‘In Praise of Plants’ is an archive I'm working on to record varied rituals and celebrations involving food plants – from the giant leek championships of northern England to the ancient, deeply spiritual ceremonies held across Asia to celebrate the harvesting of rice; from Spain’s notorious Tomatina to Mexico’s ‘Night of the Radishes’ - as a means of exploring both what these plants mean to the people who grow or use them and what factors are affecting their cultivation or availability today.

Using each celebration as a starting point, 'In Praise of Plants' aims to record local people’s stories, the wider cultural and economic background of the plant’s use as well as the situation facing wild relatives and their conservation priorities.

Though a large number of food plant festivals have a distinctly commercial feel or may involve produce grown or brought in from elsewhere, many still reflect a deep pride and passion felt by people for plants that have been grown locally for many generations in particular regions.

A good example of this is the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) that has been held in Menton in southern France since the 1930s. In 1929 Menton was said to be the number one lemon growing region of Europe, and today the lemon has become the symbol of this town. Several varieties are grown in the region and the gardens of the Palais Carnolès hold the largest citrus collection open to the public in Europe. I went to the festival in February 2019, the highlight being a trip to a pépinière (nursery) above the town where many kinds of citrus are being grown including varieties of grapefruit, lemon, kumquat, tangerine and orange. During the festival the public can view extraordinary displays decorated with oranges and lemons in the Biovès gardens and watch the Golden Citrus parade in which citrus decorated floats process along the streets.