Eat It to Save It

We mentioned in last week’s post that we’re very excited about the collaborative effort of Slow Food USA and Chefs Collaborative’s Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) grow-out project. This year, the grow-out is taking place only in New England, and it offers we Rhode Islanders (and all New Englanders) a great opportunity to experience the tastes of endangered foods by purchasing them later this year at farmers markets and restaurants that feature these foods, and we are also fortunate because we can grow some of these foods ourselves in our backyard gardens and balcony planters.

Below is a list of RAFT grow-out foods for Rhode Island. If you click on the variety name, it will bring you to a seed source website for that food so that you can grow these heirloom varieties yourself. If you do have a garden, consider planting a plant or two of each variety – or even just a few varieties – and share the seeds with your neighbors. Please do spread the word – the goal for these foods is to repatriate them here in the region in which they originated, and the more individuals who take up the cause by sowing seeds, buying this produce at the farmers market, or requesting that their grocery store carry these foods, the better chance they have for survival.

RAFT Grow-out Varieties:

Early blood turnip-rooted beet
Jimmy Nardello’s sweet pepper
Sibley’s Pikes Peak squash
Boston Marrow Squash
Long Pie pumpkin
True Red Cranberry beans
Marfax bean
Gilfeather turnip
Winningstadt cabbage
Boothby’s blonde cucumber
Student parsnip
Wethersfield onion
Trophy tomato
Siberian Sweet watermelon
Stowell’s Evergreen sweet corn

There are an enormous assortment of foods that originated in New England – everything from fruit and nut trees, to chickens, to shellfish, as well as other vegetables – that are endangered. For the full list, please visit Slow Food USA’s website to download a pdf on New England’s Place-based Foods at Risk with more information on the RAFT project.

Also, to read a wonderful article on the Ark of Taste – created by Slow Food to raise awareness about these endangered foods and to keep them in production, therefore promoting biodiversity – and to learn where the title for today’s post originated, please take a look at the FLYP website.

As winter slowly begins to wind down, we’ll be posting more and more information on the RAFT project and the stories behind the foods. Once the growing season is upon us, we’ll provide information on the farmers’ efforts in growing the foods, and then, at harvest time, we’ll let you know where to find these heirloom varieties – at farmers markets and on restaurant menus, and with your help, maybe even in grocery stores. We’re looking forward to seeing the cycle unfold, and hope you’ll join us in our efforts to restore these foods in Rhode Island.

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