A Thousand Products in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste
11 Aug 11
Slow Food is celebrating an important milestone as the Ark of Taste welcomes its thousandth passenger. The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity officially included the Shalakh variety of apricot in the list of products to be saved during Terra Madre Armenia. The meeting was held on August 6th and brought 60 delegates to the Yerevan Agriculture University to discuss biodiversity, short distribution chains and taste education.
The choice of this product has a strong symbolic value. The apricot is grown on the slopes of Mount Ararat, where Noah’s Ark is said to have landed after the Flood. The peak of Mount Ararat, 5,165 meters above sea level, is in Turkish territory, but the Shalakh apricot grows in the Ararat Valley near Yerevan, in Armenia. Large, soft, sweet and juicy, the fruit can reach up to 100 grams in weight and is used to make jam (maraba). Each house usually has a few trees in the garden for domestic consumption, some as old as 70 years, but the international market has been invaded by more productive hybrids that carry the same name, and the authentic Shalakh apricot risks disappearing.
The Shalakh apricot is the thousandth product to be identified, described, catalogued and included in Slow Food’s international Ark of Taste project. The Ark has been working since 1996 to protect food products, livestock breeds and plant varieties at risk of disappearance, and the traditions and knowledge inextricably linked to these foods. Over the past 15 years, nominations have arrived from all over the world, from Bolivia to Australia, through the Slow Food network. The list of foods like honeys, cured meats and vegetable varieties has grown every year, products whose disappearance would endanger an entire economic, social and cultural heritage.
To date, the Ark has collected passengers from 60 countries, including American plains bison from the United States and Caatinga passion fruit from Brazil, leatherwood honey from Australia and zazamushi (insect larvae) from Japan. Each nomination is examined by an International Commission and by 20 national commissions, made up of volunteers from professions linked to the project, like journalists, botanists, veterinarians and other experts. If the nomination meets the criteria and is accepted, the product’s inclusion in the catalog serves as an initial form of promotion, and is often a first step towards the implementation of more complex support projects, like the Presidia.