What is the Ark of Taste?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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The Ark of Taste is part of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, and is aimed at identifying and preserving unique economic, social, cultural, and culinary heritage in the form of endangered foods. Most members of Slow Food practice eco-gastronomy, but the Ark of Taste takes it to the next level, actively working to save the rare foods that people eat all over the world. According to Slow Food International, Europe has lost 75% of its crop diversity since 1900, and the United States has lost 93%. Thirty plants feed the majority of the global population, meaning that culinary diversity and biodiversity are both at serious risk. Under the Ark of Taste program, Slow Food has been working to save rare varietals ranging from Irish Kerry cattle to Roman Taffy Candy from Louisiana.


There are several categories under which foods can be considered in the Ark of Taste catalog to include everything from regional plant varieties such as a type of fava bean grown only on Santorini, Greece, to Navajo-Churro Sheep. The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity believes that the best way to save rare foods is to eat them, creating a market for artisanally produced or unusual foods. Culinary biodiversity is vital, and the Ark of Taste addresses the concern that global food supplies could be threatened by heavily engineered crops. Should these crops fail without backups, as happened during the Irish potato famine, when one variety of potato dominated Irish agriculture, feeding the world could get much more difficult.

In addition to preserving biodiversity, the Ark of Taste also helps to preserve economic and cultural heritage. Many of the breeds of animal listed under the Ark of Taste, for example, have been farmed for centuries by people who have built up their own cultures around the animals they raise. Losing those species of animal would result in a loss to cultural diversity as well as to biodiversity. By listing a food in the Ark of Taste, Slow Food can work with producers to save it. The Ark of Taste also hopes to change agricultural policies which are detrimental to Slow Food, such as bans on raw milk cheeses and butchering restrictions.

The Ark of Taste works to save rare foods through presidia, small groups which help to protect artisan producers. Sometimes local presidia only need to connect producers with a potential market. In other cases, they can help producers get an Origin Appellation to protect their unique foods, help to rebuild farming and harvesting facilities, or unite multiple producers into a strong lobby. Presidia all over the world work to preserve fruits like the Gravenstein Apple in the United States, Kalakukko bread in Finland, Italian cheeses like Aurina Valley Graukase, and Haviar preserved fish from Turkey.


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Post 3

The threat to our culture of foods and availability of foods is very much real. I, for example, was raised in the city and lived in the city my whole life.

Recently, my parents retired and moved to a rural area on the coast. For the first time in my life, I have seen actual fruit trees and vegetables growing there. There are trees and plants I have never seen before and do not recognize. I have seen fig trees, different berries, cacti fruits, pepinos, olive trees, wild mint, wild basil and so much more.

It's absolutely amazing and it's also very sad that I have never seen nor eaten many of these foods before. We need to wake up and do something about this!

Post 2

The reason that the Ark of Taste is a great project is because everyone can do something to contribute to it.

The least we can do is to try and eat and cook with these rare foods ourselves and also encourage our friends and family to do the same. We can even speak to local grocery stores, restaurants and cafes if they would be interested in doing the same.

Post 1

I'm so happy to hear about the work that is being done about food preservation.

I'm curious, aside from promoting farmers to cultivate these foods and consumers to eat them, is the Ark of Taste also physically preserving seeds?

I'm asking because I had heard that there are several places in the world that have been collecting and saving dry seeds in case something happens to the world's food sources in the future.

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