Their budget patently did not extend to location filming of a rubber plantation, so for their new YouTube film, the Naked Scientists instead paid a visit to the Garden's tropical collections to talk to Glasshouse Supervisor, Alex Summers.
For the film, Alex talks through and demonstrates the process of sustainably harvesting rubber from the tropical tree Hevea braziliensis by carefully making an incision into the tree bark and collecting the sticky latex that seeps from the wound. The Naked Scientists then refine the raw ingredient in their MaterialChef kitchen, and explore some of the vast array of day-to-day products in the home that make use of flexible, yet durable rubber.
The tropics are a source of a great many of the world's important economic crops besides rubber, and feature strongly in the Garden's collections. The hot and humid conditions are perfect for rice, sweet potato, Jobs tears (Coix lacryma-jobi) - an important African grain, annato (Bixa orellana) from which the colouring in Red Leicester cheese and Wotsits is derived, eddoes, taro, cassava, spices like galangal and ginger, and fruits including papaya, banana and starfruit.
You can watch the Naked Scientists' MaterialChef video, Ravishing Rubber, below.