A day in paradise
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?
‘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