Gastronauts at Wakehurst Place Festival of Science

Gastronauts at Wakehurst Place Festival of Science

We spent today at the Wakehurst Place Festival of Science, an event so epic it will take more than one post to do it justice, so for now I’m going to focus on just a couple of the ‘future foods’ themed activities.

Community chef Robin van Creveld
Community chef Robin van Creveld

The first was a fab cooking demo by Robin van Creveld of Community Chef, based in Lewes.  Robin had been asked to design a ‘future food’ menu, and you can read more about that straight from the horses mouth here.  He showed us how easy making sourdough bread should be (apparently all the ‘feed it every day’ and other complicated instructions are unnecessary), talked us through the history of sourdough baking and the different grains he uses, then he fed us with delicious sourdough flatbreads (made as part of the demo) wrapped around bean burgers and ‘krautslaw’ – a slaw made with sauerkraut.

Robin was very generous with his time and expertise in fermented foods and emphasised the importance to future food security of eating local.  He even gave us a lump of his sourdough mother culture.  We’ve brought it home, fed it and named it Stefan after the next person we went to see at the show.

Immediately after the Community Chef demo we were booked in to see Stefan Gates, the celebrity chef from the CBBC show

Insect handling
Insect handling

Gastronauts.  We had seen some of his shows last year on TV and the kids had been fascinated by the idea of eating things like crickets – I had resisted their pleas to buy them some edible crickets as I felt the chances of more than one being eaten by them was remote.


Well, after starting them off with pink Haribo marshmallows containing cochineal (ground cactus bugs) and some time handling various insects including meal worms and locusts, the boys finally got their chance to try actual dried bugs.  Toby decided he didn’t fancy it, but Ollie gamely tried a ‘big arsed ant’ (apparently the literal translation from the Dutch) which was supposed to be a gastronomic delight of umami smoky flavours.

Ollie’s face turned pretty rapidly from ‘this tastes ok’ to ‘get it out of my mouth right now!’ pretty quickly, so I’m glad I didn’t give in to the nagging for a tub of crickets.  A more professional blogger may have got a photo of Ollie’s expression, but the mum in me was more interested in providing him with a tissue and a drink of water.

Stephan Gates demonstrating cochineal food colouring
Stephan Gates demonstrating cochineal food colouring

Stefan was informative and, like everyone we met at the Science Festival, he was really welcoming of the kid’s questions.

His prediction that within a few years we will be seeing insect protein-based burgers in the supermarkets is interesting.  He says replacing beef burgers with insect based protein burgers is a good step because crickets are far more environmentally friendly than cows – per kilo they produce only one percent of the gas emissions that cows do.

Insects make up an important food resource for many cultures around the world and our squeamishness here in the UK is purely a learned response, but (strictly between you and me) I’m quite happy sticking with the bean burgers.  How about you? I’d love to see your comments about the most unusual foods you have eaten.





Notes: I have no affiliation with Wakehurst, Kew or any of the exhibitors present.  My thanks for photo permission from Stephan Gates (and my apologies to Robin van Creveld for not seeking the same, he was having a very interesting discussion about caring for sourdough and I didn’t want to interrupt).  My thanks also to Robin and Stephan’s assistants whose names I didn’t catch but who were also informative and helpful.

Click here for a link to What’s on at Wakehurst for the rest of the year.

National Trust Members can get in to Wakehurst for free, but parking is now £10 a day.  It’s worth taking out one Wakehurst Place membership to access free parking if you already have NT membership and intend to visit more than once.  If you don’t have NT membership, Wakehurst membership is even more attractive to gain free entry and parking (plus one free entry to Kew London).  The site is huge with a mixture of easily accessible areas and more challenging slopes and paths, a large part is wide smooth paths.  Accessible toilets and baby changing facilities are available.  There are two quite pricey cafe’s, and during events there are often additional food outlets, but there are also plenty of picnic benches.



  • Plutonium Sox

    23rd July 2017 at 9:12 pm Reply

    Oh gosh, this sounds fascinating! I do agree with you that I’d take beans over insects any day, but I have watched documentaries about the insect protein thing and it does make perfect sense. Although it would be a step backwards for me as I’m already veggie.

    • admin

      25th July 2017 at 11:19 am Reply

      It must be really hard for vegans as insect products such as shellac and cochineal crop up in so many processed foods (and that’s just the intended insect additions, not including all the bits of bugs that end up in our bread etc…)

  • Matt

    25th July 2017 at 9:09 pm Reply

    I saw a documentary where they were collecting flies off the Lake Victoria and using them in a burger. There where so many it want making a dent in the population. Maybe this something you can try next?

    • admin

      27th July 2017 at 7:38 pm Reply

      Sounds delicious :/

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