Mustards at our farm in Sunol, California
The past couple of years, we have been growing a handful of mindblowing crops at our farm. They came to us from half-way around the world, but THEY SHOULD BE in the hands of gardeners and growers everywhere, and we want to make that happen.
Our primary objective is to grow, harvest and package over 300 lbs of Highland Kale (Ethiopian Gommanzar) seed that can be distributed nationwide to gardeners and growers, starting summer 2012. Reaching the $3000 goal will allow us to do this.
Each additional $3000 raised will allow us to release seed for an additional Ethiopian crop -- starting with Mareko Fana peppers, and including Red Mareko Fana peppers, Highland Mustard and Mitmita peppers. We are absolutely committed to eventually releasing all 5 vegetable varieties through our seed company Artisan Seeds.
Every seed reward we have for this project is well worth the corresponding pledge amount, particularly if you love peppers, mustards and unique tomatoes. These varieties will be a welcome addition to farms and gardens everywhere. Here is a sample of what people are saying about these Ethiopian mustards and peppers:
I am always in search for unique ingredients. When Fred introduced me to the the Ethiopian varietals of kale, mustards and peppers I took great interest. The different cherry tomatoes he grows create more avenues for creativity in our kitchen. The Ethiopian Seed project is what chefs like myself and fellow farmers need to supply our demand for something different as it is delicious. James Syhabout -- Chef/Owner of Commis
I have been cooking with the Ethiopian varieties for the past few months with exceptional results. The availability of these locally grown Ethiopian vegetables has allowed me to offer my customers a unique dining experience, especially the Gomen (greens). Charlie Zawde -- Chef/Owner of Finfine
Our family has been getting CSA boxes from Baia Nicchia for the past couple years and we're excited that these new iterations, in the $200 and $500 categories, will make some of the fantastic work that they've been doing available to a (much) wider audience. I've been lucky enough to sample the Ethiopian Kale and it's reason enough to fund and be excited about the project. One can either cook the kale or have it raw as a salad. Fund this project and make these kinds of crops available to a worldwide audience! Jeff Young -- Menlo Park Farmers' Market Customer
Bringing different ethnic crops to the marketplace is a wonderful project. The time, money and energy required to build a market for such a crop on a local or regional level is significant, and Baia Nicchia has done that with these. Now that they're taking the next step to reaching an even larger audience by moving into seed production and marketing to other growers and gardeners, the fact that they're doing so without seeking to patent or file for PVP status for these crops says a lot. I'm happy to play a small part in this project; if I was closer I'd offer to come work the fields this summer. Mark Tutt
These Ethiopian seeds/varieties have been a great discovery. The unique flavors that they bring to the table have been a real joy to work with. The mareko fana pepper did really well under fermentation and pickling that we were able use into the fall and winter months and went extremely well with the kale and mustards. Sean Baker -- Chef/Co-owner Gather
I love the mareko fana peppers, using them a substitute for shishito, padron and frying peppers. they are more interesting in flavor and color than the other peppers. i really, really love the cherry tomatoes. truly the best. my mouth is watering just thinking about them, still warm from the mid-august sun! great job, as always, Fred!! Anthony Paone -- Chef
As always, Fred is ahead of the pack in unique and delicious produce. Pledging to Baia Nicchia and the Ethiopian Seeds Project is a great way to support a one of kind and exciting food based project. The opportunity to obtain cherry tomato seeds that none one else will have, should be enough to make you want to pledge. What Fred is providing us as chefs is the ability to differentiate ourselves with product that no one else has. You can do the same. Guillaume Beinaime -- Chef
The Mareko Fana peppers from Ethiopia are awesome. The unique color (purple / brownish) makes them stand out from other peppers, and the flavor is fabulous. The first time I cut one open, the aroma was incredible. I primarily used them fresh in dishes, but this year plan on trying them pickled, roasted and I might dry a few to grind into a powder. You can always count on Fred to be ahead of the curve in delivering high quality, unique tomatoes, peppers and other fresh vegetables. Mark McClellan
We love having Baia Nicchia's vegetables on our menu at Prospect. The Highland Kale and Highland Mustard are some of our most flavorful greens, and Mareko Fana is an exceptional frying pepper. Samantha Mullinaux -- Executive Sous Chef at Prospect
Our Project: Highland Kale seeds for gardeners and growers, by fall 2012
Ethiopia is one of the most important centers in the world for crop evolution. The temperate highlands produce a cornucopia of vegetable varieties, many of which are relatively unknown in the US. We want to help change that, by introducing varieties that have thrilled us (and many others in the San Francisco Bay area) with gardeners and small growers throughout the United States. This project will start by introducing a phenomenal mustard -- Highland Kale -- to gardeners and growers nationwide.
Highland Kale (Ethiopian Gommanzar): The seeds of this mustard are traditionally crushed into cooking pots to prevent food from sticking. We have made incredibly flavorful stone-ground mustard from the seeds, and this is the primary winter crop that we sell to restaurants. The restaurants buy "kale tops" which include tender stems, leaves and buds. We also sell Highland Kale microgreens, and mustard-making kits that include Highland Kale seed.
This project is the first step toward reaching our broader goal which is to release 5 varieties of Ethiopian vegetables -- including the others described below:
Mareko Fana: An excellent, deeply flavorful pepper with medium heat. A long, brown pepper that is the cornerstone of the Ethiopian spice mix -- Berbere -- which is typically in many meat and lentil dishes. We also put it in our Grey Dog Herb Tea.
Mareko Fana Peppers
Highland Mustard: The seeds of this mustard are excellent for producing spicy mustard, and the leaves are excellent as a cooked green. They are deep, dark green and full of nutrients. This mustard also holds great potential as a winter cover crop, as it is extremely fast growing and produces large amounts of biomass in a very short time. On our farm it has out-performed every other mustard cover crop we have tried.
Mareko Fana Red: Similar to standard Mareko Fana, but with thinner skin. The thin skin makes it an excellent frying pepper (similar to Padron peppers). For a little more background see our blog post on Mareko Fana.
Mitmita: A hot, spicy Ethiopian red pepper. Not for the faint of heart.
How we got involved in this project
Two years ago we were introduced to Menkir Tamrat, who had trays and trays of Ethiopian peppers. He was looking for a home for his peppers, and since peppers are one of our main crops, we started a collaboration. Our joint efforts have expanded with each passing season. We started growing Mareko Fana and Mitmita peppers with him, and then a number of Ethiopian mustards, then an Ethiopian grain called teff, and barley, and safflower. You can read more about Menkir, and his efforts to bring new crops to the Bay Area, and his efforts to provide local supplies of traditional Ethiopian vegetables to traditional Ethiopian restaurants here. Our collaboration continues because we have found the Ethiopian peppers and Mustards to be exceptional, and they have outcompeted many other very good varieties of peppers and mustards in the field, and with many of the excellent chefs that we work with.
The Mareko Fana peppers have pushed Padron peppers off the menu in many establishments, and they have been made in to chutneys, jams and purees. The Highland Kale tops have been a huge hit with farmers' market customers and with chefs. Their flavor is clean, and sweet enough to eat raw, while they are also excellent paired with garlic in cooked side-dishes and chopped up and put into soups at the last moment so that they are softening, but still fresh. It would certainly be a mistake to assume that this project has anything to do with charity. These crops have come into our fields and kicked the butts of some very good competition. They are the creme de la creme. As we fine-tune these crops for our own purposes, by selecting for specific combinations of traits, we are formulating a plan to deposit seeds with agronomists back in Ethiopia solely as a gesture of responsibility and respect for the phenomenal work their farmers have done with these crops.
We will release Highland Kale, and eventually all of the Ethiopian varieties, through our new seed company -- Artisan Seeds
We recently launched a seed business called Artisan Seeds. With the help of many partners, we will be introducing six striped cherry tomato varieties worldwide in 2012. We have partners that will be growing tomatoes to produce seed, and others that will be selling seed around the world to farmers, nurseries and to other seed companies who will include our new varieties in their 2013 catalogs. We will also be releasing packets of seed ourselves through an Artisan Seeds online store to be set up next fall. We will eventually release all five Ethiopian vegetable varieties described above in our online store -- starting with the release of Highland Kale this summer or fall!
Some of the tomatoes that we are releasing this year can be seen in the photograph below. All of them have stripes. All of them have excellent flavor. We want to use these tomatoes to help motivate people to back this project, particularly since the success of both the peppers and the tomatoes is intertwined. Although all of the rewards that include packets of these new tomatoes are to be delivered in October, we will make them available in March -- as part of a special pre-release -- to pledgers who simply sign a form indicating that they will not sell seeds from the varieties. We are happy to get these in the hands of people who really want to try them, but we absolutely need to protect our partners who will be releasing these varieties at the end of this year.
An assortment of new Artisan Seeds tomatoes bred at our farm
Why we need Kickstarter funds to release the Ethiopian varieties?
We are counting on our Artisan Seeds venture to be successful, and there is every reason to believe it will be. Eventually we will receive royalties from our partners who are the primary distributors of our new tomato varieties. However, we are presently still a small farm with a very tight budget, and we have invested everything into developing our farm and breeding our new tomato varieties.
To produce the seed necessary for a 2012 release of Highland Kale we need $3000 to partially fund growing, harvesting and packaging the first batch of seed. For each additional $3000 we raise, we will release an additional Ethiopian variety!
Keeping our supporters updated
We are going to blog about this project. Every week or two we will take pictures and let everyone know how the project is going. We will also have a few field days associated with this project at the farm this summer, and everyone will be invited!
- (21 days)