.I’d like to tell you about an interesting story behind some of the squash varieties that I’m offering. But first I want write a bit about the difference between open pollinated heirloom varieties and hybrid varieties. I guess using the tomato as an example works best. Heirloom varieties, which we all know and love, are disease prone, low yielding, ripen unevenly, and are difficult to pack/distribute since they are all different shapes and sizes. It’s not fun to grow them, and this is why they are so expensive. But, they are so darn delicious! To help farmers solve some of the challenges involved with heirloom varieties, plant geneticists began to develop hybrids (this is not the same thing as genetic modification) so that they would yield more, be more resistant to disease, and be more uniform in shape and size. But, they don’t taste nearly as good! So, it’s a trade-off.
Generally when plant breeders make new varieties, they do so for the interests of industrial agriculture: uniformity and yield. Usually they don’t pay much attention to flavor (this is one of the reasons why tomatoes in the grocery store are flavorless). So this is where the squash comes in. You may have heard of Dan Barber, the chef/owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. He was one of the pioneers of the farm-to-table movement. If you have Netflix, you can watch an episode about his restaurant on the first season of Chef’s Table (I watched it and immediately emailed him asking for a job in-between farming seasons. I worked there for 6 months slicing bread for 10 hours a day, but that’s a whole different story haha). Anyway, Barber approached Michael Mazourek, a squash breeder from Cornell University (who I’ve met and have had several discussions with), and asked him to breed squash specifically for flavor. Mazourek, who had always bred varieties for industrial ag, was surprised: He never before had anyone ask him to breed for flavor. This was the start of a fruitful (pun intended) relationship between the two. Honeynut squash was the first variety they developed: a much sweeter, smaller version of butternut squash. Then came the koginut, intensely sweet and creamy. Last came the tetra squash, which is meant to be a “zero-waste” squash, since the entire plant, including the stems and even immature fruit, are edible and delicious. I’ll be offering all of these!
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