2013 Squash Festival: Squashtastic

Heirloom Squash Display

Heirloom Squash DisplayThe fifth annual Seed Savers Exchange Harvest Festival incorporated a celebration of squash with all the fun activities everyone has come to expect at the autumn event. The versatile and dynamic Cucurbita genus offers so much more than just pumpkins and zucchini, and the SSE crew was eager to show it off. Along with a beautiful heirloom squash display, attendees enjoyed a variety of gourmet squash soups, workshops on saving squash seed, a lecture on the origins and evolution of squash, and a talk on the culinary uses of different squash varieties. Pressing apples for ciderFestival-goers also helped press apple cider, sampled a variety of apples from the Historic Orchard, learned to plant and grow garlic, enjoyed a guided edible and medicinal plant identification walk, and learned to make broomcorn brooms. Turnout for the event was great despite the wet and cool weather, which was decided by all to be ideal conditions for the soup cook-off.

The Harvest Soup Cook-off is quickly becoming a highlight for this annual event, where chefs from some of the most respected local restaurants enter a soup for attendees to vote on. In the days prior to the festival each chef was given a box of Potimarron squash, and each one showed up Saturday with a delicious and unique soup for the contest. After the ballots were cast and the votes were tallied, Chef Tom Skold of Albert’s Restaurant was declared winner of this year’s cook-off.

Winner of the soup cook-offEntering his Harvest Bean and Squash Soup, the chef admitted he had not handled the rare Potimarron winter squash before. He said of it, "With such a brilliant, colorful squash, I was really excited to use it," adding, "this is a transitional time where you can still get your fresh produce out of the garden as well as your fall crops. Everyone is interested in eating this time of year, so it’s really a good time to be a chef." Below you'll find Chef Tom Skold’s winning soup recipe.

Download all of the mouth-watering squash soup recipes here.

Potimarron Squash

Harvest Bean and Squash Soup


¾ cup Anasazi beans, soak overnight water to cover salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste 4 cups Potimarron (or butternut) squash, peeled, large dice 6 medium tomatoes, cored, halved 6 tablespoons olive oil 1 ancho chili pepper 8 cloves garlic, sliced 1 white onion, large dice 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock 3 tablespoons rosemary, chopped ¾ cup hard cheese (such as parmesan), grated


1. Drain the soaking water from the beans, cover in fresh water, bring to a boil with a pinch of salt, and simmer until thoroughly cooked.

2. Preheat oven to 425F. Place the squash and tomato halves on separate baking sheets and drizzle them each with 2 T. olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash and tomatoes 45 minutes at 425F and reserve, cutting the tomatoes in large pieces when cool.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Toast the ancho chili on all sides and remove; when cooled seed and chop. Add the garlic to the same oil, toast golden brown and remove. Add the onions to the same oil and cook until caramelized.

4. Add chicken stock, rosemary, cooked beans, reserved squash, tomatoes, chilis, and garlic to the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Puree part of the soup to thicken, season to taste and serve topped with the grated cheese.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

Healthy Food Systems with Dan Carmody

This year's Harvest Festival was filled with presentations and workshops from SSE staff as well as two guest speakers presenting as part of our Harvest Lecture Series. Dan Carmody, president of the Detroit Eastern Market, spoke in the final hour of the event, describing the history and future of Detroit, the market, and the larger narrative of regionally-based food systems. Dan's presentation discusses issues with current food systems (energy use, nutrition, subsidies, distribution) as well as strategies for reform. Using the Eastern Market as an example, he describes the potential for local food systems to bring about transformative economic, social, and ecological change - particularly in urban areas.

The audio below contains the entirety of Dan's lecture: from Detroit's long decline to its recent rebirth; from the surging community gardening movement to the rebuilding of a local food processing infrastructure.

The Great Famine, Green Acres and Detroit

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc01greenacresanddetroit.mp3]

An Effect Greater Than Carpet Bombing

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc02aneffectgreaterthancarpetbombing.mp3]

This Narrative of Rebirth and Detroit Eastern Market

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc03thisnarrativeofrebirth.mp3]

Offering Food and Conviviality, Food Systems and Energy

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc04sellingfoodandconviviality.mp3]

A Host of Problems, Favorite Dichotomies and Local Food Production

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc05ahostofproblems.mp3]

Department of Defense and Rebuilding a Regional-Based Food System

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc06rebuildingregionalfoodsystems.mp3]

The Community Gardening Movement and Our Future Food Systems (Excluding Underwater Cities of Tomorrow)

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc07ourfuturefoodsystems.mp3]

Eastern Market Capital Plan, Pickles and Custard Pie

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc08ourcapitalplan.mp3]

$20 Million Worth of Meat and Pieces of the Food System

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc09piecesofthefoodsystem.mp3]

Graffiti, Bloody-Run Creek, Food Access and Engagement

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc10graffitiandfoodaccess.mp3]

This Country Deserves More Than Two Hams and How We Feed Cities

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc11howwefeedcities.mp3]

Food and Local Economies, Craft Beer and Furgency

[audio: http://blog.seedsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/dc12foodandlocaleconomies.mp3]

Lectures were supported by a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Antique apple varieties on display at Seed Savers Exchange’s Harvest Festival

Kerr, Apple 101If you love apples, then you won’t want to miss the Harvest Festival at Seed Savers Exchange on Saturday, October 13, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Come learn that there is more to American apple diversity than Red Delicious and all her modern cousins.

Bring your seeds saved from this year’s harvest for the seed swap. Sample antique apple varieties and vote in the Harvest Soup Cook-off featuring area chefs from La Rana, McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita, Oneota Community Food Cooperative, and QUARTER/quarter.

Other events taking place at the Seed Savers Exchange Harvest Festival—tours, seed swap, apple pressing, and hayrides—begin at noon.  Children’s activities—squash squisher, pumpkin carving & seed saving, seed packet making and collecting, pillow sack threshing, and a garden scavenger hunt—will be happening all day.

Harvest Lecture Series

This year Seed Savers Exchange presents several lectures, including two speakers who are devoted to using healthy food as a tool for developing communities. 

  • 10:00am Seed Savers Exchange—“Seed Processing.” Learn how to process seeds and prepare them for storage.
  • 11:00am Seed Savers Exchange—“Seed Stories.” Hear the stories and learn how some of our favorite varieties came to be. Seed Savers Exchange launched the Collection Origins Research Effort (CORE), a massive sleuthing effort to collect and record complete histories of thousands of varieties.
  • 12:00pm Seed Savers Exchange—“Hard Cider Making.”  Learn various ways hard cider can be made.
  • Emily Torgrimson photo1:00pm Emily Torgrimson—“Sponsoring community meals to support charitable organizations.”  Torgrimson is founder of Eat for Equity, a non-profit that stages community meals and uses the donations to fund the work of charitable organizations. Featured on the TODAY Show, Eat for Equity has branches in Minneapolis, Boston, Portland, Washington D.C. and Phoenix.
  • Dan Carmody photo3:00 pm Dan Carmody—"Developing Regional Food Systems." Carmody is the President of the Eastern Market Corporation, Detroit, Michigan, where he leads the non-profit charged with converting one of the nation’s oldest and largest public markets into the nation’s most comprehensive healthy metropolitan food hub.

Seed Saving Workshop

For the garden enthusiast, a full-day workshop on the fundamentals of seed saving will be held on Sunday, October 14, from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. This includes an introduction to seed saving, saving biennials, wet and dry processing and storing seeds. Participants will get hands-on seed saving experience. Preregistration is required. Cost is $40 and includes a box lunch (Seed Savers Exchange members receive a 10% discount). Register here.

Located six miles north of Decorah, Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and distribution of heirloom seeds.  Seed Savers Exchange maintains a collection of thousands of open pollinated varieties, making it one of the largest non-governmental seed banks in the United States.  For information visit www.seedsavers.org.


For more information contact:

Shannon Carmody Seed Savers Exchange shannon@seedsavers.org 563-387-5630