How many times have you eaten something bland and just shrugged it off? It’s a funny thing; we seem to be very forgiving of foods that fail to impress our taste buds.
Flavor is something we should all be concerned about. Shouldn’t we, the consumer, demand that the food we eat be naturally flavorful and nutritious? At least one company thinks so, and its philosophy just might change how we grow our fruits and vegetables.
Row 7 is the first seed company built on the premise of collaboration between the seed breeders themselves and the chefs who prepare the finished product. It’s generally assumed that chefs know flavor; most (not all) know how to deliver excellent-tasting foods. So why aren’t they asked from the very beginning what kind of tastes they want from a fruit or vegetable?
The Splendid Table has a really interesting interview with Chef Dan Barber, one of the co-founders of Row 7. He says the idea for the company came from a simple butternut squash. In order to make it palatable, we often go through the process of roasting, caramelizing, or drizzling it with maple syrup. He felt a desire to breed a butternut squash that tasted great right out of the garden.
The problem lies within the industrial food chain. Barber explains most seed breeders are concerned with size, yield, and shelf-life when designing their crops. But shouldn’t the main criteria be flavor and nutrition? The two go hand-in-hand. Forget uniformity; food should never be one-size-fits-all. Seeds that do well in California, shouldn’t also grow well in Canada or Mexico, for example.
The concept of this company is bang-on. As somebody who grows many of her own fruits and vegetables, it’s disheartening to spend so much time and energy on something that doesn’t end up as tasty as you had hoped. The same goes for produce bought at stores and restaurants. Call me a food snob, but I hate being disappointed. Why should we have to add butter, oils, salt, and pepper, or a variety of other seasonings to fresh foods? We shouldn’t.
That why the mantra at Row 7 really appeals to me. Working together, chefs and seed breeders create, test and distribute delicious plant varieties, making an impact in the soil and at the table. Every seed in their catalog has been tested and tasted in the field as well as in the kitchen, so you know you’ll be getting a high-quality flavor. Better yet, all of the seeds are grown in the USA and are certified organic. There are also no utility patents, meaning you can save the seed from Row 7’s hybrids and start a breeding project of your own. How cool is that?
If you browse their online catalog, you’ll find seed varieties including the Badger Flame Beet; a seed containing all the sweetness you know of a beet, without the polarizing earthiness. There’s the Habanada Pepper, which has the same floral sweetness of a habanero pepper, minus the burn. The Upstate Abundance Potato sounds delicious, described as having a creamy, nutty and buttery taste. And who says a cucumber has to be boring? The 7082 Cucumber is said to explore the complex flavors long forgotten in the vegetable.
All of the seed varieties come with growing guides and delicious recipes, such as Habanada Puree, Smashed Upstate Abundance Potatoes with Chili Oil, or Grilled 7082 Cucumbers with Fried Dill.
Putting flavor and nutrition at the top of the list of food priorities is such a foreign concept, and it shouldn’t be. Is it really possible for Row 7 to change the food culture of the future? I sure hope so.