Climate change could make curry spices a home-grown speciality

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Herbs and spices could be grown in Kent or Lincolnshire as part of a government plan to meet Britain's insatiable taste for curries, according to a Whitehall report today.

Climate change and rising populations will put global food supplies under strain by 2050, meaning the UK will have to grow more ingredients for popular dishes such as chicken tikka masala, warned a future-gazing team funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

One of the Green Food Project's five teams looked at how to make Britain's £4bn-a-year love of Indian food healthier and more sustainable. The Curry Sub Group Report recommended reducing meat, replacing rice with an undefined form of "barley or wheat-based products" and growing more spices.

At the moment, it noted, the UK was "completely dependent" on imported rice, while most curry spices – such as chillies, turmeric, paprika, coriander, pepper, fennel and cardamom – were imported from South America, Asia and China, "adding to the environmental burden of the dish and its reliance on imported ingredients".

The 22-page report recommended exploiting hotter weather caused by climate change to grow crops that were previously uneconomic: "There is potential to increase the use of home-grown ingredients (for example, potatoes, wheat, rapeseed oil) emerging from long-term changes in weather patterns potentially enabling production of some traditionally imported ingredients domestically – some vegetables, herbs and spices are currently marginal in the UK."

It added: "It is worth noting that coriander is now produced in significant quantities in the UK."

As part of the project, two development chefs for the French catering giant Sodexo created a greener, healthier chicken dhansak, by reducing salt, substituting coconut milk with fresh tomatoes, introducing chickpea flower into the roti and reducing the amount of rice and meat.

The authors said: "Feedback indicated that the quality and taste of the meal was not diminished as a result of these changes."

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