5@5 - Reasons to use endangered ingredients
July 18th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

One might hear the word "extinct" and immediately think of dinosaurs and dodo birds, but some of our more delicious cohabitants might also be at risk.

Shaun Garcia is the chef of Soby's, a restaurant peppered with heritage ingredients, in Greenville, South Carolina.

When he's not in the restaurant, Garcia can often be found on his tractor Lucille working his 7-acre farm, where he grows several types of produce from the Slow Food Ark of Taste list.

The Slow Food Ark of Taste is a catalog of foods that are at risk of extinction - either biologically because of industrialized agriculture or as culinary traditions - and Shaun has made it his mission to preserve and promote them.

Five Reasons to Use Endangered Ingredients: Shaun Garcia

1. They raise awareness
"A lot of people don’t even know that there’s an issue with endangered ingredients – people are so used to food coming from factory farms, they have no concept of running out of something or not being able to get an ingredient. If you keep using something and telling people about it, people will start asking for it and then you’ve created a need for it.

Take the Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Bean, for example. They were carried over the Trail of Tears to sustain the people through that horrible winter, and you can grow and taste them today. That’s a tangible piece of history that would be a huge loss if it disappeared."

2. They are better for you
"Most endangered ingredients grown or raised naturally – no GMOs, no pesticides or unnatural practices. They’re not factory farmed. Small batch farms produce ingredients the way nature intended."

3. They look and taste better
"Your pork will be red, the way it’s supposed to be, with nice marbling. The animals are raised with love. Cherokee purple tomatoes aren’t all going to be the same shape or size – but they’re sure going to have a more superior and 'true' flavor because they are grown naturally rather than being modified for shipping and durability."

4. They share their history
"Every ingredient has a story and knowing where it comes from and when it’s grown can help you understand the cuisine of the region. Many of these ingredients are only found in certain areas, therefore are big influences on the culinary culture or 'flavor' you expect from that area.

Learning where you food comes from helps you understand more about the traditions, the environment and the climate of the area."

5. Using them supports your small farmers
"When you buy these ingredients from a small producer, you’re going to cultivate a relationship with that farmer. You will know about their growing practices and feel good about what you are serving your family and guests. Support your local farmer and they are going to support you."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Gardening • Heirloom • Make • Think

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. faith in jesus christ

    An all round great article!!!

    November 17, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  2. Josh

    Y'know, I'm sorry. I'm probably going to offend someone saying this, but this organic, non-GMO, not mechanized food production stuff is just a bunch of bullsh!t. You CANNOT feed the population that way. IT WON'T WORK. You can't manage enough yield per acre. I guess you could cut down all the trees and turn the entire country into a farm, but that won't do for the new-age hippy ideal either would it? Look, I'm sorry, I know I'm going a little far with this, but it's really about supply and demand. Either you a.) have to increase supply, or b.) decrease demand. To do a.) you either have to increase yield, which means all the modern farming/livestock techniques, or it means increasing numbers, which means more land. To do b.) you have to kill off a significant portion of the population. Now, I don't mind that so much, but those selected might object, no?

    July 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • SnakePlissken

      Maybe 'the population' is the problem. It is NOT a naturally-supported population, it is supported by chemical manipulation and other un-natural means, therefore, it is NOT a naturally-supported population. Throwing several billions lbs of potash (fertilizer) on fileds every year sounds like a good idea, but what happens when you have mined out all the potash, etc.. Whether by God or by Nature, the natural balance and diversity that had been reached after billions of years of biospheric development maybe wasn't as deficient as the agro-industry thinks it was.

      January 16, 2014 at 11:31 am |
  3. Bea V Elliott

    @JCreliever@ Julia GErson – I think it "seems" contradictory because it is! No matter how "red" they want to make the pig meat... Or how "happy" they desire it all to be – There's no such thing as "humane" meat and no such thing as "loving" who you breed to deliberately kill. That's totally self deceiving willful ignorance. ~peace~

    July 19, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Scott

      The Native Americans would disagree with you.

      January 7, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  4. Cole

    Some nice thoughts, but backed up with frivolous info.

    1. Many are disappearing because they're inferior as a food product, almost always in terms of production and sometimes in taste. A lot of produce, say the Haas avocado, emerged and dominate the market because they're simply superior than the other variety out there.

    2. "Nature intended." You're kidding, right? Nature "intended" for plants to be planted in rows and for them to grow in non-indigenous areas? As for it being better, BS. You can't claim that genetic modification is harmful (when consumed) and pesticides used in commercial farming has minimal impact (again, when consumed, as the environmental impact is another argument).

    3. Much too subjective. Some people like grass fed beef while others don't. Also, there ain't anything natural about domesticated meat from any farm. Unless you're hunting animals in the wild, you're not eating "as nature intended."

    4. Tomatoes aren't native to Europe, and yet those San Marzanos... Don't even get me started on the stuff that's being developed in California.

    5. Makes more sense to go with the provider that best matches your needs and tastes. And, I see plenty of local produce in supermarkets these days. So... I shouldn't support the local farmers that sell produce to a large retailer?

    July 19, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  5. JH

    Click on the Slow Food Ark of Taste link in the article-there you will find the list of endangered ingredients.

    July 19, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  6. Rich in CO

    I still think eating polar bears would be good for the species, if they're tasty. It worked for the bison. Of course, herding polar bears would have unique challenges....

    July 19, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  7. Troy from S'port

    I love the idea of preserving the variety that naturally exist in vegetables. Mass farming and genetic engineering has pushes many varieties of foods out of the ecosystem. Corn is just one example; there are 10 times as many varieties of corn grown just to our south in Mexico.
    I do have to say, however, that I completely detest when people create new buzz words like "heritage ingrediants".

    July 18, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  8. George S.

    This is the dumbest article I have ever read. What is the point of this. What a waste of time!

    July 18, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • Matt

      What kind of fukwittery do you base that statement on?

      July 19, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  9. dunntnt

    Any info about food can always be helpful it might be something you know about and sometime not , but u can always learn even if it"s from a child ,I think it was a Great article .

    July 18, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  10. Goat Bottoms

    Funny... With love, but then kill it... You've got a funny definition of love. Do you beat your wife to show her love?

    July 18, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Dover

      Only when she doesn't listen

      July 18, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  11. c davis

    Soby's is wonderful thanks to this chef. Thank you so very much.

    July 18, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  12. MCR

    More specific examples of endangered ingredients would have been useful here. This article seems to have been written with the assumption that the reader already knows what ingredients are endangered. I don't.

    July 18, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Frenchy

      I think the author is referring to non-GMO's (follow the heirloom vege's link CNN provided) and naturally raised beef, pork and poultry– the ones that aren't given antibiotics, growth hormones, feed mixed with animal by-products and are allowed to see the light of day more than twice in their lifetime.

      July 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  13. Dover

    Wow, I almost missed this article. Just got done with dinner. Northern right whale sushi, spotted owl confit, scrambled Kemp's ridley sea turtle eggs and a salad. Great article.

    July 18, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  14. Sayward

    I love to cook with and eat local grown ingredients like mentioned in the article. However, most times, when you can find them at a local Farmer's Market or such, they are extremely expensive. Unless you grow them for your own use, the average person can't afford them. (Think organic food prices!) And, yes, I agree, the article gave very little to no info about "endangered" ingredients. Would have been nice to have a list, also where telling where you could get seeds for planting.

    July 18, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Frenchy

      There's a nice family-owned seed business that deals strictly with non-GMO's. They are from Missouri, but recently bought an old seed company in Connecticut. They even offer free shipping with orders over $5. Try the Wethersfield Red Onion packs next spring–they grow fairly large and are very tasty, plus the history behind this onion is pretty interesting.

      July 18, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  15. Will

    When I think of "endangered" ingredients I think of things like Chilean seabass which is hugely popular and is endangered because it is being fished faster than the population can replenish. The chef here appears to be using to term to discuss items that are in danger of falling off the culinary map because few people have heard of or care about them. This is similar to the way wooden wagon wheels are "endangered" because people are not having them made for their covered wagons anymore.

    July 18, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Amanda

      That's not the point at all. The point is, most people in our society have no idea what REAL food tastes like. Even those who buy fresh food from the supermarket and cook at home. Those hot house tomatoes? They taste like paste compared to a tomato grown in your own backyard. And don't even get me started on eggs. That anemic, thin-shelled thing you buy in the grocery store is nothing compared to an egg from a chicken that was actually raised on pasture. They yolk is nearly orange and they are so delicious. Even my cakes rise higher when I use them.

      To compare this food to a wagon wheel is to just parrot all the propaganda from the factory farm lobby. Food is food. No matter how its produced or how it's adulterated. And cheaper always means better. Even though it's the fuel for your body.

      Food is just like anything else. You get what you pay for. You pay for cheap food, you get cheap health.

      July 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
      • Suzanne

        Amen sistah!

        July 23, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  16. Coop

    How bout a list of ingredients that are endangered and worth working into our culinary practices.. I agree very little info in the article

    July 18, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • JH

      Click on the Slow Food Ark of Taste link in the article, and there is the list.

      July 19, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  17. JCreliever@ Julia GErson

    It does seem rather contradictory doesn't it ?

    July 18, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  18. Julia GErson

    "Your pork will be red, the way it’s supposed to be, with nice marbling. The animals are raised with love."

    Well, not THAT much love. They do KILL them.

    July 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Frenchy

      Love does hurt sometimes.

      July 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
      • Chef C

        Love tastes even better smoked and cured.

        July 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  19. rachel

    This is the dumbest thing I've ever read. Congrats, I think I'm through with CNN.

    July 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • JBJingles@rachel

      Don't let the door hit you on the way out...I don't think you will be missed for your insightful contribution to this site.

      July 18, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
      • Dave

        That is rude. Just because someone thought an article with almost no information wasn't that good doesn't mean you should be a jerk about it.

        July 18, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
      • RichardHead

        Gee Dave,I was thinking the same thing about your reply.

        July 18, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • dunntnt

      do u cook

      July 18, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • MalaDee@rachel

      Why is it dumb? Because you don't have the time or the inclination to try some of his suggestions? That doesn't make it, or CNN, dumb. That makes you ignorant, inflexible and myopic.

      Have a nice day.

      July 19, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  20. mjh

    am i to presume the taste of real food will be readily available with a taste from the past!

    July 18, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  21. mjh

    the idea of preserving extinct edible delacasies and growing them organicly brings a orchastrated line of healthy products to the table for many cooks looking to get away from genecticly engineered foods; cooks from virtualley all four corners of the planet will be waiting in anticipation!

    July 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  22. JBJingles

    I give Chef Shaun a 1, 2, 3, 4, FIVE! Great article and I don't think I've ever really thought about extinct ingrediants, before now that is. Thank you!

    July 18, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
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