We love butter on potatoes and maple syrup on squash. What if a vegetable was so flavorful you were reluctant to drizzle or dollop a sauce on top? Award-winning chef Dan Barber, co-owner of Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown. N.Y., considered this nearly a dozen years ago. The idea took root when the chef inspired vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek to develop seeds to cultivate a tastier butternut squash. “It was the first time someone had ever asked him to prioritize flavor,” Barber says in an email. Barber and Mazourek worked with plant breeders, chefs, and farmers and eventually launched Row 7, a seed line. From these seeds grow Row 7 organic vegetables bred for delicious distinctive flavor as well as nutrition and regard for the environment. Chefs are featuring them on menus, including Ana Sortun of Oleana, Damian Evangelous and Tyler Kinnet from Trillium Brewery, Ken Oringer of Faccia a Faccia, and others, and the new veggies have recently hit local Whole Foods Market locations. “We want to introduce people to the diversity of flavor that often gets squeezed out of the commodity food system,” Barber says. Four kinds grown on the East Coast are available: Upstate Abundance Potatoes, small, irregularly shaped, and exceptionally creamy and flavorful ($5.49 for 1.5 pounds); Badger Flame Beet, a golden beet sweeter than most ($4.49 for 1.5 pounds); Honeypatch Squash, a petite size, sweet with a custardy texture ($4.29 for 1.2 pounds); and Robin’s Koginut Squash, pumpkin-shaped with an unmistakably nutty flavor ($2.49 a pound). As for the name Row 7, Barber says it evokes multiple meanings. The business began with seven seeds, the rows of plantings in a field, and the line of cooks in restaurant kitchens. There’s another heady one fixed in science. “When scientists conceived the modern periodic table, they left blank spaces in the seventh row — placeholders for elements yet to be discovered,” Barber says. “We wanted Row 7 to embody that same spirit.” produce.row7seeds.com/produce.
ANN TRIEGER KURLAND
Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at email@example.com.