Max Coleman

Mar 282017



Blog by Cristina Romero Rios, Fanni Barocsi and Georgina Hill, University of Edinburgh students

Robin Gourlay is a food advisor to the Scottish Government who is working to make Scotland’s food more sustainable.

We met Robin on a rainy afternoon at the Government offices in Saughton House. Any thought that meeting a Government policymaker might be daunting was quickly dispelled, and his kindness made us feel very welcome. He is an adviser to the Scottish Government on Food and Drink policy especially food in the public sector and he works to improve the many systems that involve food, from how food is produced, where it is sourced, how it is procured, delivered, cooked and served in Scotland’s schools and hospitals.

When he began a career in hotel management, he did not envision that a determination to strive for excellence, would lead him to serve today, as a Scottish Government adviser. He produced the report, Walking the Talk – Getting Government Right in which the adoption of sustainable food and drink by the public sector was introduced as one of the key priorities for Scotland’s first National Food and Drink Policy. He subsequently consulted widely with industry and public bodies, commissioned new research and produced a range of guidance and policy for industry and the public sector which has seen an increase of over 40% in Scottish local produce being used. Continue reading »

Mar 222017



Blog by Cristina Romero Rios, Fanni Barocsi and Georgina Hill, University of Edinburgh students

Chelsea helping to get fresh produce to the community.

We met Chelsea Marshall on a sun filled morning at the Summerhall Café to discuss her views on Food Security in Scotland. She is bright and cheerful, with a wealth of knowledge that we were grateful to tap into.

With a background in social justice and children’s rights, Chelsea has very comprehensive and compelling views on the issue of Food Security. In her opinion, Food Security can be a very broad concept and we need to be precise about its definition. Continue reading »

Mar 202017



Blog by Cristina Romero Rios, University of Edinburgh student

Some weeks ago, we wrote about the Permanent Global Summertime and the impression that supermarkets give us that all fruits and vegetables are available year round. The article pointed out some of the food security risks that arise from relying on other countries for access to food (especially fruits and vegetables).

Sutherland kale is a tradditional Scottish brassica that could be grown commercially to supply local seasonal produce.

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Mar 202017



Blog by Cristina Romero Rios, Fanni Barocsi and Georgina Hill, University of Edinburgh students

Dr. Wendy Wrieden is a member of the Food Security Advisory Group working on the “Big Picnic” project at the Botanic Garden. She is friendly and chatty with a huge amount of research experience, and our discussion flowed for almost an hour! Her first degree was actually in Botany but she then did a PhD in Food Science and over the last 15 years has been researching the Scottish Diet, work funded by Food Standards Scotland, the public-sector food body for Scotland. She enjoys working with people and studying our relationships with food.

Wendy cooking a cashew nut curry.

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Mar 142017



On Thursday 2nd March the Thought for Food participants gathered at the Botanic Cottage for lunch and to discuss the next steps of the project. Soup was made from vegetables growing in the Garden and Sean produced some very tasty cheese scones. After a satisfying lunch the group got down to work.

Sean shows off the cheese scones made with Botanics flour.

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Mar 032017



Blog by Cristina Romero Rios, Fanni Barocsi and Georgina Hill, University of Edinburgh students

Ben is kind, talkative and passionate about growing food. He says he has been interested in knowing how to grow his own food since his teens, and that interest led him to becoming a Community Gardener of the Botanics.

Ben in the Market Garden where produce for the Garden’s catering outlets is grown.

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Mar 012017



Blog by Cristina Romero Rios, Fanni Barocsi and Georgina Hill, University of Edinburgh students

Andy’s passion for plants is clear. What he enjoys most about his job is helping people to get closer to the natural world. He points out that most of us think about the natural world in terms of the diversity of animals that exist. But we forget about the extraordinary diversity of plants, the primary producers that form the basis of our ecosystems.

Andy discussing food (his favourite subject) with Fanni and Cristina in the Botanic Cottage kitchen.

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Feb 232017

Healthy Dutch elm (Ulmus x hollandica ‘Major’) at East Baldwin Valley, Isle of Man.

The day that Storm Doris arrives seems a fitting time to mention newly published research that suggests cold and windy weather has actually been responsible for holding back the spread of Dutch elm disease on the Isle of Man. The island has an estimated 300,000 elms and only around one per cent of them have been lost to Dutch elm disease since the fungal pathogen was first noticed on the Island in 1992. This is a very different picture from that seen on the British mainland, where the disease has eradicated between 25-75 million trees since the 1970s.

The research, involving RBGE, Forest Research and Manx Biodiversity, has used DNA fingerprinting as a way to show that many of the surviving elms are a cultivated type called ‘Major’. This is an important finding as this elm is a single clone known to be highly susceptible to Dutch elm disease. What this tells us is that we can rule out the possibility that the Island’s elms are resistant to the disease. This has important implications for the future of elms on the Isle of Man and prompted the researchers to consider other explanations for the slow spread of the disease.

Dutch elm disease develops rapidly in summer and kills the tree by preventing fluid transport, creating symptoms of dought.

Dutch elms at West Nappin, Isle of Man.

An examination of local weather data has suggested that this may be the key to understanding the remarkable survival of these elms. It has long been known that the beetles that spread the disease are strongly influenced by both temperature and wind. As Dutch elm disease is a fungus that hitchhikes on the bodies of elm bark beetles it is completely reliant on them to get from tree to tree. It follows that anything holding back the beetles will also hold back the disease. The beetles need a temperature of at least 20 degrees to fly and if wind speed exceeds five metres per second flight is inhibited. By analysing local weather data from 1995 to 2015 it was found that only one year out of 20 could be regarded as a good year for the beetles and the disease to spread.

Ian Denholm, Editor-in-Chief of New Journal of Botany, where the research is published, said:

Combining research on elm genetics with consideration of beetle ecology has led to a convincing and elegant explanation of why the spread of disease has been constrained in the Isle of Man compared with much of the UK. Such inter-disciplinary studies highlight the extreme importance of understanding how climate affects interactions between organisms as well as its impact on individual species. Elms are a complex group; unambiguous identification of types present also helps ensure the accuracy of BSBI’s database of plant records encompassing the whole of Britain, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

For more details see the abstract.

Feb 212017



Blog by Cristina Romero Rios, University of Edinburgh student

Have you ever asked yourself where the bananas that you eat come from? Have you wondered the same about tomatoes, lemons, peppers, asparagus, or for that matter any of the fresh food you eat?

Map showing the source countries of UK fruit and vegetables.

The UK relies on many other countries to supply the fruits and vegetables people eat. If we talk about food security, the UK is highly dependent on foreign imports. At present the UK imports 50% of its vegetable needs and an incredible 90% of its fruit needs. This global supply system can cause problems in the UK if something happens in the source countries. Continue reading »

Feb 212017



Blog by Georgina Hill, University of Edinburgh student

Neighbourhoods do not always have easy access to fresh produce.

For some, accessing fresh, nutritious food can be a challenge. Fruit and veg can be hard to transport and relatively expensive. At the same time, tonnes of fresh produce go to waste every year.

A possible solution: ‘Community Fridges’. People donate fresh food that they would otherwise throw away, and others are free to take what they need. The concept has had success in Germany and Spain. Exciting pilot projects are happening right now in the UK.

So, could we see community fridges in Scotland? Continue reading »