Well, I’m officially in a quandary. On the one hand, with the risk of TCA-induced (that’s 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, a by-product of microbial activity) taint so high, there’s no reason except snobbishness for jettisoning natural cork for screw-tops and other ways of stopping wine bottles. On the other hand, as this article points out, producers are addressing quality concerns and cork is biodegradable, recyclable, and sustainably harvested from woodlands whose management over centuries has led to high levels of biodiversity. Pass the bottle.
The BBC World Service is broadcasting a series of four programmes on the rice cultures of Asia, called Rice Bowl Tales. Starts 28 February, but if you miss it, it seems like the series has already aired on Radio National, and if you follow the link I’ve just given, you should be able to listen online or download audio files.
A new study tries to disentangle the mystery of the origin of the Etruscans by looking at the genetics of the cattle currently found in the area of central Italy which takes its name from that ancient civilization, Tuscany (or is it the other way around?). It turns out that, unlike cattle from other parts of Italy, cattle from the Etruscan lands shows genetic affinities with Anatolian breeds. According to the Italian researchers, the Etruscans came to Italy from Turkey, and they did so by sea. I wonder if it will be possible to recover DNA from the remains of ancient Etruscan cattle…
Maria Scholten has written to us with some interesting websites about British landraces. She says that as Brussels prepares a new directive on the conservation of agricultural landraces, it is important to have some idea about the landraces that still survive even in countries like the UK with a highly industrialized agriculture, and the efforts underway to conserve them.
an English native red clover landrace marketed by a local British seed company
a barley, probably introduced by the Vikings, being researched for marketing potential on Orkney
a group of organic growers on Shetland working to maintain Shetland â€œaetsâ€ and bere barley, the historical cereals of Shetland
I spent the last few days in Portesham, Dorset (thanks, Lorna and Geoff!), which made it all the more weird to come across this article reprinted in a newspaper in Dubai, where I had to transit for a few hours on the way out there. But itÂ doesÂ show that you can still discoverÂ (or re-discover) new thingsÂ even in such a well-researched crop as apples in the UK. Of course, for every upbeat story, there’s a depressing one.