Occasionally designer produce can seem like it’s more for amusement than quality. We do not and never will need a Grapple (grape-apple). But the Culinary Breeding Network, is designing custom produce that, if it’s not perfect, is damn close. A recent showcase in Portland displayed vegetables ranging from a habanada pepper—a habanero with the heat tempered making it easy to eat—to tomatoes of almost every texture and color combination.
Each of product is the result of collaboration between plant breeders and chefs who, together, identify and accentuate traits that make vegetables more desirable to eat. And before anyone gets upset about it, know that they use traditional breeding methods not biotechnology to develop their plants. Some of the work is already in farmers markets and on menus, like the honey nut squash (a cross between a butternut and a honeycup squash), which activist-chef Dan Barber grows and has served at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Look for designer vegetables like these to start showing up more often.