From Seed to Table – The Story
This week you have some specialty varieties in your box, such as Masquerade potatoes and Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers. It’s common to think that peppers are one vegetable, tomatoes are another, and so on, but in reality a term as general as the word “pepper” represents thousands of distinctly different varieties, and each has its own story.
Jimmy Nardello was one of 11 children from an Italian family, and was the only one of his siblings to inherit his mother’s love of peppers. Though he was the first in the family to be born in America, he built terraces in Naugatuck, Connecticut just as his family had built on the hillsides in Italy for generations. There he continued saving seeds and breeding his favorite peppers until the end of his days.
Until recently in human history, every family saved their own seeds to plant again every year, and so every family had its own unique line of plant varieties. The diversity in colors and flavors was like patchwork across the lands, and each person was able to use their own varieties as currency. The Nardello’s were just one of millions of families who had their own beloved varieties, but their seed happened to make it all the way to farmers markets in the United States, and their peppers are now loved by all.
Before Jimmy Nardello died in the eighties he donated his pepper seeds to the Seed Savers Exchange, who have been stewards of the pepper for nearly forty years. Despite their popularity, Jimmy Nardello peppers are still listed on the vegetable version of the endangered species list by the US Ark of Taste.
The Seed Savers Exchange’s goal is to collect, grow, and share heirloom seeds, keeping genetic diversity alive and food property rights in the public domain. Seeds have always belonged to the people, not to corporate stake-holders, and because of organizations like SSE hopefully they can stay that way.
So the next time you’re getting ready to cook up some vegetables, take a moment to appreciate that each one has a history as rich as your own family’s. Share a meal with your loved ones and know that the food you’re enjoying is only there because of the thousands of years of shared seeds and shared meals that came before us. Have a great week everyone!
–Laura Bennett, firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of Box Contents
- Poblano Pepper—Poblano peppers are one of the tastiest peppers on the planet. Their seeds are spicy, but once removed their flesh has a hint of heat with a full, mole-like flavor.
- Fresh Sweet Corn
- Jimmy Nardello—quite a nice fellow! Jimmies are a very sweet and flavorful specialty pepper, great added into a sauté or eaten raw like an Italian pepper.
- Eggplant—Although eggplant can be tricky to cook at times, it can also be a perfect meat substitute when done right.
- Masquerade Potatoes—These are gorgeous purple potatoes with yellow spots surrounding the eyes, as well as a buttery yellow flesh similar to Nicolas.
- Bunched Carrots—Sweet roots perfect for raw munching or savory roasting; try adding the greens into a stock or bone broth for an amazing flavor.
- Red Onion—Red onions have a crisp texture, with more of an acidic bite than sweet flavor; great for using raw in salads.
- Sweet Onion—The high sugar content makes these perfect for caramelizing in a sauté.
- Summer Squash
- Cherry Tomatoes
Poblanos & Potatoes w/ Fried Eggs
- ½ sweet onion chopped finely
- 3-5 potatoes: slice each potato in half then slice in half again before making thin slices down the length of the potato (thin slices are the goal)
- 1-3 poblano peppers roughly chopped
- 1 Jimmy Nardello sliced into discs (it’ll brighten up the dish visually and in flavor!)
- 1 head garlic chopped finely
- Olive oil
- Eggs fried
- Optional: cheese of some kind
I like to chop everything in this dish before I even turn on the pan, because the timing needs to be right so that the potatoes and peppers finish at the same time. I often have trouble burning potatoes when cooking them with other vegetables, but I’ve found a little trick that takes away most of that risk. After you chop your potatoes thinly, spread them out on the cutting board and place a cloth or paper towel over them. Press down on the potatoes to remove as much water from them as you can. It makes a big difference! (And it works perfectly for hash browns.)
Note that the poblano seeds are often very spicy, so you’ll want to wash your hands well after removing them.
Coat the bottom of the pan in olive oil and heat it up to medium high temperature; if a piece of onion sizzles in the oil it’s up to temp.
Add in the onions and let cook about 2 minutes.
Add in the poblanos next, as they will take longer to cook than the thinly sliced potatoes. Cover and let cook 7-10 minutes.
The peppers should be about halfway done at this point; add in the potatoes and the garlic and let cook with the lid on another 5 minutes.
Remove the lid and add in 3-4 pinches of salt; stir. Let cook another 2-5 minutes with the lid off until the veggies are done to your satisfaction. I usually take out a sample to taste before deciding when a dish is done.
I always make this dish for breakfast, and on top I always add cheese, fried eggs, and hot sauce to tie everything together, and I highly recommend it. I even freeze bags of raw poblano slices so that I can make this all winter long. You can throw frozen raw peppers straight into the frying pan in the morning and have a delicious warm, summery breakfast in the middle of winter.
Tasty Eggplant Filling
- 1 sweet onion chopped finely
- 1 head garlic chopped finely
- 1 eggplant diced finely
- ½ cup walnuts chopped finely
- 1/3 bunch basil finely chopped.
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- 1 cup soft cheese chevre is great!
Finely chop your onion and garlic and add them into a sauté pan once your oil is up to temp. Cook slow and low to draw out sugars and deeper flavors.
Meanwhile, mince up your eggplant. I do it by chopping it into discs and then stack the discs in little piles to slice into matchsticks, then I finally mince them up. Add the eggplant into the pan as soon as you’re done chopping.
Let cook another 5-8 minutes, finally adding the basil, walnuts, salt, and pepper. After stirring around to combine flavors thoroughly for a minute or two, turn off the pan.
Add in the hefty dollop of chevre and stir around to mix evenly, and you’ve got yourself a tasty filling.