One of the more controversial questions in The Martian was why the hell anybody would take that much ABBA with them on an interplanetary journey. Just as burning, though, was whether it was scientifically accurate that Matt Damon could grow that many potatoes with nothing but Martian soil, a tent, and his own manure. NASA has just shown that you can use the soil, at least, to grow produce.
A team at Wageningen University has been studying this for a while and just successfully grew tomatoes, rye, garden cress, radishes, and peas in simulated Martian soil. Not only did the plants grow, they grew at the same rate and offered the same yield as the control plants. That means, at least in theory, if you had light, air, and fertilizer, you could grow crops on Mars. Just as awesome, it turns out you can grow crops on the moon as well, although the Martian crops were more successful.
That said, there are a few roadblocks here. The Martian produce is currently being broken down to check if any heavy metals from Martian soil have leached into the plants themselves, and what the potential health impact of eating that produce might be if so. If they get the all-clear, then the next round of plants will be served up to see what happens. But, for now, we can take it to heart that at least we don’t have to pay to ship Matt Damon food on top of everything else.