L I O N ’ S D E N 24 MAY 2016 Penelope Baldwin FROM BOTANICAL KITCHEN If you are a young food technologist with a great idea that you are developing, let us know and get your product or service pitched through the Lion’s Den. Contact the editor at email@example.com. Age: 30 Currently: BDes(hons) at Otago Polytechnic, product designer at Botanical Kitchen and practicing medical herbalist Aims: To design commercially viable culinary products that integrate botanical and nutritional medicine into everyday modern lifestyles. Contact: nzbotanical firstname.lastname@example.org More info: botanicalkitchen.co.nz Once a regular part of the diet, bitters and bitter-flavoured foods have fallen out of favour in modern western cuisine, and the mission to bring this vital taste back into the mainstream has been a driving factor in my practice as a medical herbalist and food designer. In 2015 I started my company Botanical Kitchen, a food design company that was created out of a motivation to introduce people to the concept of utilising plant medicine in everyday life in a way that is approachable and thought-provoking… but also fun. This is achieved through commercial food products, workshops and literature. Whilst studying towards a Bachelor of Culinary Arts degree at Otago Polytechnic, myself and a fellow student were working with underutilised (mostly wild-crafted) plant materials. We were experimenting with adding value to them to develop them into commercially viable products that aligned with our personal values and current consumer trends. At the time hawthorn berries were prolific, and I had already used and was familiar with their health benefits for the digestive and cardiovascular system. I wondered how these benefits could translate into a healthy packaged food product that would fit in with the intended audience of the Otago Farmers Market and current food trends around health and wellness. We spent many sessions in the test kitchen where we trialled almost every application for the berry we could think of, including hawthorn salts, hawthorn cordials and hawthorn energy bars. We experimented applying various techniques to whole, crushed and dried berries including smoking and fermentation, and even designed a hawthorn ‘bacon’ but discovered that in order for them to become palatable, a lot of sugar needed to be added due to the berries’ intense bitterness. After almost abandoning hawthorn as a raw ingredient I went back to the research I had done from my studies as a naturopath, medical herbalist and holistic nutritionist, and we decided to explore the idea of developing a culinary bitters and creating some educational content around the application of this. From here, and taking inspiration from overseas food trends, a culinary liquid bitters was developed that could be used not only in cocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages but also as a seasoning in savoury and sweet dishes, and medicinally as daily digestive and liver support. I wanted to move away from some of the traditional botanicals associated with bitters, due to them having become a threatened species in many countries, and instead utilise by-products from other local food producers and sustainably wild-crafted botanicals. Once the products had been developed I worked with local design students to develop a logo, branding and labelling, and am currently looking at sustainable packaging design as range and production increases. My current research heading toward my Master’s degree explores traditional and cultural methods of incorporating medicinal foods into daily living, and at the same time looking at the resources we have around New Zealand that may be in excess or otherwise discarded. I will investigate how these can be utilised to form a modern, saleable product while working to educate and inform the public on the issues of food wastage, food utilisation and sustainability. I am also researching the use of natural, low-processed alternatives to cane sugar that have high customer satisfaction and can be grown in New Zealand. Currently products developed by Botanical Kitchen include a range of seasonal bitters, botanically-themed medicinal cordials that can be used as the foundation to cocktails, non-alcoholic beverages and desserts, and herb- infused switchels (a medicinal drinking vinegar sweetened with honey). I aim to have products fully tested and ready for the retail and hospitality market by the end of the year. MEET This month’s winner of a giftpack from Botanical Kitchen is Anthony Williams of St Andrews Limes in Havelock North.
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