Eat Your Vegetables
For farmers who sell vegetables directly to consumers, disease resistance and high yield are often the top priorities when choosing varieties, but a UW program is shifting the focus to tastier traits.
The Seed to Kitchen Collaborative links breeders and farmers with Madison chefs to improve flavor in locally grown vegetables used at their restaurants. The concept was first conceived after Julie Dawson, a UW assistant professor of horticulture, met Madison chef Tory Miller, winner of a James Beard award, at a New York conference.
Now in its third year, the program connects four Madison chefs, including Miller, with an ever-growing number of local farmers. The crops are evaluated for flavor during taste-testing sessions that include the chefs, farmers, and the public. Dawson says the chefs’ opinions are key in identifying desirable qualities in each variety of beets, carrots, cucumbers, kale, greens, melons, onions, sweet and hot peppers, winter squash, potatoes, and tomatoes.
And there’s a healthy bonus: “Everybody needs to eat more vegetables,” Dawson says. “And surveys say they don’t, because the vegetables don’t taste good. Improving the flavor so people want to eat vegetables could be just as important as increasing production.”
Published in the Fall 2016 issue