Earlier this month OSA’s Laurie McKenzie joined 21 plant breeders, 27 chefs, and over 350 attendees for the annual Variety Showcase in Portland, Oregon. The annual Culinary Breeding Network (CBN) event celebrates the work of plant breeders and the culinary creativity of professional chefs. OSA is a proud collaborator of CBN, a collection of plant breeders, seed growers, fresh market farmers, chefs, and produce buyers who are developing and identifying varieties and traits of culinary excellence for vegetable traits in the Pacific Northwest. The Variety Showcase pairs breeders and chefs to show off and engage the public in plant breeding, and introduce new and up and coming vegetables, grains, and herbs.
OSA teamed up with researcher and plant breeder Phil Simon of the USDA-ARS and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and chef Karl Holl of LetUmEat to showcase our work with colored carrots from the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project. CIOA is a multi-year breeding project addressing the critical needs of organic carrot growers by developing orange and novel colored carrots with improved disease and nematode resistance, improved weed competitiveness, and improved nutritional value and flavor. Chef Karl Holl took our red carrots into the kitchen and created a chromatically delicious red carrot gnocchi with roasted carrot Bolognese topped with carrot seed pan fritto and parmigiana reggiano that had been smoked over dried carrot tops.
Alongside Karl’s dish we offered raw samples of four colored carrots – yellow, purple-orange, red (the same one Karl used in his creation), and purple-yellow. We are planning to release the purple-orange and red carrots commercially within the next three years. The event was a feast for the eyes as much as for the stomach. We came away with renewed enthusiasm and inspiration for our continued work on colored carrots, and deep appreciation and admiration for all the amazing farmers, breeders, and chefs who participated.
Read more about the Variety Showcase in the Oregonian.
All photos thanks to Shawn Linehan Photography.