October 15, 2010

Soup to Nuts: A rare opportunity for these fruits, veggies

The American Harvest Picnic spotlights endangered fruits and vegetables and efforts by local farmers, chefs and food activists to bring them back from the brink.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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At Fishbowl Farm in Bowdoinham, Chris Cavendish gathers Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers. The rare heirloom pepper originated in Italy, and its seeds were brought to America by Nardello in 1887. It is among the vegetables that will be featured at Sunday s American Harvest Picnic in Wiscasset.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Chef Daran Poulin of Bowdoin College in Brunswick will be using Fishbowl Farm Long Island cheese squash to make a pumpkin bisque for the American Harvest Picnic.

Additional Photos Below


WHEN: 2 to 5 p.m. Sunda

WHERE: The Morris Farm, Route 27, Wiscasset

HOW MUCH: $10 for adults; $5 for children under 12

INFO: For a list of participating producers and restaurants, go to www.SlowFoodMidcoastMaine.org.


EIGHTEEN FOOD PRODUCERS are providing everything from bread to wine for the American Harvest Picnic. Here are the RAFT foods being grown by local farms:

Jacob's cattle beans (Ark of Taste)

Vermont cranberry beans

Marfax beans

Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage

Boothby's blonde cucumber

Jimmy Nardello pepper (Ark of Taste)

Green Mountain potato (Ark of Taste)

Katahdin potato

Long Island cheese squash

Canada crookneck squash (Ark of Taste)

Valencia tomatoes (Ark of Taste)

Gilfeather turnips (Ark of Taste)


FOR A COMPLETE LIST of foods in the Renewing America's Food Traditions (RAFT) program or the U.S. Ark of Taste, go to



"It was actually a very popular squash at the turn of the century, obviously grown on Long Island and shipped to the cities and sold to immigrants," Winglenski said. "It's supposed to make just incredible soup, and it's supposed to be very good baked."

Gallit Sammon, Cavendish's fiancee and a former chef, thinks the squash makes a nice soup because it has a higher water content than other varieties. She recently tried making some herself, and said it was "delicious."

First, she pierced the squash and lightly rubbed it with olive oil. Then she roasted it until it was tender. While it was cooling, she sweat some onions and leeks in olive oil in a pot. Then she scooped out the flesh of the squash and added that, along with a little vegetable stock.

She let it cook until the flavors blended, then added a little cream. The entire mixture was blended with butter, salt and pepper, "and that was it. Really, a little bit (of seasoning). It was just the squash."

The squash does have a unique flavor, Sammon said, "but it would be hard to describe. It's a nice flavor. It's not very grainy, so it has a nice texture after you cook it."

Another food that will be featured at this year's picnic is the Jacob's cattle bean, a Prince Edward Island heirloom on the Ark of Taste. The plump, red-speckled bean was said to be a gift from Maine's Passamaquoddy Indians to Joseph Clark, the first white child born in Lubec.

David Buchanan of Old Ocean House Farms is growing Canada crookneck squash, a bottle-shaped winter squash that is an ancestor of the modern butternut squash. The Canada crookneck, already on the Ark of Taste, is so endangered that Buchanan had to get his seeds from Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, where they are being grown in the historic gardens.

"It's delicious, it's a very manageable size and it grows beautifully, so I'm not sure why it's become so endangered," Buchanan said. "But it is only available commercially from one company in Canada. No one in this country is carrying it."

Buchanan has roasted one or two of the dozens of crooknecks he's grown this year.

"It's like a butternut," he said. "It's got a nice sweetness. We've only had a couple of them, so I can't say a lot yet, but I like the texture. It's a smooth texture."


Buchanan knows what he's talking about. Not only does he like to grow unusual and interesting varieties of vegetables and fruits, he is on the national Ark of Taste committee that chooses which foods will be listed. The foods have to have place-based traditions, interesting stories of cultural rootedness, "and they have to taste good," Buchanan said.

The 10 members of the committee get together once a year at a restaurant and work with the chef, who brings out dishes made with threatened foods one by one for the committee to taste. The last meeting was in Madison, Wis., just three weeks ago.

On the table this year were two varieties of potatoes with interesting back stories. One was an extremely rare potato that came to North America directly from South America rather than Europe. The Bodega Red potato, the story goes, was brought to California by a Peruvian in 1840. The Red McClure potato had an interesting history in Colorado.

"It's not just squash varieties," Buchanan said. "We'll taste fish and shellfish and meats. At the last meeting we tasted rye whisky, and we tasted a Cincinnati meat product called goetta, which is kind of a scrapple-like product. It's a mixture of oats and meats, and it's kind of sausage-like. It's largely a breakfast food."

No new foods from Maine were added to the Ark this time around, Buchanan said. He asks any Mainers who have ideas about foods that could help restore the region's cultural and biological diversity to come forward.

"Anyone can nominate foods that they feel are worthy of the Ark, and we encourage individuals outside of the committee to do that," he said.

Meanwhile, travel to Morris Farm on Sunday and take a trip back in time enjoying the heritage foods served at the American Harvest Picnic.


Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: mgoad@pressherald.com


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Additional Photos

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Chris Cavendish of Fishbowl Farm in Bowdoinham with some of the 1,000-plus pounds of Long Island cheese squash that he grew this season.


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