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Munchies

Seed Researchers Just Saved the Gin and Tonic from Extinction

Thanks to a seed-banking project from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, juniper—one of the main ingredients in gin—is now safe from the fungal disease that had threatened to wipe it out.

by Daisy Meager
Jan 31 2017, 1:00pm

Britain spent 2016 chugging G&Ts and negronis like there was no tomorrow, making its way through an estimated 40,000 bottles of gin. But as we were collectively reaching for the Gordon's, little did we know that juniper—one of gin's main ingredients—was at risk of being wiped out by a deadly fungal disease.

Luckily, researchers at the UK National Tree Seed Project were here to save the day. Set up in 2013 by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the project protects British seeds currently under threat from disease. Last year, seeds from 30 at-risk species of plant were collected from 3,000 trees across the UK and stored at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank in Sussex.

Juniper, which gives gin its distinct flavour, was the first seed to be collected, with Tree Seed Project researchers gathering samples from Scotland, the Shetland Islands, Oxfordshire, and Cumbria.

Speaking to MUNCHIES, Simon Kallow, a project officer at the UK National Tree Seed Project, explained the process.

READ MORE: All Aboard the Ship Sailing Near-Extinct Grains From Oslo to Istanbul

He said: "Juniper seeds were collected by hand when they were ripe and placed into bags. They were then taken to an underground seed bank for cleaning, drying, and X-raying to make sure they weren't empty. The seeds are now being stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius which slows down any metabolic processes and ensures they're not damaged."

"We've prioritised British species with input from the Forestry Commission and glad that juniper has been the first to be collected."

Last orders for British gin are a long way off yet.