Ark of Taste & Biodiversity
Slow Food USA is excited to announce the Ark of Taste Gardens project to showcase two important initiatives: School Gardens and Ark of Taste. The Ark of Taste is a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. It's a tool for farmers, ranchers, fishers, chefs, grocers, educators and consumers to seek out and celebrate our country's diverse biological, cultural and culinary heritage. By identifying and championing these foods, we keep them in production and on our plates. In partnership with Seed Savers Exchange and Pure Potato, the Ark of Taste Gardens project will engage classrooms in growing these special seeds in order to taste the wonderful food they produce. We have different levels of participation that classes can choose from.
2016 Potatoes View
This year, Slow Food USA is teaming up with Washington-based Pure Potato LLC to share two different types of potatoes: Makah Ozette and Bodega Red. We will be sending 1 pound boxes of either, or we can do a mixed box of both. We are asking for a $5 donation to help cover the cost of the potatoes and shipping. Schools can send this donation after they've received the potatoes. As always, we'd love to hear stories or see photos during and after the growing process!
Makah Ozette Potato View
The Ozette came from Peru by way of Spanish explorers to the Makah Indians at Neah Bay, Washington in the late 1700s. It is considered a fingerling potato, as its size ranges from 3-7 inches in length and 0.75-1.5 inches in diameter. The potato has an earthy and nutty flavor that is similar to the taste sensed in cooked dry beans. The flesh is firm and the texture is very creamy. The Ozette is generally served steamed, fried, or roasted.
A partnership between the Slow Food Seattle chapter, the Makah Nation, the Seattle chapter for Chefs Collaborative, several farmers, and a laboratory that produces potato seed for the USDA formed in 2006 to increase the production and promotion of this delicious potato. This partnership is now a Slow Food Presidium.
Slow Food USA asked for feedback from the schools that grew the Makah Ozette Potato. The responses we received confirmed that the Ark of Taste seeds could be used as a lesson plan in many different subjects. A biology teacher from Prosser Career Academy in Chicago, IL wrote, "After my students measured the yield, average length in centimeters, and mass in grams of each harvest, the [Makah Ozette] potatoes were brought to our culinary arts shop. There, our students washed and prepared the potatoes, roasting them as part of a healthy lunch burrito recipe that they developed using the "Healthy School Challenge" guidelines...The story of the Makah Ozette South American origin as well as it's direct arival via Spanish colonization was touched on briefly in my class at the beginning, but when I begin my unit on species diversity, dispersal and extinction, we will re-visit it. I also plan to discuss it when we talk about ideas around food justice, culture and things of that nature. In other words, it has been an incredible source for teaching cross curricular ideas with food and agriculture at the core."
Bodega Red Potato View
For several decades, the Bodega Red Potato disappeared entirely from production. No one could taste the creamy and nutty flavors of this extraordinary potato that once fed California gold miners. Then, a surprising discovery of mysterious tubers started an exciting effort to repatriate Bodega Reds to an area once known as “The Potato Capital of California.”
Bodega Reds are one of only a handful of potato varieties introduced to the United States directly from the potato motherland: South America. Most potato varieties enjoyed in the US are the offspring of European varieties that originated in South America, and were later brought back across the Atlantic during European colonization. Bodega Reds didn’t make that extra boat ride. Instead, they traveled directly north, along the western coast of the United States, all the way to Alaska.
Local legend claims that before the Gold Rush of the late 1840s, the Bodega Red potato jumped ship with a sailor in northern California just above San Francisco at Bodega Bay. The potatoes prospered in this area and soon Marin County became known as “The Potato Capital of California.” Barges carried Bodega Red potatoes from Bodega Bay to San Francisco Bay. One such barge, filled with potatoes, sank at a marina later named Spud Point. Everyone from San Franciscans to gold miners in the Sierra Mountains ate the Bodega Red until its demise during the 1970s. The potato was extremely susceptible to blight and disappeared entirely from production.
Years later, The Bodega Land Trust received a curious, anonymous donation of a few tiny, unidentifiable tubers. As the tubers produced flowers and leaves, horticulturists wondered if the Bodega Red had returned.
Dr. Chuck Brown, a research geneticist working for the USDA Research Service in Washington State, examined the DNA of the tubers using genetic fingerprinting and determined that the potato differed from all modern red varieties. Further genetic testing showed that the potato could have originated from Chilean potatoes, a history that is consistent with the writings of Luther Burbank, the famed horticulturist and botanist who referenced the Bodega Red as the parent material for his Burbank Red potato.
The preservation efforts of the Bodega Land Trust and the scientific research of Dr. Brown successfully resulted in the Bodega Red potato material being cleaned of virus. Today, farmers grow virus-free Red Bodega potatoes on some of the potato’s original acreage but the production is not yet large enough for commercial distribution.
One day soon, Bodega Red enthusiasts hope to taste the delicately thin light red skin of the Bodega Red once again.
We had a HUGE response this year to grow these potatoes and unfortunately this program is currently full. Thank you to all the schools who are participating in this program!
Plant and Eat View
School garden leaders can request seeds from Slow Food USA from a list of Ark of Taste varieties to plant in their school garden. We will provide planting instructions, background information about the food and, in most cases, some recipes to prepare the harvest. Classes will use a Response Form to share their stories and pictures with Slow Food USA to be posted on our website and social media.
Grow and Nominate View
Slow Food’s Ark of Taste is an ambitious project, looking to document all of the world’s threatened food biodiversity, and we need your help! Classes can become biodiversity champions by notifying Slow Food USA that they want to participate in growing an endangered food and nominating it to the Ark of Taste.
We will match your school to a variety in the Seed Savers Exchange collection that has a history in your region and is a good candidate for the Ark of Taste. Seed Savers Exchange, the largest non-governmental seed bank of its kind in the U.S., protects our food supply and cultural heritage by preserving thousands of varieties of plant types for future generations. Seed Savers Exchange will share historical information about the variety, paving the way for more in-depth historical research and documentation. Slow Food USA will provide technical assistance in completing and submitting the Ark of Taste Nomination Form. Please note that space in this program is limited to about 10-12 schools so get your applications in soon!
Slow Food USA is proud that this year we've expanded these programs and have distributed seeds and seed potatoes to over 250 schools! Unfortunately, we did have limited supplies and Plant and Eat and Grow and Nominate are both currently full. Sign-up for our newsletter for other great opportunities!
Join our Ark of Taste Gardens Community Page and share stories, pictures, and lesson plans with fellow Ark of Taste growers!
Ark of Taste varieties in schools (2015)
Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce View
Deer Tongue lettuce, also known as Matchless lettuce, dates back to the early 1740s. The Amish Deer Tongue lettuce is variety from a later era – circa 1840. The name, deer tongue, comes from its pointed leaves that are triangularly shaped with green straight edges. Because of its heat tolerance, it is less prone to bolting under high temperatures. The lettuce has a thin midrib, good texture and flavor that is pleasantly sharp. This plant is great for school gardens as it is tolerant of many different climates. Amish Deer Tongue can be used to teach kids the ease of making a healthy salad with a simple vinaigrette.
Slow Food USA distributed the Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce seeds to schools across the country in conjunction with Chipotle and Baker Creek Seeds
Mayflower Bean View
The Mayflower arrived in the US in the 1620s, bringing with it the Mayflower bean. After its initial introduction to the Americas, the bean was widely circulated among the people of the Carolina region of the country. The Mayflower plant has short pods that hold the small, square shaped beans. The beans have a wonderful creamy texture. Mayflower beans can act as a great basis for a lesson plan on American history.
Slow Food USA distributed the Mayflower Bean seeds to schools across the country in conjunction with Chipotle and Baker Creek Seeds
Looking to purchase Ark of Taste seeds to try in your school, home, or community garden? Check out our seed partners: