About The Ark of Taste

The Ark of Taste is an international catalog of exceptional food products that are threatened by industrial standardization, the regulations of large-scale distribution and environmental damage. In an effort to cultivate consumer demand—a key part of agricultural conservation—only the best tasting endangered foods make it onto the Ark.

Since 1996, over 2600 products from over 50 countries have been added to the international Ark of Taste. The US Ark of Taste profiles over 250 rare regional foods, and is a tool that helps farmers, ranchers, fishers, chefs, retail grocers, educators and consumers celebrate our country’s diverse biological, cultural and culinary heritage.

The Ark of Taste includes fruits, vegetables, livestock breeds, wild species (if tied to methods of harvesting, processing and traditional uses) and processed products (cheeses, breads, sweets and cured meats).  To be accepted to the Ark, food products must be sustainably produced, unique in taste, and part of a distinct regional history and culture.

Nominations and Local Whidbey Island Ark Varieties

Rockwell Bean

We are pleased to announce that Slow Food Whidbey Island is sponsoring a local Ark of Taste nomination of the Rockwell Bean, pictured above, taken by Slow Food member Jim Hicken. The beans have been accepted and are now part of the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste.  The Rockwell Bean is currently grown by only four farmers, who are the descendents of Ebey's Prairie pioneer families: Georgie Smith of Willowood Farm, Wilbur Purdue of Prairie Bottom Farm, Wilbur Bishop of Ebey Road Farm, and Vin Sherman.  The beans are available at local farmers markets and a few retail stores, and disappear quickly as soon as they appear on the shelves. 

The historical origin of the Rockwell Bean is unknown.  Dr. William Weaver, a plant historian at the Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism in Pennsylvania, believes it is descended from a very old German-Hungarian bean known as the Rote Von Paris, or piros feher ("red and white" in Hungarian) bean. The beans were first planted on Rockwell's farm in the late 1800s, and became much beloved in the Coupeville area.  After Elisha Rockwell died, other farmers, particularly Wilbur Sherman, continued to grow, sell and share their beans.  Coupeville farmers' wives maintained the seed, carefully saving a mason jar to replant every year in their kitchen garden. 

Rockwell beans have historically been grown by farmers of Ebey's Prairie in Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington.  Georgie Smith of Willowood Farm says: "The Rockwell is very well adapted to cool weather growing.  In the maritime Pacific Northwest, we have cool springs and never too hot summers.  Over the years, I've grown numerous types of dry beans on my farm, and the Rockwell, which is a bush type dry bean, is invariably the first to germinate in my cool soil.  Some dry beans I have given up on because they would always rot before germinating!  The Rockwell is also usually the first to dry down and be ready for harvest, also good in our cooler season. Dry beans that mature too slowly are still green on the pod when our wet weather starts in the fall.  I'm sure these reasons, along with its amazing flavor, are why the Rockwells persisted in our region.  They are literally, one of the only, and the best tasting, dry beans we can grow." 

Sugar Hubbard Squash

The Sugar Hubbard Squash, Cucurbita maxima, is a large, torpedo-shaped winter squash with a blue-grey skin and bright gold flesh. This variety was developed in the late 1940s as a cross between the Blue Hubbard and the Sweet Meat heirloom varieties by a collaboration between Whidbey Island farmer Edwin Sherman and Washington State University which further developed the seed stock and kept the strain in existence. The Sugar Hubbard inherited the best qualities of both: its flesh is moister than the traditional Blue Hubbard and it stores longer than the Sweet Meat. Seeds are planted in May, and vigorous 10-foot long vines produce 4-5 squash weighing about 20 pounds each. The squash are harvested by hand in October, and keep well in storage until the next year's planting.

The Sugar Hubbard Squash is naturally sweet and delicious when prepared as a puree or roasted. It can be added to everything from soups to bread to ice cream, and makes an excellent pie. It is very rich in nutrients: 1/2 cup provides 100% of the recommended daily intake of beta carotene, potassium, iron, zinc, protein, vitamin C, and many B-vitamins. Roasted squash seeds also make a tasty snack. Vincent Nattress, Chef and Owner of Cultivar Catering on Whidbey Island, Washington has this to say about the Sugar Hubbard Squash: "Having grown up in Coupeville, I remember eating Sugar Hubbard as a kid. Each winter, my mom would roast up big pieces in the oven with brown sugar on top. I guess I just took it for granted. It was only when I returned to Whidbey Island in 2009 that I came to see the beauty and importance of this massive squash. I had gotten used to Butternut Squash, and in California it reigns supreme. But in our cooler, maritime climate, Butternut just won’t ever get ripe; it retains its green-streaky veins and never gets sweet or flavorful. Hubbard is ideal for Western Washington and provides us with a very long lasting, very nutrient rich, very delicious fall and winter staple. In this climate, Sugar Hubbard simply blows the doors off of Butternut. Here, Sugar Hubbard is King." The Sugar Hubbard Squash is a local favorite on Whidbey Island, appearing every year in October at the Sherman Pioneer Farm produce stand, just in time for the blustery weather.

The Sugar Hubbard Squash is unique to the Pacific Northwest. It is grown primarily in the Puget Sound region of Washington state, and by home gardeners and farmers as far south as Oregon. Territorial Seed Company is the only commercial seed source, making this an endangered variety. Additionally, there is only one commercial farming operation that grows the Sugar Hubbard Squash, Sherman's Pioneer Farm, located on Whidbey Island. The Shermans are dedicated to continuing to produce the Sugar Hubbard Squash for the commercial market, and as long as the family farm is maintained, the crop will be grown in the Pacific Northwest. The strain is open pollinated, producing viable seeds which are true to cultivar. Third generation farmers Dale and Liz Sherman are committed to preserving the farm and passing it on to their children.

See the full Ark of Taste catalog from around the USA here