A day in par­adise

Gor­don Seabright


Food, as we know from the pas­sions ex­cited by de­bates over whether it’s jam first (ob­vi­ously) or cream first on your scone, or whether to top crimp or side crimp your pasties, is a se­ri­ous busi­ness in Corn­wall. We feel the same at Eden.

For a start, we do our best to source our in­gre­di­ents lo­cally. We grow some of them our­selves, at our nurs­ery a few miles away at Pen­te­wan. This year our team there will pro­duce four or five tonnes of her­itage toma­toes, cu­cum­bers, herbs, chill­ies and salad leaves to be used by Eden’s chefs in our cafés and res­tau­rants. My favourite Eden grown item is the cu­camelon, reg­u­larly seen in tweets from din­ers in the Mediter­ranean Ter­race restau­rant (the one in­side the Biome) as they go on­line to find out what this strange fruit/ veg­etable is!

We’re proud that more than 90 per cent of the money we spend on food and drink is spent with busi­nesses in Corn­wall and Devon; all our meat, dairy and eggs come from just a few miles away. That’s im­por­tant to Eden for a num­ber of rea­sons. We’re com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing the Cor­nish econ­omy – well over 2,000 jobs are de­pen­dent on Eden, and it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity as good neigh­bours to sup­port lo­cal sup­pli­ers. Sourc­ing our seafood lo­cally means that we can be con­fi­dent that we’re buy­ing from sus­tain­able fish­eries. And per­haps most im­por­tant of all, you just can’t beat the qual­ity of pro­duce from Corn­wall – why would we look else­where?

But Eden has an­other im­por­tant in­ter­est in food. As an en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment, we’re pro­foundly con­cerned about one of the world’s great is­sues – how are we go­ing to feed our planet? By the mid­dle of this cen­tury, there could be as many as ten bil­lion peo­ple on Earth. Mean­while, be­cause we don’t look af­ter soil prop­erly, there may now be fewer than 100 pro­duc­tive har­vests to come from our cur­rent farm­land. Th­ese are huge chal­lenges, and we’re work­ing with sci­en­tists around the world to come up with so­lu­tions.

One of those chal­lenges is a se­ri­ous threat to the whole of the world’s ba­nana crop. A dis­ease called Fusar­ium wilt has al­ready de­stroyed tens of thou­sands of hectares of ba­nana plan­ta­tions. It’s a soil borne dis­ease, and there are no ef­fec­tive treat­ments – and all the mod­ern ba­nana cul­ti­vars are fall­ing vic­tim. That’s bad news for those of us who love ba­nanas, but ter­ri­ble news in coun­tries like Uganda where most peo­ple rely on them for nu­tri­tion.

With our part­ners at Univer­sity of Ex­eter, the Eden sci­en­tists are look­ing at a way of in­ter­crop­ping ba­nanas with Chi­nese chives – this seems to sup­press the dis­ease, and we’re ex­plor­ing how the mi­crobes in the soil are af­fected, what fungi might help to pro­tect the plants, and whether there are genes in Eden’s ba­nana col­lec­tion that might pro­vide re­sis­tance to the dis­ease. Isn’t it amaz­ing to think that the Biomes of Corn­wall’s Eden might pro­vide so­lu­tions to help us feed the whole world?

eden­pro­ject.com @GSeabright

‘We’re pro­foundly con­cerned about one of the world’s great is­sues – how are we go­ing to feed our planet?’

ABOVE:En­joy un­usual pro­duce at the Eden Project. Pho­to­graph: Emily Whit­field-Wicks

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