Last year we were generously gifted seeds from the original stock of Cornell's Bush Delicata by Michael Mazoureck at Cornell. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of seed to feature this unique variety which was artistically bred by Molly Jahn and George Moriarty. We partnered with a new farm project up the road called the Farm Hub. They generously helped us grow out our Cornell's Bush Delicata. Delicata are one of the sweetest and creamiest of the small winter squash around. Our hope was to return all this generosity ten-fold in the form of bringing this original strain back to life and sharing it with gardeners and farmers. But we found the generosity of the plant itself inspiring and were able to share much more than seeds.
Good Seeding = Good Eating
One of the benefits of growing winter squash for seed in your home garden is that you can save seeds and eat them. When the squash is ripe, the seeds are too! That's not true of many of the varieties we grow like lettuce, cucumbers, or kale. They are all well beyond edible stages when they go to seed. But with winter squash good seeds and good eating go hand in hand.
Waste Not Want Not
Usually we distribute the edible left overs from winter squash seed processing to our staff, friends, and family. But after harvesting we had over 1200 Delicata- way more than any of us could eat. Most seed producers compost the bulk of their edible waste. They're just too big and too focused on efficiency and profit to take the time to use the edible parts of their seed harvests. But we didn't want to just compost all that nutritious and delicious goodness. We thought about trying to sell it, but decided that the best thing to do was share the bounty with those in need.
Delicata Squash Soup Kitchens
When you harvest Delicata you want to cure them a bit by letting them sit somewhere warm with good air circulation. They'll last a month of so on a shelf after that. But as soon as you slice into them it's time to cook them up! But if we wanted to share the squash we couldn't process them on the farm- they needed to be cut, de-seeded and cleaned in a certified kitchen where they could be quickly cooked. So we partnered with two soup kitchens that were excited to have us come with whole squash, process them for seed at the kitchen, and then cook up and serve the squash to their patrons.
With 1200 Delicata stored in the attic of the new office we relayed them down two flights of stairs and stuffed my little car to the gills with 1000 squash. I drove down to the Bread and Life Soup Kitchen in Brooklyn. Ten amazing volunteers, some from the kitchen and some who found out about the volunteer day through the Seed Library met me there. We unloaded the squash, washed them, carefully split them in half so as not to damage the seeds, and scooped them clean. It was inspiring to have so many hands gathering the seeds knowing that the squash would be served the next day to hundreds of people in need. I drove back upstate with a light car, a bucket of sweet smelling seeds, and a joyous heart.
The next week I took the remaining squash to our local soup kitchen, Caring Hands, the only one left in our area. My friend Jacinta Bunnell who used to work in a soup kitchen in DC came with me. We met up with a few volunteers and got a tour of the neighboring community garden run my the parish that houses the soup kitchen. They served up the squash the next day for their annual Thanksgiving meal- their busiest day of the year.
The Meaning of Seeds
Sometimes people ask me what makes our seeds different than seeds from other companies. There are a host of important distinctions including how we grow them, working with artists, offering culturally and horticulturally distinct varieties, and being certified organic, but one of the big ones is about the people behind the seeds. I'm so proud of our dedicated team here who believe that there is more to being a seed company than selling seeds- that seeds are about caring for the earth and caring for others. When you buy your pack of Cornell's Bush Delicata, part of the story you grow is a story of feeding those in need. Growing our seeds in your garden helps support our work, nourishes you, and helps feed those in need. Thank you!