The Science Behind Your Salad
Crossing the globe to discover how the best ingredients that end up on our tables are grown
The Science Behind Your Salad is a podcast for the whole world. We’re not only in search of the best food on the planet, we’ll be telling the stories behind how that food is grown. We’ll meet the scientists searching for the next innovative breakthroughs in food production, we’ll hear about new technology already revolutionizing the way crops are grown and the stories of the growers.
And we’ll meet the farmers, those pioneers striving to do one of the biggest jobs on earth, putting food on our plates every day in the face of huge challenges.
You can listen to all episodes below on these channels
Latest Episode: Grapes
The first traces of wine production date back some 9000 years to parts of the Middle East. Georgia is known for making some of the earliest wines by burying Kvevris, giant earthenware pots, filling them with grapes and allowing the fruit to ferment. Over the millenia, the production of wine has evolved and the market is now worth over $200 billion. In this episode of the Science Behind Your Salad, Jane Craigie visits the Palatinate region of Germany, famous for its incredible Rieslings, and discovers the sensual way that moths are discouraged from destroying the grape crops.
Our first guest: Martin Messmer
Martin was born and grew up in Landau/Germany in the beautiful Palatinate region. In his younger years, he was more interested in marketing than the wine business. After high school, he became a bank clerk. Later he studied and graduated in marketing and advertising.
After working for 10 years in Berlin, Martin returned to his parents' winery, Messmer, in 2003 - one of the famous wineries in the German Wine Route, or Street as it is known locally. “The way back from the urban living Berlin to the countryside winery was the right step for my personal development," he says and certainly paved the way for his subsequent successes. To Martin, it was clear that wine grape cultivation - which is probably the largest monoculture in the world - must be changed over the next 50 years. Starting with small scale production in 2006, his winery converted to organic cultivation for the entire vineyard in 2009. The conversion to organic cultivation and the use of pure yeasts - for spontaneuos and natural fermentation - he believes, has enhanced the character of origin and the taste of the terroir in the wine. He and his team love Rieslings they produce, with minerality and soil character, especially when they come from Devonian slate or schist. Producing responsible wines in sustainable cultivation has become a passion for the whole farm and brings a lot of satisfaction. “What more could you want?” he asks.
Our second guest: Robert R Svadlenak
Robert grew up working with his father on the farm in the state of Texas in the US. His family operates a second-generation cotton and grain sorghum farm. With these experiences he developed an appreciation and passion for agriculture at a young age. After his graduation of Agribusiness from Texas A&M University, Robert joined BASF Corp. He spent time working throughout the US, from California to Wisconsin, and continued to learn how to help farmers address their unique challenges. Robert has held various roles in marketing, sales, and business operations. Currently he is focused on BASF’s global strategic marketing efforts for pheromones, where he is excited to continue exploring how new technologies and developments in the space can aid farmers and contribute positively to the global food supply.
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Loved by Ernest Hemingway in a sandwich, around 4.5 million tonnes of onions are grown globally each year. While Hemingway ate his onions raw, the vegetable is truly versatile and is the basis of sauces and stews, and can be a condiment on meats such as hotdogs and burgers and much, much more. Onions are a staple crop, traded globally. They can be easily stored and transported, but there is one trait that makes the onion stand out: when you chop it, they bring tears to your eyes. But not anymore: 30 years of crop breeding have led to the Sunions®. It’s an onion that is less pungent, sweeter and it doesn’t make you cry. We explore the development of this ground breaking new variety.
Not every crop relating to what we eat is edible. The table dressing also plays a valuable roll with crisp white tablecloths and beautifully folded napkins. In this episode we focus on the way that sustainability of cotton crops can be traced from the seed to the manufacture and selling of products made from the fabric - a success cotton story in Greece. In order to demonstrate the role blockchain technology can play in each step of the process, a unique fashion show has been staged in a cotton field in Komotini/Greece, and we were there to meet the farmers and scientists involved in the project. Meanwhile in the USA, a nation at the forefront of developing the industry and one of the world's top growers, we dip into the troubled past and the role slavery played in the success of cotton and explore new developments in seed breeding to ensure the crop can continue to be successful in the face of climate change.
We are currently facing significant challenges to the world's food supply. A global pandemic, a war on the ground in the breadbasket of Europe, a volatile climate, plus a growing population, have all led us to a pinch point.
In this episode of The Science Behind Your Salad we examine the threats to our food supply and explore the possible solutions, innovations and approaches that could keep the ever-growing number of hungry mouths fed.
Waves of golden flowers can currently be seen rippling in the wind across many parts of the world as the oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) harvest is approaching. But it is in Canada that the crop is a real success story. Oilseed rape grown there is a derivative known as canola. Canola oil is a highly versatile oil used for both animal and human consumption. The oil is low in saturated fats, so it is very healthy. In this episode we hear from farmers who produce rich golden oils and dressings from rapeseed and we hear about a real farming gamechanger for canola growers: InVigor canola seed. A hybrid canola seed that not only increases yield but also reduces something that is the bane of canola and rapeseed growers around the world: pod shatter. Pod shatter leads to millions of dollars of seeds being lost when the pods that contain the so-called ‘black gold’ – the seeds that are crushed to make the oil – are shattered by wind and rain before the farmers can get the crop in. With the pod shatter reduction technology, this can now be a problem consigned to the past.
In this episode we discover the story behind the sweet, crisp, crunch of the salad leaves. From iceberg to Lollo Rosso, from radicchio to endive, the choice of salad ingredients is extensive. The flavours are equally varied from peppery to pea flavoured and plenty in between. We discover the story of the Frenchman who spent his days dressing the salads of London’s High Society in the 1800s and we explore the subterranean growing techniques that could revolutionise the way leaves are cultivated in the future.
Every year 350 million tonnes of soybean are grown. More than three-quarters of global soy is fed to livestock for meat and dairy production. Most of the rest is used for biofuels, industry or vegetable oils. Whilst just 7% of soy is used directly as food for us to eat, the crop is packed with protein and is a valuable contributor to global health. This episode looks at breakthroughs in the production of the crop and we look at some of the foods that are made from soy from milk to tofu. It’s a vital crop that, if produced sustainably, could be a gamechanger when it comes to improving nutrition.
In this surprise bonus episode, we’ll talk about the meaning of wheat from a seasonal perspective: Different Christmas food habits around the world, explained first-hand from BASF Agricultural Solutions employees. Thanks to all colleagues for joining the podcast to share about the meaning of wheat during holiday season. We wish you a refreshing holiday season and a happy and healthy new year. Subscribe to “The Science behind your Salad” wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss an episode - you'll hear from us again in 2022 with lots of more exciting stories.
In the second episode exploring the importance of wheat as a crop globally, we discover the ways in which farmers can safeguard their crops against a host of challenges such as the weather and crop diseases.
The end result of all of the toil spent by the farmers around the globe working on their wheat crops? Fantastic tasting bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits and even beer.
Jane Craigie bakes her own bread and whilst doing so meets a super-hero in the world of wheat: Revysol!
The story of wheat begins 10,000 years ago and becomes the tale of the biggest crop on the planet. Wheat covers more of the earth than any other crop and is a leading source of vegetable protein for all of us, wherever we are in the world.
From early origins in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ which is modern day Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan where three simple grasses came together to become one species, the crop has become synonymous with bread, pastries, pizzas, pasta, noodles, biscuits and cookies, pies, cereals and muffins etc. The list is virtually endless.
So how do scientists ensure that farmers can grow enough of the crop to feed an ever-growing population of hungry mouths, in the face of challenging climatic conditions? In this episode of The Science Behind Your Salad we explore the world of hybrid wheat: the breeding of a crop that will provide resilience for the coming decades.
Seeds are the powerhouse of the agricultural world. Often tiny, energy packed sources of fruit and vegetable crops, without seeds we wouldn’t be able to produce food for the planet’s hungry mouths.
But, as we’ll discover in this episode of The Science Behind Your Salad, we don’t just plant them, we can eat them too as nutritious snacks and as healthy salad toppers. But once in the ground, ready to germinate and fulfil their potential by growing into crops and then being harvested to be eaten, farmers do everything that they can to protect and nurture the seeds. Crop scientists are working constantly to find new ways to improve and protect seeds to give farmers the best chance they can to improve their yields. Join Jane Craigie as she delves into the world of seeds and as she munches a few too during the process.
In the second episode devoted to one of the biggest crops on the planet: rice, Jane Craigie explores the way in which rice production in Australia is producing some of the world’s highest yields whilst using minimal amounts of water, and improving wildlife habitats. Across the globe Erik Andrus is in Vermont, USA where he practises Aigamo – the Japanese method of raising rice crops along side ducks. And Russell Reinke from IRRI explains the origins and development of Golden Rice that could deliver vital doses of vitamin A to those most at need. We explore the background to this controversial crop and look at how the story is everchanging.
In this episode we discover that the method of paddy rice production is a huge contributor of greenhouse gases and so the tide is turning away from the paddy field system, towards something called Direct Seeded Rice. We also discover the way to cook perfect, plump and fluffy rice.
How did the humble tomato rise from its early beginnings as a small, hairy fruit to become one of the most celebrated and versatile crops on the planet? We trace the journey of the fruit from the mountain slopes of Mesoamerica to the giant of the salad bowl – and beyond – today. It’s a fruit that forms the base to many dishes all around the world: from ragus to curry dishes. So what does the future hold for the bright red, juicy tomato?
After twenty years of creating award winning radio shows for the BBC, Fresh Air Production now make high quality podcasts for brands. Working for organisations such as Shell, WWF and Audi, they create podcasts that stand out from the crowd with broadcast-quality journalism and production. They use the intimacy and immediacy of audio to tell fascinating and powerful human stories.
Presenter – Jane Craigie
Jane is an agriculturalist, a traveller and a marketer. She lives on a smallholding in north east Scotland where she keeps livestock and grows her own fruit and vegetables.
Jane was brought up in Cyprus, India, Turkey and the UK and, aged 16, she decided agriculture was the industry she wanted to work in, and it was communicating the wonders of the industry that have always been her passion.
Jane has a science degree in agriculture, a post-graduate qualification in marketing and she is deeply involved in the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists, a membership organisation that represents journalists and communicators from 54 countries in all regions of the world.
Producer and Journalist – Martin Poyntz-Roberts
Martin has almost 20 years’ experience as a journalist and producer working on a variety of subject matters from natural history television to live news radio. He was at the helm of BBC Radio 4’s Costing The Earth series for much of his time at the BBC, produced several documentaries about President Trump and has recently carried out undercover filming for a BBC series in Malaysia. He recently won a Lovie Award for The Big Steal Podcast.