Seeds and tatties – Ark of Taste visit to SASA

Seeds and tatties – an Ark of Taste visit to SASA

Guest post from Andrew Marsden, SF Edinburgh Secretary

On the evening of Wednesday 29th June a small group of Slow Food members visited SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture), the Scottish Government’s main agricultural laboratory, which provides a range of services to support Scotland’s agricultural industry and heritage. 

Of particular interest to Slow Food Edinburgh and our Ark of Taste campaign were the seed banks where many historic seed varieties are stored. 

The seed bank role is shared with collaborative laboratories across the UK with Scotland concentrating on potatoes and dried seeds such as pulses and legumes. The latter can be stored almost indefinitely in protected humidity-free chilled rooms (>-20 degrees) whereas the potatoes can only be stored for a year when they have to be replaced from growing crops. 

SASA grows over 1000 varieties of potatoes in its’ surrounding farms – about a third of these varieties are currently used commercially, the remainder are stored to preserve the genotype and support scientific research. 

Some of the potato varieties have fascinating heritage stories attached and would be good candidates for boarding the Ark of Taste. 

We next visited the potato fields to get an insight into both the preservation of the varietals and SASA’s role in supporting training for agriculture inspectors in food purity. We experienced first hand the effect of inappropriate use of chemical herbicides coincidentally infringing on and affecting successive years of the potato crop.

The visit was most informative and helped to forge strong links between Slow Food’s environmental activities and the agriculture scientific community – we are indebted to Dr John Kerr and his staff for giving up their evening and sharing their expertise to make this visit possible. 

Thanks also to all those who attended, took wonderful photographs and shared their experiences on Twitter.

We're already in the planning for our next dedicated Art of Taste visit to watch this space!