Few other plants divide opinions in Iceland quite as much as the lupine, Fréttablaðið reports. The flower in question, native to northwestern North America, is admired by some in Iceland for the beautiful blue expanses it grows into, and point out that it binds the soil and, as reported, actively prevents it from eroding—a problem all too common in Iceland on account of the island’s deforestation following the early settlement period. Others are deeply incensed at the mere thought of its legitimised presence, deeply fearing that this invasive species is outcompeting more delicate native plants, and prefer to attack lupines with poison and fire.
Several teachers and students at the University of Iceland have begun researching the potential for using lupines for food and agriculture, and have already developed a product to this effect which will soon be made public.
Supervisor and UI doctoral student Braga Stefaný Mileris says the product in question is currently being tested. Its development will be supported by the Icelandic Student Innovation Fund. Research is ongoing, with the project being led by assistant professor Björn Viðar Aðalbjörnsson and UI students Kristín Elísabet Halldórsdóttir and Axel Sigurðsson.
Braga says foreign research indicates the lupine is full of many bioactive substances, but it should be borne in mind that the lupines found here are of a different nature and far more bitter than sweet lupines found in many other countries. In order for Icelandic lupines to be used for food, the bitter elements will have to be sifted out of them. The bioactive substances seem to indicate that they could also be put to use in the pharmaceutical industry, for instance.
“The lupine is not new here in Iceland, but abroad, in Spain for example, it’s possible to buy lupine beans in ordinary supermarkets, just like chickpeas or other common legumes,” says Braga. She explains further that at first, their project centered around the idea of developing animal feed from lupines, as they were easier to process in such a way. But then the possibility of using them for human consumption was also considered.
The possibilities are many and the conditions are good. The lupine is a hardy plant that grows very easily in Iceland’s landscapes and climate. “It thrives in soil where nothing else can grow, I see it growing easily even in gravel,” says Braga. She says that though she recognizes the controversy the flower generates, she herself is among its fans and finds it brilliantly beautiful.
Braga expects to be chemically analysing the flower for the next two years at different stages and heights of growth. Though Braga has not yet reached 30 years old, this is not the first time she has been involved in product development such as this, having helped develop a line of air-popped barley products in 2018 together with Hildur Guðrún Baldursdóttir when they were studying food science together.
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