The trail commences in the Humid Tropics Biome at the Malaysian Garden, proceeds to the Warm Temperate Biome and continues with several exhibits outside.
Humid Tropics Biome
Banyan Ficus benghalensis H.03
The banyan is the classic 'shade tree' of drier parts of India, spreading up to 200 metres across and providing cool
space for trading and socialising. The closely-related Bo tree Ficus religiosa is the tree under which Buddha is reputed to have received enlightenment while meditating in the
shade. The 'drip tips' of its leaves are commonly seen in Buddhist art. Botanically, they function to shed water.
Neem tree Azadirachta indica H.03
Neem is part of our 'Malaysian Garden',
a home garden surrounding a typical dwelling house. Native to India, neem features in Ayurvedic literature for its curative powers (as an antimicrobial) and as a useful insect repellent. Attempts to patent some of neem's traditional uses have caused controversy. (Patenting issues
will be highlighted in Eden's Mechanical Theatre from late 2005 onwards.)
Tamarind Tamarindus indica H.04
Tamarind pulp (from the pods) is an important ingredient in that favourite British breakfast condiment,
Brown Sauce and in Worcestershire Sauce, both used as flavourings in many processed foods. Neem
is native to India. Tamarind is native to Africa but was introduced to India in ancient times.
Lotus Nelumbo nucifera H.03
Normally visible except when dormant in winter. Lotus
is an aquatic plant with water repellent leaves. As the Sacred Lotus of Buddhism,
its flowers are often shown supporting a seated Buddha. Many cultivars of this plant are seen in botanic gardens, including white forms although hybrids are normally pink.
Coconut Cocos nucifera H.12
The coconut is fundamental to life in coastal Asia, particularly in Kerala where it is vital to the cuisine.
Every part of the coconut is useful, from its dried flesh (copra) which is edible and oily, to its leaves used in
thatching, to its shell fibre (coir) for ropes and mats. Most British homes will have a doormat made of coir,
gardeners use coir as an environmentally-friendly peat substitute in potting composts, coconut oil is a vital
ingredient in tanning lotions and coconut milk in the very best cocktails.
Rice Oryza sativa H.13
Rice feeds half
the world and is the most important food
crop with a massive impact on the landscape and lives in Southeast Asia, particularly as paddy (wet) rice. Eden's exhibit shows classic rice terrace construction and the visual impact on the landscape in these vast 'stairways to heaven'. At various times of the year you can see exhibits relating to livelihoods of farmers using rice-fish cultures to add protein to their diets - systems which minimise the use of pesticides; and also exhibits demonstrating world trade volumes which show how dependent Southeast Asia
is on this grain.
Eden has collaborated with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines to demonstrate the development of IR8 (IR-ettu in Tamil), a miracle rice
which is high-yielding and semi-dwarf and was one of the crucial supports in feeding India in the 1960s and 1970s. As time develops we will cover controversial areas such as the potential 'Golden Rice', which has been genetically manipulated to enhance Vitamin A content and prevent blindness, especially in children. The attempt in the USA to patent a rice called 'Texmati' developed from Indian and Pakistani Basmati rice will be highlighted in Eden's Mechanical Theatre from late 2005 onwards.
Betel nut Areca catechu H.12
Betel nut is the seed of a palm which is sliced, mixed with lime in a leaf of Betel Pepper (Piper betel) and chewed as a stimulant - it stains the gums red. An important recreational and social activity in many Asian countries, it also has its ceremonial aspects and special silver sets are used to slice the nut and prepare the 'quid'
for the mouth.
Sugar cane Saccharum officinarum H.16
Sugar cane is a large grass with a sweet sap -
India currently produces the same quantity of sugar from cane that EU countries produce from sugar beet. In the UK consumption for beet and from cane is about 50:50. Production will be affected very much
by EU subsidy reform from 2005 onwards and the impact on livelihoods is shown in an exhibit of a harvesting lorry decorated according to Indian (Hindu) vernacular from July 2005 onwards - which will be accessible to children! The consumption of sugar and its possible relation to the development of diabetes Type 2 (adult onset) is controversial and may be more related to low birth weight. What is less controversial is the relation of diabetes to excess weight and inactivity which in Britain is associated with poverty and in India with wealth!
Mango Mangifera indica H.17
usually from grafted, improved, varieties -
are one of the most important fruits internationally traded. They can be eaten fresh, pickled or salted and are the main ingredient in one of Britain's favourite chutneys as well as juices and 'smoothies'. Mango wood is an important furniture wood. Our young plantation flowered in early 2005 and we are co-operating with the Mango Association to bring you the latest news about trade issues.
Ginger Zingiber officinale H.23
Ginger rhizomes are the source of the powdered spice - or young pieces can be bought fresh, crystallised or in syrup. It is an important ingredient in many Asian dishes and sweetmeats and features in Ayurvedic medicine, especially in remedies for chronic rheumatism because it reduces inflammation. Ginger is also one of the most effective
anti-nauseants known and is thought to
have an anti-bacterial action in food.
Turmeric Curcuma longa H.23
Another Ayurvedic remedy which the Indian government has resisted entering foreign patent law, this plant grows from rhizomes and looses its top growth in the dormant, dry, season. Source of the strong yellow dye responsible for the colour of curry powder, it is also used as a dye (leather and textiles). Has anti-bacterial and antifungal properties and has a useful food preservative role in rendering food safer.
Black pepper Piper nigrum H.23
is the fruit of a vine which you can see growing up supports in the spice exhibit. The blackness comes from the colour of the dried, ripe fruit. White pepper is prepared from the seed with its fruit case removed. Once hugely expensive ('peppercorns' were given in lieu of rent they were so valuable!) it would have been secreted under lock and key in spice chests. Also in the Ayurvedic scripts of 200 BC to 200 AD.
Curry leaf Murraya koenigii H.23
A staple leaf of Indian and Sri Lankan curries and is widely available from Asian shops in the UK.. To grow your own - see the Plant Cultures website.
Chilli pepper (Capsicum annuum cultivars) H.23
A vital ingredient to give heat to curries, the general Indian rule being the smaller the fruit the stronger the effect. Capsaicin is an extract from chilli used in pharmaceutical drugs to ease joint and nerve pain. Because capsaicin is soluble in oil, not water, milk (or lassi) is a more soothing drink.
Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum H.23
Cardamom pods are the fruits of this
relative of ginger and turmeric and are
the parts that are used in curries as a flavouring. They are a good digestive, particularly when infused in black tea.
Most of the items to can be
sampled as ingredients in the drawers of the spice boat exhibit adjacent to them.
Holy basil Ocimum tenuiflorum H.03
As it is an annual this one comes and goes quite quickly in the exhibit. One of the commonest backyard herbs in India and a relative of the culinary basils found in British supermarkets. A sacred herb in Hinduism.
It is not used as a flavouring in South Asia.
Warm Temperate Biome
Garlic Allium sativum W.09
A bulbous plant with a powerful oil containing allicin (alliin) which gives the characteristic sulphur-like fragrance. Very significant in European as well as Asian cooking and an important bactericide reputed to also lower cholesterol levels.
Cotton Gossypium arboreum/herbaceum/barbadense
Temporary Display - usually late summer. Cotton is hugely important as a crop in India, indeed the attempt by Gandhi
to break the British monopoly on manufacturing was one of the most potent symbols of the Independence movement.
Our guides have a reproduction of one of the portable spinning wheels, designed to pack up into a briefcase,
which helped break the back of British rule in India.
Cotton is a significant crop in the GM debate, covered in our Mechanical Theatre in the Visitor Centre from late 2005 onwards. Does 'Bolgard' cotton, genetically manipulated to incorporate a gene as an insecticide,
aid farmers to reduce debt incurred through purchasing insecticide sprays? Would it be better if the seed was made available to them by the Indian government rather than via a foreign multinational? How green is your T-shirt?
Across the Link Bridge
Marigold Tagetes erecta/patula/minuta O.07
The brilliant orange marigold flowers are a common component of Asian religious garlands. In the UK the plants are used to repel insects - as a so-called 'companion plant' among vegetables as in our displays.
Indigo is a blue dye
made from the leaves of Indigofera species and is also the generic term given to all blue dyes which you can see in the Dye exhibit. The dye is only formed during processing
of the leaves which are yellow in the vat
but form blue on exposure to air. A vital part of 'blue jeans' culture which also gave its colour to the name 'blue collar worker' - although most of the dye is now synthetic. Eden is working with Spindigo, a group at Reading University, to develop sustainable indigo production from plants again.
Tea Camellia sinensis O.13
produced from the 'tips' (bud & 2 leaves)
of tea bushes in the uplands of India and China. As an industry tea production
started in China and was a closely guarded secret until introduced to northern India
by Robert Fortune while working for the East India Company in the 1840s: nowadays that would be considered biopiracy.
China suffered, the British Empire benefited.
Our tea plantation is the first on public display in Britain, sourced from China by Jonathan Jones of the Tregothnan estate near Falmouth. It was planted on a slope in
April 2004 under representative shade trees. Nearby is our 'tea leaf' tea house
with artefacts about the history of tea. Tea cannot usually be grown in Britain
unless it is a very hardy clone.
Hemp Cannabis sativa O.16
Our hemp plantation is being grown under license for its fibre and is harvested annually for the company 'Hemcore'. In temperate Asia hemp is grown for its oil, though there is interest in it as a environmentally friendly fibre crop since it can be grown with very little fertiliser. Hemp oil is marketed as a health oil; it has a pleasant nutty flavour and is highly nutritious.
Of the remaining 3 plants in Plant Cultures, sandalwood and henna are destined for our proposed Dry Tropics Biome. Sandalwood Santalum album is a very slow-growing parasitic tree native to seasonally dry areas of southern India with harvesting controlled
by the Indian government - with some difficulty. As the conservation issues of this plant are so complex we have decided to take it out of the formulation of our Eden range of cosmetics until the sustainability issues surrounding the oil are clearer.
Opium poppy Papaver somniferum
This is the source of heroin but also (when harvested and extracted from the dry crop) of morphine, codeine, papaverine and other pain-relieving opiates greatly in use in pharmaceutical medicine principally in the UK and Canada.
It is now being grown in the UK in Hampshire and Wiltshire and will be included (from 2006) in a new exhibit entitled 'Herbal and Pharmaceutical Crops' immediately outside the Education Centre, known as 'The Core'. Opium was an important pain-reliever throughout the Middle and Far East and trade in it played a very important role in the history of the East India Company in both China and India.
We hope you have enjoyed this insight into 'Asia at Eden'. Please tell your friends about our trail!