. In the next phase of the experiment, Wamelink will attempt to grow beans and potatoes—the crop that stranded astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) cultivated on Mars in the recent film The Martian.