Nature Queen's Blog

News from the world of Food and Beverages

The strawberry and raspberry hybrid theory: Country diary 100 years ago

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 20 September 1917

Kew Gardens
A Manchester correspondent writes that there is such a fruit as “raspberry and strawberry crossed,” and that he has seen about a pound of it on a shop counter. A friend told him it was exhibited at the Shrewsbury Show a year or two before the war, that the French call it “orbust,” and that it makes a nice-flavoured preserver. He describes it as “round in shape, the size of a small walnut, colour a bright red like a ripe strawberry.”

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Agriculture holds the key to unlocking Africa’s vast economic potential | Letters

Anna Jones says that, through selling its cocoa cheaply, Africa is exporting its wealth overseas; while Sue Banford claims that the soya moratorium in the Amazon has done nothing to halt deforestation

Only the final paragraph in your article on cocoa farming causing deforestation in Ivory Coast (Forests pay price for world’s taste for cocoa, 14 September) mentioned the most fundamental thing – the farmer’s livelihood, or lack of it. The low value of his (or more likely her) crop is undoubtedly the cause of this problem. But cocoa farming could also provide the solution.

Recently, I was in Ivory Coast for the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Abidjan. It united many different parties – governments, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), private sector agribusiness like Syngenta, Bayer and OCP, Rabobank and the World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They are united in one firm belief: that agriculture holds the key to unlocking Africa’s economic potential – 41 million smallholders on a fertile continent that grows every crop imaginable.

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Welcome to September’s Observer Food Monthly

This month, we have Nadine Levy Redzepi’s practical, tempting family recipes, the story of amateurs turned professional chefs at Darjeeling Express, and Simon Hopkinson’s classic cookbook Roast Chicken and Other Stories

Chefs continue to intrigue and amaze us, but what fascinates me just as much (more, perhaps) is the food we cook at home. The everyday, essential sustenance we make for ourselves and those we love: an early meal for the kids; a meticulously planned celebration dinner; a slightly pissed midnight fridge raid.

I am clearly not alone. The interest in cookbooks by home cooks is heartwarming, and they are often the books whose spines are in tatters and whose pages are smudged with the ghosts of dinners gone by.

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Politics and food: President Nixon in China, February 1972

Etiquette is the least of Tricky Dick’s worries at a state banquet in Shanghai, as he struggles with chopstick diplomacy

Nixon in China is John Adams’s famous opera, but it’s also a phrase, describing a clash of civilisations, loaded with political jeopardy – plus some bizarre superpower chow-downs. Food is central to the Chinese.

The banquet pictured here took place in Shanghai in February 1972, and placed an awkward US Republican loner in the dragon’s mouth. Everything about this picture screams, “Expletive deleted!”

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Lemn Sissay: ‘For the first time, I’m enjoying my life. I feel I have a purpose’

Life begins at 50 for the acclaimed poet, who’s overcome a traumatic childhood in care. Next up: more theatre and television projects

When I arrive at Benares, the Indian restaurant on Berkeley Square in London, Lemn Sissay has got there first and is on the way back outside for a smoke. I’ve never met Sissay, but he has the true poet’s gift for immediately making you feel like an old mate. We stand outside the Bentley showroom next to the restaurant – this isn’t any old curry house – and he explains with his broad grin why he chose to come here this particular day: “When you said the date for lunch, I immediately thought it had to be an Indian place!” he says, “Seventy years this morning since independence and partition – we couldn’t let that go by, could we?”

Sissay’s own complicated heritage is Ethiopian, by way of foster and care homes outside Wigan, in streets where the only other outsiders were Indian or Pakistani. “Those Lancashire villages were incredibly hostile to the Indian community who had come in originally to work the mills at night because no one else would,” he says. “When the mills closed they opened shops that stayed open late and got worse stick for that. But the food they have brought to our country has changed our idea of food forever.”

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