The Ark of Taste is a project created by the Slow Food Association in 1996. It is a metaphorical vessel traveling around the world, helping small-scale products of high gastronomic value threatened by industrial agriculture, environmental degradation and standardization.
The Ark seeks out, catalogs and nominates flavors that are endangered and need protection, but are still alive and have real potential. With the help of monitoring carried out by Slow Food Convivia around the world, the Scientific Ark Commission evaluates cured meats, cheeses, cereals, vegetables and local breeds using specific selection criteria: gastronomic excellence, a connection with the local area, artisan production, a sustainable approach by producers, and products at risk of extinction.
Japan is a country where the Ark project has been welcomed with particular enthusiasm. The Japanese Ark was formed in 2005, when the commission selected the first nine products: the tankaku cattle breed, etari in brine (anchovies macerated and fermented in brine using traditional artisan methods), the roasted and smoked goby yakihaze from Nagatsura Bay, two local types of turnip (hanazukuri daikon and akkajidaikon), yukina (a leaf vegetable grown in the area of Yonezawa), Amarume Welsh onion, hachiretsu corn and unzen kobu takana (an ecotype of takana, distinctive for the ‘knots’ on its leaves).
There are now 20 Ark products and over time the project has strengthened the links between Japanese Ark producers and the Slow Food network, which is actively involved in presenting and promoting them.