Most people are familiar with the story of Noah and his Ark, whereby God commanded Noah to build a boat and fill it with family, food and animals. The Ark was to serve as a sort of floating zoo to spare all of its occupants from the Great Flood that was to come. In recent years the Slow Food Movement has adopted the Ark idea with its Ark of Taste program, which serves to promote and preserve “delicious foods in danger of extinction”. More than 800 products from 50 countries have been added to the International Ark of Taste, and they include such diverse items as Viennese snails, Icelandic Goat, Huehuetenango Highland Coffee, Cheshire Cheese and Madagascar Mananara Vanilla. The list makes for interesting reading to say the least!
The U.S. has it’s own Ark of Taste, with 200 products currently listed. When I first checked out their list, it was interesting to see that I grow several of the vegetable varieties here at Happy Acres, including Lorz Italian and Inchelium Red garlic, Deer Tongue and Speckled lettuce, Jimmy Nardello pepper, and Amish Paste and Cherokee Purple tomatoes. Taste is all-important on the Slow Food Ark, and so is history, with many regional foods included. The Slow Food USA biodiversity committee evaluates Ark of Taste nominations, and many varieties submitted never make it ‘on board’.
The whole idea of the Ark of Taste got me to thinking about my own personal favorite foods. Since we grow a lot of our food ourselves, we get to pick and choose most of the individual varieties we eat. And I guess you could say my wife and I serve as our own evaluation committee. So with that in mind, if I had to ‘load up the Ark’ with the seeds of my favorite things, what would they be? What would make it on board, and what would be left behind?
I’m already off to a good start with the above named varieties from the U.S. Ark of Taste. Cherokee Purple is my favorite heirloom tomato when it comes to flavor. Jimmy Nardello is a proven winner when it comes to tasty red peppers. And Lorz Italian is one of my favorite garlics, with good keeping qualities and consistently great production. Inchelium Red is a great garlic too. The jury is still out on Amish Paste tomatoes, though when they do produce here they are great for processing. One of my favorite tomatoes is Juliet, but it is a hybrid and probably not a good choice for seed saving. So I believe I will stick to open-pollinated varieties for my list. I think Eva Purple Ball would be a good choice, since it is a consistent producer with a good taste, and so very useful in the kitchen. I would also take Black Cherry, which is my favorite O.P. cherry tomato, and is tasty and reliable in the garden.
As for lettuces, I would add Spotted Trout (aka Forellenschluss) to my Ark. It has a mild, buttery taste and it makes nice large tender leaves. And how could I have wilted lettuce without Simpson Elite or Red Sails? They both need to go too! I would also add some seeds for Oakleaf. It’s a classic, great tasting heirloom lettuce that does well in cooler weather. And for hotter weather I like Anuenue, which is a Batavian type that makes a crisp tender small head and is really good in all seasons. That should be enough lettuce to keep us supplied in salads.
But I also want to include some more substantial greens, like kale. I’d vote for Lacinato and Beedy’s Camden, since both do very well here and are my favorites for taste and production. It would make sense to include some Swiss chard, since it produces so much over a long season. But my wife is not so fond of the taste, and she would give vote against it. So no chard for us! But we both love arugula, and I have saved seed from some of my favorite tasting strains, so they have earned their spot on the Ark. Asian greens are a favorite here too so I’ll throw in some seeds for tatsoi and komatsuna. Ok, I think that’s enough greens, so what else would I take?
For the squash family, I am really fond of the Striato d’Italia and Tondo Nizza zucchini and the Pennsylvania Dutch Longneck Squash. Gold Nugget is also a favorite winter squash of ours, and one that I never see available here commercially. It has a great taste and the smaller size is perfect for individual servings. I do like the dual purpose heirloom Tatume squash, so I think they will go along for the ride too.
Beans are something I can’t imagine not taking with me. Fortex and Helda are my two favorite pole green beans. And Red Noodle is a great yardlong bean, so productive even in the heat of summer. I’m not sure if I have a clear favorite bush bean, though Derby would be near the top of my list. And I haven’t grown many dry beans lately, so I’m not sure what I would pick there. The U.S. Ark of Taste has a lot of different dry beans, including ones I have heard of like Cherokee Trail of Tears, Jacob’s Cattle, Christmas Lima and Turkey Craw and ones that are new to me like Bolita, Marrowfat, and True Red Cranberry. Sounds like I need to start growing some more beans!
With all those vegetables on board I do want to have some herbs to season things up a bit. Some Genovese basil would be nice, along with Italian Flat Leaf parsley. I would also want chives, fennel, lemon balm, oregano and mint, so some cuttings and root divisions would be needed. Sage and rosemary would be nice too. Is the Ark getting crowded yet? Once I started thinking about this, it’s hard to stop including things!
And so far all I have mentioned is vegetables and herbs. I guess I really should think about adding some fruits to my personal Ark List. Maybe some fig cuttings, or a blackberry plant. I’ll save those for another time. Wait a minute – I haven’t got any okra, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, hot peppers, onions, carrots, radishes or kohlrabi either. And what about taking some of our own honey. Or maybe I should just take the beehive with me. Nothing like having 50,000 (or so) bees riding along with you in close quarters. It looks like I’m truly going to need a bigger boat!
So what would you put on your personal Ark of Taste? I’d love to hear what floats your boat…so to speak!