11 foods you'll be eating in 2050

Some are a new take on familiar favorites, but others require some serious lateral thinking before chowing down on them.

strawberry crocodile

What will our dinner plates look like in the year 2050? As you can see from the list of edibles we gathered for you, the answer is, "More Jetsons, less Flintstones." That's because as the population continues to climb—scientists expect that we'll be 9 billion strong by the year 2050—we'll have less clean water and arable land per person than today. We simply won’t be able to afford to eat the way we do now.

While some of these items are a new take on familiar favorites, others require some serious lateral thinking before chowing down on them. But make no mistake: Our future depends upon rethinking what we consume.

This slideshow "11 foods you'll be eating in 2050" was originally published on ITworld.

grasshopper
Insects

Before you open your mouth, you first need to open your mind: Insects are an abundant source of low-fat protein, and we should be eating them right now.

Specifically, we should be eating them over cow meat. Marcel Dicke explained at TEDGlobal 2010 that 10 kg of feed results in only 1 kg of beef. However, insects yield 9 kg's worth of protein. Then there's the fact that cattle account for as much air pollution as cars.

Can't get past the insects' antennae and the general knobbly bits? Don't let that bug you. Try the less squirm-inducing larvae instead. (Note: This writer has eaten larvae fried with Mexican spices. It tasted like Mexican spiced potato chips.) 

test tube hamburger
Cultured beef

Meat poses quite a problem with sustainability. Arguing against meat, animal farming uses half of the water in the U.S. and 30% of the Earth's landmass.  Arguing for, meat is delicious as hell. Lucky for our planet and our tastebuds, in the future, we may be getting our meat not from a slaughterhouse but from a laboratory.

According to NBCNews, scientists "engineered muscle stem cells grown in a broth made from a calf blood product." Although this slab of mad science is currently expensive (currently $325,000 a serving) and lacks flavor, in time, it could be as delicious as filet mignon.

We see the labburger as the best alternative to actual meat since sliced tofu.

seaweed salad
Sea vegetables (a.k.a. seaweeds)

Overfarming the soil robs vegetables of the vitamins and minerals we need. But you know what can't be overfarmed (not for a long time, anyway)? The ocean. And that's where we'll find sea vegetables, like arame, wakame, nori, dulse, and many, many others, all nutrient rich and all full of salty goodness.

Better yet, its growing space has a small footprint, so sea vegetables can feed more people with less space than earth-bound crops. That may be something worth diving into.

(For those who are curious, all sea vegetables are algae, but not all algae are sea vegetables. Got that?)

synthehol
Synthehol

Humans have been imbibing alcohol for at least 9000 years, and we're not about to let a silly, debilitating hangover stop us from another glass of Oog's finest. But scientists are working on nipping alcohol's after-effects -- and just plain effects -- in the bud.

Imperial College's Professor David Nutt is developing a drink based on a substance similar to benzodiazepine, which he says will give you alcohol's pleasant buzz but won't get you drunk. Or hung over. We'll drink to that!

Sauteed Purslane
Weeds (such as purslane)

Weeds are abundant and easily found in any backyard: In other words, they grow like weeds. So why aren't we eating them, particularly as a substitute for spinach? Because unless they're prepared correctly, they can be liver-punching, kidney-shredding death greens. But if they are prepared correctly—and sites like http://www.eattheweeds.com/ and http://www.eatweeds.co.uk/ can show you how—they can be chock full o' vitamins and minerals.

Of all the edible weeds, purslane stands out because the shiny, thick leaves are high in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as amino acids and vitamins. Plus, because it's non-toxic, it needs no advanced prep. Your internal organs will thank you.

Roasted miso paste
Miso

You may know miso as the base for a mild broth you find in Japanese restaurants. But in the future, you may know it as, "Super Miso." That's because a recent study proved that miso -- a fermented paste, typically made from soybeans, rice, or barley -- prevents radiation injury, cancer, and hypertension in rats and mice. For those worried about nuclear disasters like the one in Fukishima, miso is likely to act as a buffer against the worst of radiation's after-effects.

You can be skeptical. After all, the study was written on a grant funded by the Central Miso Institute. But if these results can be repeated, you'll never have to worry about becoming the Incredible Hulk again.   

mushroom
Mushrooms

Just as we can anticipate more radiation exposure in the future, some of us anticipate terrorism in the form of biological weapons. Mycologist Paul Stamets is currently developing "mushroom-based antiviral drugs" to treat anthrax and smallpox outbreaks. 

But that's not all they're potentially good for. Stamets proved that mushrooms can clean soil of diesel and petroleum waste, from 10,000 ppm to less than 200 ppm in eight weeks. Plus, mushrooms can filter water of e.coli (courtesy of cattle) and chemical waste, leading to "habitat restoration." Our future can use all the mushrooms we can get.

Best of all, they're tasty too.

Salicornia
Any crop replaced by Salicornia bigelovii

Stay with me: With the need for biofuel on the rise, crops that would otherwise feed humans now feed your car (via corn-based ethanol). That's where Salicornia bigelovii comes in. This particular plant is a halophyte, that is, it drinks saline water like a hipster drinks Pabst. And as it happens, it produces oil for biofuel. Therefore, we'll be able produce biofuel crops in high-saline water, rather than our clean irrigation water. So although Salicornia isn't a future food per se, its existence will free up arable land that we didn't have before. Thanks, saltwater plant!

Note: Pictured at left is a variety of Salicornia, but not Salicornia bigelovii

Right 2Know march, Washington, D.C., October 2011
Genetically modified foods -- with labeling

Ah, genetically modified (GM) foods. On the one hand, these crops can be made resistant to disease and pests, can produce life-sustaining vitamins or bountiful yields, and may even be used to deliver vaccinations. On the other hand, GM foods are not labeled as such, making it seem as if big business and big government are in a big conspiracy against the tiny consumer. 

This lack of labeling makes it impossible for the consumer to make informed purchasing decisions. GM foods are part of our world, and obviously they're going to be a part of our future. And with enough congressional muscle, so will labeling.

Soylent
Credit: Soylent
Soylent

Eating is a time-consuming, money-consuming activity, and many of us don't actually enjoy food prep/cooking. Soylent, a meal replacement drink (just add water), aims to take away the toil of eating while maintaining its original purpose: to keep our bodies nourished.

Soylent will theoretically (when it's available, that is) contain nutrients not found in other nutrition shakes, like Ensure. Plus, these other nutritional shakes are typically high in calories, while Soylent is lighter fare.

While other people are sitting down to dinner, Soylenters take get their meals on the go.