Have you ever had a Candy Roaster Squash? This squash varietal is local to North Carolina and has deep roots in Native American history. Known for its sweet, unique flavor, this squash was a cherished staple to the The Cherokee tribes in the southern Appalachians because it was sweeter than the pumpkin and could be stored for months.
The squash became a favorite in the South because it was so sweet it didn’t need sugar. The squash can be used in pies, soups, butters and breads and when baked, stewed, boiled, or mashed its pulp can be compared to a sweet potato.
Because this squash was originally bred by the Cherokee Indians, you won’t find its seeds or seedlings anywhere. These are heirloom squashes whose seeds are highly sought after and protected. An heirloom vegetable is a vegetable that its producers thought was so good that they continue to save its seed and grow it year after year.
If your mouth is watering by now we have good news for you: the candy roaster squash is on the menu for our Dinner of the Grape! Our own local farm, Casslemonte, grows this amazing squash and Chef Brittanny will be roasting and serving it atop a salad composed of Labne, Verbena, Blood Orange, and Aleppo in the first course; and for the fourth and final course.
So how did a farm in Powhatan start growing the North Carolina Candy Roaster? Research! Casselmonte Farm specializes in heirloom, niche products, and is always on the search for heirlooms that could flourish in the piedmont of Virginia. As Bill Cox, co-owner of Casselmonte Farm with his wife India, is on the regional Slow Food Ark of Taste board, when he "got wind of" the Candy Roaster, he began the search for the right seed.
What is Slow Food? A food 'movement' started in Italy in opposition to the first McDonald's being built in that country. Ark of Taste is a repository of heirloom vegetables and livestock that should be brought back and/or preserved. Folks can submit products that they think should be saved and why, and the board researches and votes on what to add to the list.
When Bill and India heard about the candy roaster and how sweet it was, they had to have it! They reached out to Travis Milton, who specializes in Appalachian produce, and found the source for the best Carolina seed. You may recognize Travis Milton’s name as he was the Chef at last year’s Dinner of the Grape!
This year is Casselmonte Farm’s first harvest of the Candy Roaster Squash and India tells us that they are very pleased with it! The harvest ranges from 18-29 lb. squashes that will be coming out of curing just in time for the Dinner of the Grape. In fact, Chef Brittanny will be one of the first chefs to cook with them!
In addition to the Candy Roaster, Bill and India also grow the following Ark of Taste vegetables: Bradford Watermelon, Hayman Sweet Potato, and the Yellow Cabbage Collard. Castlemonte Farm’s slogan is “Bringing taste back to the table” and if you’ve ever had their produce you’d agree that they do just that. We are so happy to have some of their harvest at the Dinner of the Grape this year and are proud to have them here in Powhatan.
Don’t forget to grab your tickets so you can taste the exquisite meals and heirloom vegetables you won’t get at any old restaurant!