Green Rabbits Projects: Pockets Full of Rye

[[{"type":"media", "view_mode":"media_large", "fid":"59", "attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter size-medium wp-image-260", "typeof":"foaf:Image", "style":"", "width":"300", "height":"300", "title":"pockets of rye", "alt":""}}]]By Christine Rico, Green Rabbits co-founder On Thursday, September 27th, Green Rabbits helped to kick off the second phase of The Rye Bread Project at Pockets Full of Rye, a small dinner hosted by New Amsterdam Market.

The occasion marked a new partnership between Grow NYC, Organic Growers' Research and Information-Sharing Network founder and coordinator Elizabeth Dyck, and the Nordic Gene Bank, which has agreed to send two dozen varieties of rye seed to New York State for testing. This effort, brokered by Danish chef and Green Rabbit Trine Hahnemann, came about as a direct result of the original Rye Bread Project held at New Amsterdam Market in November 2010.

At that 2010 event, where Trine served amazing smørrebrød prepared with local ingredients at the New Amsterdam Market, rye flour was purchased from farmer Thor Oeschner from Cayuga Pure Organics. His farm was the only local source of rye available; and until that point he had largely grown rye as a feed crop. At the 2010 Rye Bread Project lunch, Thor lamented that he only had one variety of rye seed and asked for help finding more diverse seed sources.

Trine took that plea to heart and after her return to Denmark began to research rye varieties. Working with Danish farmers, she learned that there are literally hundreds of varieties of heritage rye; some of which have already vanished from production. However, she also discovered that the Nordic Gene Bank has collected and catalogued many of these varieties from across northern Europe. Trine developed a relationship with the Nordic Gene Bank and made the connection back to New York growers.

The seeds from the Nordic Gene Bank will be grown in small test plots to determine which varieties are the most well suited to a variety of conditions in New York State. June Russell from Grow NYC works with upstate farmers to expand local grain production. At the Pockets Full of Rye dinner she cautioned everyone that this research project will take several years. However, when the scientific/agricultural testing is complete, NYS anticipates being able to obtain additional seed from the Nordic Gene Bank for initial planting by farmers. This will lead to a dramatic increase in the varieties (and volume) of rye production in New York State.

On her recent visit to New York, Trine brought a token contribution (a pocket-full) of rye seed from Danish farmers to celebrate this new project. As a visiting chef, Trine also created the dinner featuring rye in every course. If that seems hard to imagine, just consider the versatile and delicious menu: foccacia made from rye flour; winter squash and whole rye “riosotto” paired with a cauliflower gratin topped with rye flakes for the main dish; and an apple trifle for desert that featured both rye bread and rye flakes along with a luscious whipped cream topping. Vegetable side dishes included beet salad; and a kale & walnut tart--with a rye flour crust, of course.

The introduction of new rye varieties is only possible because of the work that has been done over the past two years by growers, food producers, and markets to expand grain production in New York State. As this project continues, we will write more about these regional efforts. For now, we offer special thanks to Robert LaValva, founder of New Amsterdam Market; June Russell from Grow NYC; artisan bread baker Simo Kuusisto of Nordic Breads; and Thor Oeschner of Cayuga Pure Organics for all their work making healthy local grains a reality for New Yorkers.

Come join the Green Rabbits on Monday, October 15th, 6:30pm for an Educated Eater event at The Astor Center to learn more about rye in New York State, and to view the Rye Bread Project video. For more information and reservations, click here.






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