Benne Oil Admitted to Ark of Taste

benneoilBenne oil, the South’s second-favorite choice for frying until the late 19th century, has been granted a place aboard Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.

The international program seeks to protect and draw attention to foods which are tasty, regionally-important and endangered. Other South Carolina products already admitted to the virtual Ark include Bradford watermelon and Carolina Gold rice.

The nomination form, submitted by the state’s Slow Food regional governor, claims benne “was grown in all great Carolina kitchen gardens, in particular in the forbidden subsistence gardens of African slaves.” Benne oil was commercially produced beginning in the early 1800s; its flavor impressed Thomas Jefferson, but its success was stemmed by the introduction of refined cottonseed oil, a flavorless and economical repurposing of cotton industry waste. Continue reading

Bradford Watermelon Joins Slow Food Ark of Taste

ark-prod-bradford-watermelon

Carolina Gold Rice Foundation

For a late-summer month or so, Bradford watermelons were showing up seemingly everywhere in Charleston. And now the heirloom melon has shown up in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste catalog, a global list of “delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction.”

“The Bradford watermelon is a plant with a beautiful flavor and a beautiful history, and I am thrilled to see it included on the Ark of Taste,” says Megan Larmer, manager of biodiversity programs for Slow Food USA. “Foods like this watermelon are at risk of disappearing because they don’t fit into the factory farming system.”

More than 200 U.S. foods have been added to the Ark, including Ossabaw Island hogs, Carolina Gold rice; American chestnuts and traditional cane syrup. Anyone can nominate an item to the Ark, but only foods deemed endangered, good, clean and fair (meaning it’s not a trademarked or commercial product) are allowed aboard. Continue reading