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The exhibition ‘Plant-eater’ introduces the visitor to edible plants in the Hortus collection. Stroll through the Hortus and discover the stories around a number of well-known and less well-known food crops. You will learn about their origins and use, and all kinds of fascinating facts. There is a special route for children (age 8-12 years) within the exhibition. It will be interesting for anyone who is keen on plants, cooking and botanical history. You can visit this exhibition from 20 April to 7 October 2018.

A total of 19 institutions from 14 countries, including a large number of botanical gardens, are collaborating in the three-year-long Horizon 2020 project ‘BigPicnic’. They are bringing the public, scientists, politicians and industry together to start a conversation about worldwide food security: the idea that sufficient healthy food should always be available to everyone without causing damage to the planet. The Hortus botanicus Leiden is a partner in this European project.

We, the Leiden Hortus, are participating in the search for ideas to increase world food security in a sustainable way. But we also want to discover exactly how many edible plants there are, what is in these plants, and what it does. If we know more about plants we will make more conscious decisions – healthier, more tasty and better for the environment. We are trying to ensure that our visitors have a more conscious approach to food by organising activities for young and old, by holding an exhibition and by cooperating with other institutions on this subject.

The Systematic Garden, which has recently been restored, is focusing in particular on pollinators and food, partly within the framework of the national project ‘Nederland Zoemt’ (‘The Netherlands is Buzzing’).

You can also find all kinds of food-related plants in the tropical glasshouses; the most familiar are bananas, pineapples, spices and rice. From May onwards there will be a small exhibition about food crops from the tropics in the tropical glasshouses.

Onno Kleyn’s soup book

A new cookery book by Onno Kleyn (the book is only available in Dutch) has been published on 20 April, featuring 8 Hortus soup recipes. Visitors will receive this delightful book, which is illustrated with Esmée Winkel’s botanical drawings, free of charge. The culinary journalist Onno Kleyn thought up the recipes and the Hortus was responsible for the background information on the food crops that provide the ingredients for the soups. In the past Otto Kleyn also wrote a book about spices for the Hortus botanicus Leiden. The UK translation of the soup recipes will be available at the Hortus website.

Book Plant-eater by Evelien Rozema

It is a hype in America: plant-based cooking and nutrition. A healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and plant-based food plays an important role in those cultures in which people live longer than average. Discover how natural substances from plant foods work in the body and contribute to a healthy lifestyle. This is a book for anyone who is looking for healthy food, wants to maintain energy levels or wants to learn more about how plant foods work. Plant-eater (only available in Dutch) is written from a scientific standpoint: what are the constituents of plants and how do they work? It includes practical tips on growing food in your own garden provided by people who work in botanical gardens, along with tasty recipes. The book is published by KNNV Publishing. 

Science Cafés and theme weekends

We introduced the Science Cafés in 2017. These are sociable, market-like events during which you can look around, taste and talk with other; if you feel like it you can listen to short talks on particular themes. This year’s Science Cafés include the topics Potatoes and Grains. During the weekend following these there will be guided tours on the same subject. There is also plenty for children to do. You can view the complete programme on


All of the HOVO courses and the young people’s education programme ‘Museum Jeugd Universiteit’ (for Dutch speakers), as well as the rest of the winter and summer programme, address the theme ‘plant-eater’. You can find the complete programme on

Plant-eater in other botanical gardens in the Netherlands

Another 11 botanical gardens in the Netherlands and the Tree Nursery Museum in the town of Boskoop will also be focusing on the theme ‘Plant-eater’ in 2018. Each garden will interpret the theme in its own way. Visit for a continuously updated programme of events.

Background to the BigPicnic

Botanical gardens are the perfect place to exchange ideas on this subject. The conversations – talking, listening, talking some more – determined the direction that the project took. We talked with and listened to teachers, pupils, parents, children, nutritional specialists, asylum seekers, plant-lovers, shop-keepers, friends of the Hortus, garden colleagues, exhibition visitors, and pensioners. We cooked, baked, played, did handicrafts, drew, and went on walks together, and we gradually developed the plans further: ‘co-creation’, that is what they call it these days! While holding these conversations, people’s worries about food also became clear: personal health and the well-being of future generations are subjects of concern for many people. There is so much information available, much of it contradictory; how do you know what is right and what should you do? We ‘hauled up the nets’, and collected and analysed all the information in accordance with the Team Based Inquiry and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) method. Visit for more information about this project.

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