This growing season, rare heirloom vegetables are getting special attention in the Northeast. Thanks to efforts spearheaded by Chefs Collaborative (as part of the RAFT Alliance, of which Slow Food USA is also a part), 3 cities in New England—Portsmouth, Boston, and Providence—will be experimenting with what is called a “grow-out” of rare seeds.
Using seeds donated by Seed Savers Exchange, Fedco, High Mowing, and Old Sturbridge Village, farmers will plant the seeds, grow them, and then sell them to local chefs, with the farmers and chefs working together to increase eaters’ awareness of delicious foods that have long and interesting histories in their region. For instance, did you know that in 1870, the Trophy Tomato was developed by Colonel George Waring of Newport, Rhode Island? At the time, the Trophy Tomato was grown by individuals hoping to win a prize at their local fair, and when they were introduced, a seed pack cost the equivalent of seventy dollars in today’s currency.
The past two weekends the three projects were launched in each respective city, with buy-in and excitement from the local Slow Food chapters–not to mention other chapters throughout New England who have picked up the buzz and will do grow-outs of their own. As the season progresses we’ll be checking back in with the growers and chefs to see how their peppers, squash, tomatoes etc. are faring, and ultimately to hear reports from eaters as well!