The 2000th passenger on the Ark of Taste has arrived from South Korea: Meoksi Persimmon Vinegar marks an important milestone for the project. The Ark of Taste began 18 years ago and has since become an international catalogue of food products, breeds and varieties which are at risk of disappearing, along with the traditions and knowledge to which they are linked.
Nominations of products for the Ark arrive from all over the world, from Bolivia to Australia. The Ark currently has passengers from 108 different countries. The product nominations are reviewed by an International Commission, assisted by approximately 20 National Commissions, composed of volunteers who are linked to the project. If a nomination meets the requirements, the product will join the ranks of products on the Ark: the first step in the realization of more complex projects such as Slow Food Presidia.
The 2000th product on board has a history stretching back hundreds of years. Meoksi Persimmon Vinegar was once a fundamental ingredient in Korean gastronomy and is cited in many documents, including an ancient recipe book from the Joseon dynasty. In the southeastern part of South Korea, in the Jeongeup-si and Jeollabuk-do region, the vinegar is made with the native Meoksi persimmon that grows at the foot of the mountains. This variety is celebrated in the Chuseok, a harvest celebration that takes place around the autumnal equinox. On this day Koreans prepare food for their ancestors, as a way of thanking them for the good harvest.
The recipe states that the fruits should be collected before they are fully ripe. Once harvested, they are dried and sprayed with alcohol distilled from rice (makgeolli). After fermentation, the transparent liquid is separated from the fruit and a second, acidic fermentation begins. The excellent flavor of the persimmon vinegar is due to its long fermentation period.
The product also has medicinal properties. Until the 1980s it was used in many homes. Today, thanks to the availability of commercial vinegars on the market that are cheaper, this traditional production is at risk of extinction. Of the 10 companies that produced the vinegar according to the original recipe, only one is left. Furthermore, the introduction of sweeter varieties of persimmon threatens the future of this product. In some areas, the Meoksi persimmon plants have been replaced by rice.
With its arrival on the Ark, Slow Food hopes to save at least one small piece of the rich local traditions of South Korea. Today there are 28 products from South Korea on the Ark and four have become Slow Food Presidia.
The Ark of Taste and protecting biodiversity are among the principle themes of the 2014 edition of Salone del Gusto. Come and discover Meoksi Persimmon Vinegar along with many other unique products that will be on display in the large Ark that is being built in the Oval!
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