There are a great group of farmers and chefs participating in the Rhode Island Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Grow-out project, and we thought it would be helpful if you knew who they are so that you can keep an eye out for the RAFT vegetables later this summer, and chat them up about the project at your local farmers market!
The Sibley Squash, which is also known as Pike’s Peak squash, was obtained from an elderly woman in Van Dinam, Iowa who had grown it for more than fifty years. Hiram Sibley & Company of Rochester, New York introduced it commercially in 1887. It is a Hubbard-type squash with moderately vigorous 12-15 foot vines.
The slate blue teardrop-shaped fruits have very shallow ribs and weigh from 8-10 pounds. Its medium-thick orange flesh is flavorful and sweet. The flesh becomes drier and richer with storage, reaching its peak right after turn of the New Year, perfect for a roasted squash soup during those long winter months.
The Sibley Squash is on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste, and is being grown in the Rhode Island area Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Grow-out project this year. Look for the squash at harvest time in farmers markets and on restaurant menus around the state. If you would like to grow the Sibley Squash yourself, you can purchase seeds at Seed Savers Exchange.
The Boston Marrow Squash could not sound more tempting and delectable. This lovely, mid-size winter squash has a custard-like, buttery flavor with almost 200 years of documented history, though possibly of prehistoric origin. It reaches maturity in 90 to 100 days and has striking, reddish orange skin and an average weight of 10 to 20 pounds, though it can be larger in optimal growing conditions.
The Boston Marrow Squash originated in the upstate New York area and its legend as a Native American vegetable gifted to European-descended gardeners links it to traditional American history. The seeds were later passed on to Salem, Massachusetts in 1831, where the Boston (or “Autumnal”) Marrow Squash was then popularized by Mr. J. M. Ives. It is speculated to be originally of Chilean origin (linked to the Valparaiso squash or C. mammeata) but this is undocumented. It was primarily used in New England as a pie squash and is prized for its rich orange flesh with a fine texture. Its water content gives it a fresh mouthfeel, and it was described in 1858 as having a skin as thin as the inner envelope of an egg. Due to its success in cool and short-season growing regions and other easy-to-grow qualities, its production has spread throughout the United States, from Massachusetts to Washington state and from California to Florida. It is a good storage crop, for if kept in a cool and dry place it will last until the following spring.
The Boston Marrow Squash is on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste, and is one of the foods featured in the Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Grow-out project taking place in Rhode Island this year. If you’d like to grow this historic squash yourself, seeds are available at Seed Savers Exchange.
The Jimmy Nardello Sweet Italian Frying Pepper is one of the foods being featured in the Chefs Collaborative/Slow Food USA Foods at Risk/Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Grow-out, and is on the Slow Food Ark of Taste.
The Gilfeather Turnip is on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste and is one of the featured vegetables in the Slow Food USA/Chefs Collaborative Foods at Risk/Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Grow-out taking place in New England. Despite the attempts of developer John Gilfeather to guard his stock and keep propagation to himself, some seeds did make it off of his property, and a few farmers have continued to grow the Gilfeather Turnip after Mr. Gilfeather died.
The Gilfeather is an egg-shaped, rough-skinned root, but unlike its cousins, it has a mild taste that becomes sweet and a creamy white color after the first frost. While the hardy Gilfeather turnip does well in nearly any climate, this touch of frost contributes to its unusual taste and texture. Developed and named after John Gilfeather from Wardsboro, Vermont, this turnip is one of the state’s unique contributions to cold weather agriculture.
Seeds are available from Fedco Seeds, whose site informs us that though the Gilfeather is called a turnip, it is, in fact, a rutabaga. They also say that the greens are tender (we all like a two-for-one vegetable when we can get one), it doesn’t become woody even at larger sizes, and, as mentioned above, tastes better after frost, which is handy as it matures late in the growing season. Why not try it out in your garden? And if not, be sure to be on the look-out for it at farmers markets and participating restaurants later in the year.
For a quick overview of why the Foods At Risk/Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Grow-out project is so important, have a look at this video of Slow Food New Orleans founder and leader, Poppy Tooker, as she tours the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden and talks to farmers and food producers about endangered foods. Among other interesting stories told in the video, a grower of Gravenstein Apples tells Poppy that at the height of their popularity, 9,000 acres were planted in Gravensteins, and now, they are grown on only 700 acres.
As promised, we will be posting historical information on the RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) Grow-out project food varieties. The RAFT Grow-out project is a joint effort of Slow Food USA and Chefs Collaborative whereby local farmers have committed to growing the endangered foods and local chefs have committed to serving the endangered foods on their menus at harvest time. In addition to the farmers’ and chefs’ participation, we encourage you to select a vegetable that you can grow in your garden or in a container. The more exposure individuals have to these foods, the more likely we are to be able to save them and preserve biodiversity in our food system.
The Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet is a variety that has been cultivated since the early 1800s and is prized for its sweet and tender flesh. The beet has very dark, violet-red flesh with lighter zones. The leaves are dark with bright red petioles. Even when it grows to a large size, the flesh remains flavorful, tender, and juicy.
It has a slight clove-like aroma and wonderful sweetness – light like a carrot, but without the intensity of sweetness that a carrot has. If you were to sample it raw, you would find it has an apple-like, slightly astringent flavor. It has a complexity of taste that starts with a cinnamon flavor and a hint of heat, followed by a tartness and rich, earthy finish. The beet is good both boiled and baked, and the leaves are an excellent cooked green. And that’s an added bonus – it’s two vegetables in one!
If you are looking for a beet that will overwinter well, the Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet is an excellent beet for cold-storage, keeping well in root cellar storage for 8 months or more.
It has a variable rate of maturity – between 48 and 68 days – which makes it somewhat challenging for commercial growers, but an ideal variety for individuals and smaller farms.
In addition to growing the Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet, other actions you can take include requesting it from farmers at farmers markets – now is a good time to do so in order that they have time to plan – and requesting that your local grocery store carry the Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet.
Please feel free to post a comment to let us know if you or someone you know will be growing the Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet. We’d love to hear all about it!