Preserve and survive

January 24th, 2011

I spent some of last weekend making marmalade – an excellent activity for a cold winter day.  Listening to Sir John Beddington on the Today programme this morning talking about ways of reducing food waste set me thinking about my weekend’s labour.

Many of our favourite foods have come about because of mankind’s need to preserve a glut of ingredients in an edible format that will keep. Yogurt, bacon, cheese, pickled onions and of course jam have all been developed in response this need.

In rural Africa, the absence of refrigeration makes food preservation techniques all the more vital.  Practical Action has been disseminating information on simple food preservation and processing techniques for many years.  Fascinating and useful technical briefs are available on Practical Answers  on a wide range of items from ricotta cheese to pineapple jam.

The zeer pot is another simple technology, promoted by Practical Action, that helps to extend the life of fruit and vegetables, making the crucial difference to poor families in Sudan.

The answers to feeding the growing population of the planet do not always lie in the laboratories of the rich world, sometimes we need to be reminded of the simple techniques that have been used for centuries by farming communities to preserve the fruits of their labour.

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