Harriet Gendall

PhD student

Harriet Gendall wearing a round hat

Enhanced Partnerships


Economic Botany Collection


Ethnobotany, cereal crops, lost crops, crop histories, Avena, useful plants, biocultural heritage, resilience

My doctoral research explores the opportunities, challenges and complexities surrounding the revival of heritage grains and its impact on social-ecological resilience - grounded in my own experience of attempting to revive "pillas", a naked-grained oat formerly cultivated in Cornwall, which has survived in seedbanks despite disappearing from fields some 150 years ago. Drawing insights from the past through historical ethnobotanical research, exploring the present and future reinvention of pillas in collaboration with producers, and reflecting on examples of other revivals - both heritage grains in the UK and further afield, as well as other forms of cultural heritage such as language - it will examine how the narratives we form around food, agriculture, identity and time, shape both ourselves and the landscapes we live in. This project is funded through the SeNSS DTP, with supervisors both at the University of Kent and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 

In previous research I have explored the revitalisation of traditional Andean foods, primarily focusing on the 'lost' root crop "mauka" (Mirabilis expansa) and its significance to local farmers in Peru, as well as its gastronomic reinvention by Peruvian chefs. In my role as Mobile Museum Project Officer between 2018-2019 I worked closely with Kew’s Economic Botany Collection, kindling a strong interest in biocultural collections and the histories of useful plants.

  • Ethnobotany MSc, University of Kent, 2020
  • Mobile Museum Project Officer, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2018-2019
  • Agricultural Development MSc, University of Copenhagen, 2017
  • International Development BA, University of Liverpool, 2011
  • Art and Design Foundation Diploma, Falmouth University, 2007

Gendall, H., Seminario, J., Sørensen, M. & Theilade I. (2019).

Unearthing the ‘lost’ Andean root crop “mauka” (Mirabilis expansa [Ruíz & Pav.] Standl.).

Economic Botany 73: 443–460. 

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