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Ark Of Taste Celebrates Squash

Turkey may be November’s big flavor, but the slow food movement hopes Eugeneans find another flavor to relish: the Lower Salmon River squash. On Terra Madre Day Dec. 10, Slow Food Eugene and Open Oak Farm will celebrate the Northwest cultivar and learn about the Ark of Taste, a global project dedicated to saving some of the thousands of heritage foods that globalization and monoculture crops are endangering. The 6:30 pm potluck will be held at the Eugene Garden Club, 1645 High St.

The Ark of Taste has identified more than 1,100 threatened food sources since 1996, and more than 200 of them are found in the U.S. Nominations of threatened foods can come from anyone who is passionate about food; Ark of Taste committees in different regions make selections. The Lower Salmon River squash is a nominee, but it has not yet been selected for the Ark.

Nicki Maxwell, Eugene’s representative for the Northwest region, says all over the world, people are losing biodiversity in their diets. “We’re just eating a lot of the same stuff,” she says. “For example, we go to the market, and the processed foods that are there are soy or corn-based.” People might realize that their diets are less diverse than they realize if they checked the ingredient lists, she says.

Those who know more about vulnerable crops can help them survive by planting them, says Maxwell, who grows heritage varieties of potatoes, beans and corns. “Primarily I got things from the Seed Saver Exchange,” she says, but just because a variety is native to Oregon doesn’t mean that’s where it’s been preserved. “My seed didn’t come from Oregon and Washington; it came from places like Wisconsin and Maine.” 

Maxwell says she’s looking forward to June’s strawberry harvest, when she hopes to highlight the delicate but delicious Marshall strawberry. Learn more about the Ark of Taste at slowfoodfoundation.com/ark.