Every seed tells a story! In this blog series, we explore the in depth story from seed to pack to art for our new art pack varieties.
What Makes Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Stand Out: Linked to cheese through appearance only, the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin has been revered for centuries thanks to its smooth flesh and string-less interior (not to mention the high nutrient content). It's one of the oldest squashes domesticated for food, which we think speaks well for its taste and grow-ability. Choose this cheese-wheel-like squash for your autumn sweets and buck the canned stuff once and for all!
The History of Long Island Cheese Pumpkins: In 1807, Long Island Cheese Pumpkins first become available on the commercial market, having gained popularity among cooks on Long Island. It maintained its popularity through the mid-20th century, before it almost disappeared. Ken Ettlinger grew up on Long Island in the 1950s. He says his family would go to a local farm and pick up a cheese pumpkin so his mother Could make Thanksgiving pie. In the 1970s, Ken noticed that the pumpkins were becoming a rare find. He didn't want the pies to become just a memory, so he started saving seeds. Ken established the Long Island Seed Project, and due to this local seed steward's efforts, Long Island Cheese Pumpkin--and the pies they make--have made a comeback. Long Island Cheese Pumpkin is now a part of the Slow Food Ark of Taste.
It Takes a Community: The revival of this heirloom is now being stewarded largely by the efforts of the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Project. We are happy to announce that in 2016 we partner with these efforts and, along with Glynwood, became ambassadors of this special variety. Long Island Cheese Pumpkin is now part of the Kitchen Cultivars project, which aims to unite farmers, chefs and regionally produced seed to bring value and awareness back to our regional varieties. We sourced seed grown from Ken Ettlinger's original stock through Invincible Summer Farms, and planted an entire 1/2 acre plot for seed production. Our crop did extremely well, and on October 11th we held our first community scoopfest for the crop, making sure the flesh ended up in the hands of chefs, volunteers and soup kitchens.
About the Art: Like an heirloom seed saver, oil painter Todd M. Casey is a collector of antiquities. To tell the story of this heirloom, Casey went the extra mile- actually 90 miles- to create his Long Island Cheese Pumpkin masterpiece. As an artist dedicated to classical oil painting techniques, Todd only paints from life. You can see his intricate process here. The problem in this case was Todd couldn't find a Long island Cheese Pumpkin for sale. So he bought a random winter squash and painted it the color of a Cheese Pumpkin to create his initial studies. They looked amazing, but the squash was the wrong shape. Luckily, Ken had a fully intact year old Cheese Pumpkin sitting on a shelf his kitchen. So for the final work he drove up to the Seed Library farm and picked up a real one to take back to his studio. In addition to the pumpkin, Casey also assembled the historic book Cucurbits of New York, where Long Island Cheese Pumpkin is cited as, “one of the oldest varieties cultivated in America,” a vintage map of Long Island, and an antique trunk for storing seed collections.
Look for our Art of the Heirloom exhibit at a gallery space near your by visiting our events page in the weeks to come.