A little about allotments Looking into the world of the miniature tenant farmer


Allotments seem to be a peculiarly British phenomenon. Small parcels of land, divided into smaller still plots, furnished often with a shed and make-shift cold frames, greenhouses and what have you, where, in time-honoured tradition, old men in baggy corduroys and cardigans go to smoke a pipe and gaze out on serried ranks of cabbages, leeks and potatoes. But they … Read More


Agricultural foundations Looking at food and farming as an ecologist

One of the things I find most frustrating in agricultural research is that, despite the subject matter, it often bears little relationship to the fundamental facts of life. Too often, we hear all sorts of extravagant claims being made that a bit of more analytical thought would show were somewhat less than likely to work out. No names, no pack … Read More

A selection of trifles Little stories from the year just past

Having started this autumn to do little trailers for upcoming shows, I thought it would be an interesting way to prevent absolute silence over the holidays to adapt that format and revisit some of 2014’s episodes. Some of these mini-episodes represent a reworking of the original in much cut-down form. Others are stories that for one reason or another had … Read More


Another helping of turkey More than there ever were

The domestication of the turkey probably first took place around 2000 years ago in south central Mexico, possibly for their feathers and ritual value rather than their meat. Their rise to the top of the American festive table came much later, not with the Pilgrims but with Charles Wampler, whose efforts to promote turkey raising started Rockingham County, Virginia, on … Read More

Extra matter

Future of agriculture


Will biotechnology feed the world? Can organic agriculture? Ford Denison is a research scientist who has thought clearly about the future of agriculture and what, if anything, it can learn from nature. Right now, he’s worried.

Cheese in aspic


There’s a thin line between protecting the authenticity of a fine traditional food and preventing the kinds of living changes that allowed it to survive long enough to become traditional. Zack Nowak, a food historian, looked at the rules governing the manufacture of genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP cheese and the cheese’s actual history. The rules say you can’t, but could you make an equally good parmesan somewhere else?

Extracted from the original episode broadcast after the 2nd Perugia Food Conference.

Music by podington bear.

Turkeys and globalisation

Of all the turkey’s misnomers, the official Linnaean name from 1758 must qualify as the wrongest: Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo. It crosses Greek roots with Latin to mean “guinea-fowl chicken-peacock chicken-peacock”. Wrong on five counts, but typical. The only thing the turkey’s namers have got right consistently is that the bird is not-from-here.

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