An exciting new project by Slow Food USA is bringing Ark of Taste products into American school gardens, enabling students to grow their own delicious and culturally significant foods.
The pilot project has chosen the Makah Ozette potato, an Ark of Taste passenger since 2005, to be grown at several school gardens across the nation. The Ozette is a fingerling potato, originally from Peru, but brought to the shores of Neah Bay, Washington, by Spanish explorers in the late 18th century. It is of great historical importance, as it is perhaps the only potato to have been imported directly to North America from South America, and not via Europe. It was only in the 1980s that the variety was catalogued and grown outside the Makah Nation, which had been its sole custodian for 200 years.
The feedback received from this pilot project confirms the potential of Ark of Taste products as lesson plans. A biology teacher from Prosser Career Academy in Chicago wrote: “After my students measured the yield, average length in centimeters, and mass in grams of each harvest, the [Makah Ozette] potatoes were brought to our culinary arts shop. There, our students washed and prepared the potatoes, roasting them as part of a healthy lunch burrito recipe that they developed using the “Healthy School Challenge” guidelines…The story of the Makah Ozette South American origin as well as it’s direct arrival via Spanish colonization was touched on briefly in my class at the beginning, but when I begin my unit on species diversity, dispersal and extinction, we will re-visit it. I also plan to discuss it when we talk about ideas around food justice, culture and things of that nature. In other words, it has been an incredible source for teaching cross curricular ideas with food and agriculture at the core.”
Described as having an earthy, nutty flavor similar to cooked dry beans, the potato has a creamy texture and is usually served steamed, fried or roasted. Since it was added to the Ark of Taste, Slow Food Seattle has worked to expand production of the potato beyond the Makah Nation, mounting a successful public relations campaign. The Ozette potato became an official Slow Food Presidium in 2008, and because of all the Presidium’s promotional efforts, its seed is now in high demand. The Presidium is focused on increasing seed production to bring more potatoes to market.
The pilot scheme has been launched in partnership with Seed Savers Exchange, Pure Potato LLC, Chefs Collaborative and the Makah Nation.