'Mars tomato': Scientists announce edible 'space' harvest

Researchers at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands are growing edible space vegetables in soil similar to the surface of Mars and the moon.

The initiative is already sparking comparisons with the movie "The Martian,” which depicts a stranded astronaut’s attempts to grow food on the red planet.

In 2013, Wageningen University researchers launched a project to see if plants can grow in soil with compositions similar to Mars and the moon. The project compared requirements of certain plant species with the mineral compositions found in the soil samples, settling on 10 initial plants.


On Monday, the project announced a harvest of four foods: radish, pea, rye and tomatoes. The bounty was tested for metals including iron, cadmium, chrome and lead, and the plants were deemed safe to eat because they did not contain harmful amounts of these metals. One interesting finding was that certain plants contained lower amounts of the metals than their counterparts planted in potting soil.

In order to test the remaining six crops, the project will turn to crowdfunding, and some donors will quite literally have the chance to eat the proceeds.

“Donors will receive a variety of potential gifts of which my personal favourite is a dinner based on the harvest that will include potatoes grown on Mars soil simulant," said ecologist Wieger Wamelink of the project, according to Science Daily.

Of the four crops harvested and tested, the radish was found to have the highest metal content. The team said that other plants including spinach, green beans and potatoes will also be tested pending funding. The team will look at vitamins, flavonoids and alkaloids in addition to the heavy metals.