From Seed to Table: The National Heirloom Expo

By Emily Shartin, Epicuring

Tagged as “the world’s pure food fair,” the first-ever National Heirloom Exposition* sought perhaps a deeper response to the popular foodie question of late: “Where does your food come from?” This three-day agricultural festival in Santa Rosa celebrated heritage food breeds — those unique, flavorful and often colorfully-named varieties of fruits and vegetables that have often been passed over as farmers opt instead for breeds that will withstand the rigors of travel and supermarket stocking. The festival featured seeds and gardening supplies for sale (it was organized by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which has an outpost in Petaluma), guest speakers (including chef Alice Waters and seed-protection advocate Vandana Shiva), a series of short films, livestock exhibits, and mile after mile of gorgeous produce.

There were practical demonstrations as well: how to make butter and cheese, a variety of chef demos, a mobile bee exhibit housed in an Airstream trailer. I enjoyed a simple demonstration from Marley Peifer at the Fermentation Nation table (shown below) on how to make your own fermented ginger soda. Marley called it the “no excuse fermentation recipe” — as in, you have no excuse not to try it because it’s easy and you likely have most of the ingredients at home.

Fermented Ginger Soda

2 tbsp. ginger, grated on the small holes of a box grater

1 c sugar

juice of one lemon

1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and add enough warm water to liquefy the mixture. Pour the mixture through a funnel into an empty 2-liter soda bottle, or a similar plastic bottle that will hold pressure. Fill the remaining space with water, close the bottle tightly and leave it at room temperature. The mixture should ferment within 24 hours (you’ll know because the bottle will be hard). Use the cap to filter out the sediment as you pour a glass, and reseal. Note: This beverage will be minimally alcoholic.

*If you hurry, you still have time to catch a few exhibits and speakers today, the last day of the expo. If not, the expo’s website still makes a great resource for gardeners, homesteaders and anyone who enjoys good, pure food.

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