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Biodiversity and protecting our British food heritage

As the leading sustainable caterer in the UK, Graysons was recently approached to take part in a UK special of popular French TV series, Down to Earth.

The programme, which aired on France 24 at the beginning of February 2020, was filmed at one of Graysons’ prestigious locations, Wakehurst.

The episode, ‘Food security and seeds: Inviting wild relatives to the table’, was filmed across Wakehurst’s famous Millennium Seed Bank and the kitchens of the stunning Elizabethan mansion house set within wild botanic gardens.

Millenium Seed Bank

The human diet as we know it is under increasing threat. Of the current 6,000 plants species that are available and farmed for consumption, a mere nine of them account for whopping two thirds of production. Climate change, the spread of disease and political instability pose a big threat to our food security. With such a limited pool of species in production, we are amplifying these threats exponentially.

As a result, the programme poses two clear choices: increase the variety of what we eat, or increase the strength of our favourite crops, such as wheat, rice and potatoes.

The Millennium Seed Bank is the largest of its kind in the world. It holds six storerooms at minus 20 degrees Celsius which prolong the life of thousands of wild seeds. Many of the seeds are wild cousins to our favoured crops which have evolved to live on the margins and are used to surviving more hostile conditions compared to our domesticated farm crops. Some of the stored species are already extinct in the wild and can be reintroduced as and when our traditional crops become unviable.

Graysons is passionate about protecting our biodiversity and British cultural food heritage. This ethos goes to the very core of our business and what we care about and celebrate on the plate.

One of the key ways we do this is through our partnership with Slow Food UK. It is a huge source of pride for us that we are the sole caterer of our kind to enjoy such a partnership with Slow Food UK, and it speaks volumes of our shared commitments to protect our food heritage.

Across our business, we support products from the Ark of Taste, Slow Food’s international ‘at risk’ register of heritage crops and breeds. Using these endangered heritage varieties of British fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and animal breeds across our 52-site strong business has a massive impact.

Down to Earth’s presenter, Mairead Dundas, conducted a fascinating interview of our Group Executive Chef, Barry Nichols and the Director of Slow Food UK, Shane Holland. As they make amply clear, the time to act is now; the only way we can save our food heritage is to put it on the plate.

The episode closes with Barry making a delicious tart with Egremont Russet apples and Blue Vinney cheese, both Ark of Taste products that are packed with history and flavour, but none-the-less severely underused in our country.

Look out for Ark of Taste products across our menus today and join us in bringing our food heritage to life!