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Kew Gardens Celebrates Asian Culture

15 February 2005

What's the real story behind the South Asian plants that have transformed British life? Plant Cultures aims to find out what curry leaf, henna, indigo, marigold and tea mean to us.

The BBC's Konnie Huq and Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha have backed the new Plant Cultures project, launched by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Culture Online (launches 15 February).

From cotton to curry, Britain and Asia have been exchanging ideas, people and plants for more than 400 years. Now, Kew Gardens and Culture Online bring that shared experience together in an inspiring new project called Plant Cultures -

Twenty-five South Asian plants provide the catalyst to bring people and plants together and open up a world of Asian life and culture online. Through the internet and an extensive outreach programme, Plant Cultures encourages people to share their personal stories, recipes, images and folklore.

Entertaining and informative stories from the allotment to the medicine chest, and from memory and tradition, sit alongside fascinating facts about plants and rarely seen images. The project website promises to become a compelling and growing online treasury for anyone interested in plant cultures.

Flamboyant chef, Keith Floyd, author Vicky Bhogal, and Ayurvedic therapist Bharti Vyas have all supported the initiative by offering their own top tips and personal stories.

Professor Monique Simmonds, Kew science co-ordinator, said: "We hope that Plant Cultures will be an inspiration for people of all ages, and especially British Asians, to get excited about plants and their place in our lives. We use plants in our everyday life without a second thought. This project recognises just how important they are to our culture - from our daily cuppa, the sugar to go in it, or the ingredients of curry, our favourite national dish - to the place we worship, the colour of our jeans - and for some of us, our hair!"

Estelle Morris, Arts Minister, said: "The internet is a powerful resource and Plant Cultures, commissioned by Culture Online, shows how technology can be used to bring people together to share their knowledge and personal stories."

Further inspiration to get involved in the project is provided by events, workshops, garden visits and trails put together by Kew's partners in the project, museums and environmental projects in Leicester, London, Liverpool and Bradford.

A huge and important image library of prints, paintings, drawings and artefacts completes the project, drawn from collections at Kew Library, the British Library, the Natural History Museum, the Wellcome Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum, many digitally accessible for the first time.

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