Over the past week, Chefs Collaborative hosted kick-off events for 27 farms and 30 restaurants participating in the 2009 Renewing America’s Food Traditions New England Grow-Out in Providence, RI; Portsmouth, NH; and Cambridge, MA.

We were lucky enough to have great hosts: Matt & Kate Jennings of Farmstead & La Laiterie Bistro in Providence, Evan and Denise Mallet of Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth, and Tony Maws of Craigie on Main in Cambridge.  Through the Grow-Out we’re facilitating partnerships between farmers who have agreed to grow heirloom varieties of New England produce during the 2009 growing season and chefs who are committed to cooking with these varieties and promoting them on their restaurant menus.

We distributed a variety of heirloom seeds to the that will yield traditional New England favorites like the Trophy Tomato, Early Blood Rooted Turnip Beets, Boston Marrow Squash, and Boothby Blond  Cucumbers — and the farmers weren’t the only ones excited by the varieties.  At each of the meetings, participant chefs commented on how honored they felt to work with these varieties and to play a role in supporting agricultural biodiversity.

In these last (let’s hope) days of New England winter, the sweet, earthy smell of Gilfeather Turnip seeds was a kind reminder of spring and all the great flavors that are sure to come.

The Renewing America’s Food Traditions project is an alliance between Slow Food USA, Chefs Collaborative, Gary Nabhan, Ph.D, and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.  Click here to learn more!