What’s Cooking at the Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase 2016

A sneak peek into what the Plant Breeders, Seeders + Feeders are showing off at this year’s Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase

The third annual Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase will be held on Monday, October 3 at Urban Farmer in Portland. The Variety Showcase brings together local and national plant breeders, farmers, chefs and eaters for an interactive mixer to build community and increase collaboration. Read more about the event in this Q&A with founder Lane Selman.
This year’s event is SOLD OUT but see the Culinary Breeding Network website for info on how you can be in touch and follow the admirable and fascinating work of this group.

We asked some of the Seeders + Feeders involved in this year’s Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase about their ingredients, what’s being served and what they’ve learned from their involvement.


FEEDER: Jaret Foster, Tournant

Q: Tell us about the ingredient you’re using – what are its qualities and how is it interesting/unique? Who did it come from and what are you making with it?

We’re lucky enough to get to work with Adaptive Seeds out of Sweet Home. They’ve provided us with “Open Oak Party Mix Dent Corn” and a new cross of “Purple Keeper” and “Plaza Latina Giant” tomatillos (the hope being that a giant purple tomatillo that keeps well will come about). We’re also incorporating a new jalapeño hybrid from the “Jalapride” hybrid they are dehybridizing.

Adaptive Seeds
A purple tomatillo from Adaptive Seeds in Sweet Home, OR. Photo Credit: Adaptive Seeds

The dish we are making will be a “Pozole Verde” nicely incorporating all three. We’ll nixtamalize the corn and stew it in tomatillo and jalapeno broth and garnish with a fresh tomatillo salsa. A personal favorite…(Side note “Tazon! Pozole Pop up scheduled for October 20th at Tournant!)

Q: What have you learned from the Breeder that you’re paired up with?

Always excited to learn the intricacies and timeline for new vegetable varieties coming out and Adaptive has been instrumental in the CBN and Variety Showcase since it’s inception. Corn and tomatillos are both native foods having been cultivated in pre-columbian era Mexico and seeing them being given new and desirable culinary traits here in the PNW is exciting, inspiring and hopeful. It’s an honor to be a part of.

SEEDER: Anthony Boutard, Ayers Creek Farm, Gaston

Q: Tell us about the ingredient you’re contributing to the Showcase. What makes it unique?

A: In the U.S., favas are eaten when fresh and not, typically, as a dry legume. For much of the population living around the Mediterranean, especially the eastern reaches, the fava bean is an important dry legume in the diet. The varieties offered by U.S. seed companies, such as Broad Windsor and Aguadulce, are adapted to that purpose and are truly horrendous when their use as a dry bean is attempted. The flavor of the skin is bitter and the cotyledons have grainy texture and dull flavor. One mouthful is enough to ward off any fancy notions about dual purpose favas.

The Wapato Fava is descended from favas of Apuglia where the dry legume is favored. It has good, rich flavor and fine texture. For the Pacific Northwest, the texture, flavor and productivity are best when favas are planted in October and overwintered. Grown in this manner, they are a productive, deep rooted dry-land crop. The favas mature during the wetter period of the spring, rather than the more stressful dry period. Cold, dry Chinook Winds can kill them off though, forcing a less productive spring planting yielding lower quality favas that need irrigating. We are working on frost hardiness. Some seeds have a strong greenish cast and we are trying to increase their numbers in our population.

Q: What Feeder are you paired up with and what are they making?

A: We have put together a potluck as a congenial opening up of ideas on how to use this legume that found its place in the kitchens of the Swiss lake villages and among the builders of the Pyramids. In the United States people, including chefs, are leery of the unrefined, direct nature of the favas with their big flavor and prominent skins. I thought we could break down that barrier, or at least weaken it, and have some fun in the process.

Kelly Meyers of Xico has proposed blue corn tlacoyos stuffed with favas. Sarah Minnick has some cultural ideas at work. Jason Roberts at Rue is working on a dish. Sam Smith of Tusk and Joshua are preparing dishes reflecting the two cuisines of their respective restaurants. Carol, Linda Colwell and I will make a big pot of ful. What the hell, most farmers know how to cook as well.

Q: What have you gained from participating in the Variety Showcase in years past?

A: An evening on the town for a couple of aging rustics, perhaps? Given the size and nature of our farm, we really don’t gain anything else from the event other than working with some great people. We bring a sense of humor and irreverence, and the practical application of plant breeding at a very dinky little farm.

Nora Antene
Nora Antene of Tusk in the “blue-eyed blonde” corn field at the NWREC. Nora will be using this corn in a dish at the Culinary Breeding Network Variety Showcase.

FEEDER: Nora Antene, Tusk, Portland

Q: Tell us about the ingredient you’re using – what are its qualities and how is it interesting/unique? Who did it come from and what are you making with it?

A: I’m using blue-eyed blonde corn bred by Bill Tracy of UW Madison and grown at NWREC (Oregon State University’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora). I actually got to plant the corn this year myself! I’m going to make corn hush puppies with corn cream. The corn is starchy and very nutty and “corny” but not overly sweet.

Q: What have you learned from the Breeder that you’re paired up with?

A: I actually haven’t had a chance to talk to Bill yet but am looking forward to meeting him at the showcase and learning a lot more!

FEEDER: Chris Starkus, Urban Farmer, Portland

Q: Tell us about the ingredient you’re using – what are its qualities and how is it interesting/unique? Who did it come from and what are you making with it?

A: I’ll be using Frank Morton’s Jolene sweet pepper. Is special because of is ability to be roasted because of its thick even walls. This also makes its texture great for raw or pickled applications as well.
I’ll be making two items: a roasted Jolene pepper jam with farmers cheese (the cheese will be from a small dairy on the coast of Oregon) and an LDR Ranch wagyu beef Philly cheese steak gougere, with spicy pickled Jolene peppers. LDR wagyu is raised locally, Bob (the owner and rancher) only raises four head a year: two for his friends and family and two for us. This beef is exclusively at Urban Farmer and is some of the best beef we get all year.

Q: What have you learned from the Breeder that you’re paired up with?

I’ve learned from Frank that everyone and anyone can and should be involved in seed breeding. It is the future and we need to keep it public and open-pollinated.


SEEDER: Kitt Healy, Seed to Kitchen Collaborative, Madison, WI

Q: Tell us about the ingredient you’re contributing to the Showcase. What makes it unique?

A: The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative table will feature two crops that have been part of our variety trials and culinary evaluations for the last 3 years. Our focus will be on beets that have been bred for high and low concentrations of the compound geosmin, which gives beets their earthy flavor. The beets come out of Irwin Goldman’s breeding program at UW-Madison. We will also have samples of interesting tomatoes from a breeder names Keith Mueller, who has been working to combine heirloom flavor and color characteristics with modern productivity traits.

Seed to Kitchen Collaborative
Tasting 24 different varieties of beets from the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative. Photo Credit: Jonny Hunter

Q: What Feeder are you paired up with and what are they making?

A: We’re working with Jonny Hunter of the Underground Food Collective in Madison, WI. He is going to make the high and low geosmin beets in some delicious form. I’m not sure of the exact dish yet, but I know it included beet caramel!

What are you most looking forward to in participating in the Variety Showcase?
I’m looking forward to promoting our project and learning about all the fantastic, creative ways that plant breeders, seed companies and farmers are continuing our long-term co-evolution with the delicious plants we depend on.

FEEDER: Ben Meyer, Old Salt Marketplace, Portland

Q: Tell us about the ingredient you’re using. Who did it come from and what are you making with it?

A: I am preparing Sorghum. Most people know this as the syrup, sweetener famous from Kentucky and Indiana. But the seed heads are a delicious grain. You can eat them as a cooked grain, similar to rice, or farro. This is especially fantastic with the fresh, green grain. The flavor is somewhat nutty, and has a beautiful texture (if you cook the right varieties). But, if the grain is relatively fresh (dried by natural means), then it is also an awesome alternative to popcorn. That is how I ate sorghum growing up in Indiana.
My goal for the CBN isn’t to design a dish that will blow people’s socks off. My goal is to best represent the grain, for the guests to get a real sense of the possibilities with a grain like sorghum. We are hoping that people will taste the grain, get excited and help trial it and make it a viable crop here.
I am paired up with Nathan Kleinman, from Elmer, New Jersey. The strains he is working on come from Darfur, and South Sudan, and vary in texture and flavor so much. It is so exciting to see someone working on such a variety to find the best qualities of each!

Q: What have you learned from the Seeders/Breeder that you’re paired up with?

A: We have talked about the different varieties he is working on, and which ones he has had success with and which ones didn’t work out. He sent me video of the threshing in India, which he is imitating to try to get the green grain separated. We have also discussed the varieties he is choosing, and how they are varieties which do particularly well in drought-stricken regions. These are going to become more and more important as global warming affects places like California’s central valley! Nathan is doing the work which could help us get through tough agricultural times. That is the most important work that seed breeders can possibly do. Noble, indeed.

FEEDER: Karl Holl, Let Um Eat

Q: Tell us about the ingredient you’re using. Who did it come from and what are you making with it?

A: I’ve been working with Phil Simon from the UW Madison who has been working on breeding carrots pretty much my entire lifetime. The particular carrots that I’m getting are red, actually red all the way through, and have a pretty high sweetness level. He works on a huge number of other carrots, many of which don’t even have names yet, and are just distinguished by numbers. I’m making red carrot gnocchi with a roasted carrot bolognese and a carrot seed pan frito. He suggested working with the red carrots in particular because of their sweetness level, which is exactly what I was looking for for the bolognese.

Q: What have you learned from the Seeders/Breeder that you’re paired up with?

A: We’ve only spoken briefly, so I’m most excited to learn from him when we have more time to talk at the pre-Variety Showcase event that Lane’s put together for the chefs and breeders on Sunday night!

SEEDER: Anne Berblinger, Gales Meadow Farm, Forest Grove

Q: Tell us about the ingredient you’re contributing to the Showcase. What makes it unique/interesting?

Yellow Nardello Peppers

About five years ago, we noticed that about 5% of our Jimmy Nardello Pepper plants were larger and a little more vigorous with lighter colored foliage compared to the typical Jimmy Nardello plants. (To the best of my recollection, these seeds came from Fedco). These rogue plants produced peppers similar to the typical red Jimmy Nardellos, but they were yellow. The flavor was very similar, but not quite as sweet.

Gales Meadow
Yellow Nardello peppers from Gales Meadow Farm

Because we loved the appearance of the two colors together, we saved seed from the Yellow Nardello. When we grew out the seed from Yellow Nardello, about 10% of the plants had smaller peppers, still with the long and wrinkled appearance of Jimmy Nardello, but bright red or orange. These second generation rogues were spicy, perhaps 1000-2000 on the Scoville scale, but with the distinctive sweetness of Jimmy along with the heat. We have been growing these out as well. We call them Hot Jimmies and they make a lovely pepper sauce.

Our F4 generation Yellow Nardellos are fairly stable, with only two out of 120 planted looking different from the rest.

Gales Meadow Romani

A: We don’t grow many hybrid vegetables among the 300+ varieties we grow every year, but we always loved the hybrid Gypsy pepper for its flavor, pretty appearance, prolific production and earliness. It was a sad day when we learned a few years ago that Monsanto had bought the rights to Gypsy.

We saved the seed from our last crop of Gypsy peppers and have been replanting it now for five generations, always selecting for the characteristics that were most like the Gypsy we know and love. Our F5 generation is stabilizing nicely, although we are still getting some peppers more lime green than white.

We gave our variety the name Gales Meadow Romani, since some sources tell us that Gypsy is considered pejorative, and Roma or Romani are preferred terms.

Gypsy and our Gales Meadow Romani do turn light orange and then a bright red orange when they are fully ripened. However, we have learned from out Hungarian customers that they are traditionally prepared and enjoyed when they are shiny but still light colored.

Q: What Feeder are you paired up with?

A:Kristen Murray of Maurice

Q: What are you looking forward to gaining through participation in the Variety Showcase?

A: We are strictly amateur (almost accidental) breeders, so it’s an honor to be able to share our farm-bred peppers at an occasion with some many distinguished breeders and wonderful chefs. This is the first time we have participated. Also, we know it will be a ton of fun to see and taste all the other varieties.
Feature Photo: Shawn Linehan



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