Brainfood: Special citizen science edition

Something for the weekend. I hope you enjoy this special edition of Brainfood focusing on citizen science, Indigenous knowledge and participatory research. Do you like themed Brainfood editions like this? There will be another one on Monday, as it happens. They’re more tricky to produce, but if there’s significant interest I may make the extra effort. Let me know, and suggest topics.

Lay up your dates on earth

I see Jeremy had some fun in his latest newsletter. Want more of the same, every week: subscribe.

Previously, in the Methuselah date story: around 50 years ago archaeologists excavating Masada in Israel dug up a small pile of date seeds. In 2008, to most people’s surprise, one of those seeds — roughly 2000 years old — germinated and was named the Methuselah date. Like its namesake, it proved to be male. Date male and female flowers grow on separate plants, so wails and lamentations accompanied far-fetched plans to tinker with Methuselah.

And it came to pass that in recent years another 32 well-preserved date seeds were set to germinate. And lo, six of them did germinate, and their names were given as Boaz, Eve, Jeremiah, Jonah, Judah and Uriel, and they too were of ancient lineage. And when they came of maturity and revealed unto others their gender, Eve became Adam, and Jeremiah became Hannah and Judah in her turn became Judith.

And Hannah brought forth flowers in their beauty, and the researchers carried the male seed from Methuselah unto Hannah’s flowers and the flowers swelled and were ripened. Then the researchers plucked of the fruits and tasted, and said: “The honey-blonde, semi-dry flesh had a fibrous, chewy texture and a subtle sweetness.”

The New York Times has the story, and there is a bunch of really interesting science behind some of the conjectures.

Nibbles: Cahokia book, Grape stats, Tides of History, Medieval Arabic cookbooks, Bangladesh hydroponics

  • Prof. Gayle J. Fritz gets 2020 Mary W. Klinger Book Award for “Feeding Cahokia.” Beyond maize and priests.
  • The ups and downs of grape varieties. Airén relinquishes the top spot! So much data: who will calculate diversity stats?
  • Nice, long podcast on the beginning of farming in the Fertile Crescent. More coming up.
  • “Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table” is the sort of cookbook we all need.
  • What is it about floating gardens? Quite a lot, really. But they are not easily transplanted, as it were.

Farmers’ Rights webinar coming up fast

I realize another webinar is probably the last thing you want to know about right now. I see you, I really do. But this is these are important, and it’s a great lineup.

“Farmers’ Rights in the International Legal Architecture for Food and Agriculture Article 9, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) recognizes the enormous contribution that the local and indigenous communities and farmers of all regions of the world, particularly those in the centers of origin and crop diversity, have made and will continue to make to the conservation and development of plant genetic resources which constitute the basis of food and agriculture production throughout the world. This webinar will examine the links between Farmers’ Rights (as established in the ITPGRFA) and related international treaties alongside the right to food and gender perspectives on Farmers’ Rights.”

Date: 16 September 2020. Time: 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm (Rome).

Moderator: Ms Titilayo Adebola (School of Law, University of Aberdeen)


  • Ms Regine Andersen: Research Director for Biodiversity and Natural Resources, Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI), Norway
  • Mr Michael Fakhri: The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
  • Ms Susannah Chapman: Research Fellow, the University of Queensland
  • Ms Yolanda Huerta: Legal Counsel, International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants
  • Ms Isabel Lopez Noriega: Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture
  • Mr James Gathii: Wing Tat-Lee Chair of International Law and Professor of Law, Loyola University of Chicago.

Register here for the first one.

And here for the second one on the 17th.