A study just published in Nature and reported in The Times here identified the particular class of the polyphenols found in red wine which confers the greatest health advantage, by suppressing production of a protein which narrows blood vessels. There’s been lots recently in the press about the supposed health benefits of moderate consumption of wine, in particular red wine, as part of the “Mediterranean diet.” Known as polymeric procyanidins, these polyphenols turn out to be present in particularly high concentrations in some wines from Sardinia and the Pyrenees. This is due to both the wine-making technique (the compounds are released from the seeds after a long period of fermentation) and variety (the Tannat grape from SW France is rich in these chemicals). The Cannonau wine from Nuoro (Sardinia) and the Madiran from Gers (France) have the highest levels of procyanidins, and it turns out that people from those areas are also of above-average longevity, especially the men.

Farming tigers

Not agricultural biodiversity, but here’s a somewhat radical (in its context) take on conservation through use. Of course, this strategy is fairly well established for wild plants.

Farmer breeds coconut

From Tamil Nadu, news of a farmer who has developed a very promising, high-yielding hybrid coconut. Has anyone pulled together similar examples of farmer breeding?

That other groundnut

This article in African News Dimension sings the praises of Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea), saying it could be grown and consumed a lot more in Malawi. Interestingly, one of the reasons why it is underutilized may be customs such as the one which says that only grandparents and widows are allowed to grow it.

Gorilla medicine?

Coincidentally, here’s a very detailed article which perhaps sheds some light on how some medicinal plants may come to be used by people. Aframomum melegueta is a herb in the ginger family which grows along the coast of West Africa. The seeds are sometimes called “Grains of Paradise,” and were traded as a spice in the 15th century, giving its area of origin the name of Grain Coast. The plant is used in traditional medicine, and biochemists at Rutger’s Biotechnology Centre have now isolated a powerful anti-inflammatory from the grains. But here’s the fun part: apparently, Western lowland gorillas really like Aframomum. Did local people learn to use the plant by watching the gorillas?