Our Biggest Year for Variety Tasting Events

Posted on Tuesday, 6 December 2022 under Stories

Variety tasting events give farmers and attendees the opportunity to sample several varieties within a crop to raise awareness of the crop and the distinction between varieties. While public awareness of varietal distinctiveness is prevalent in foods like apples and potatoes, it lacks in crops like carrots, rutabagas, and radicchio.

This year, we held more variety tasting events than we ever have before!

We use variety tastings to help us evaluate crops as part of the Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement Project (CANOVI). This year we had 48 farmers across BC join our trials and over 150 farmers across the nation. Our 2022 CANOVI trials focused on carrots, radicchio, and rutabaga.

Tasting events come in various forms. One of our favourite methods is using the SeedLinked platform, which allows us to capture ratings of different traits on a 1-5 scale. Traits we ask about might include sweetness, bitterness, texture, spiciness, and overall flavour.

Other tasting events might look simpler, such as voting for your favourite variety by putting a bean in a jar or simply writing down notes with pen and paper.

For crops like rutabaga, we are still learning about description words we can use for different varieties. Through our tasting trials, we have discovered that some rutabagas have more of a turnip flavour, and others more of a radish flavour. Knowing the different flavour profiles between varieties will help us better promote these crops and suggest the best culinary practices.

With delicious carrots provided by one of the farmers doing the variety trials on Saltspring Island, we sought the help of participants’ taste buds in Saltspring, Nanaimo, Duncan and Victoria. With five varieties in each orange carrot and red carrot trials, tasters got to vote for their favourites. The good news: the CANOVI breeding line’s flavour is getting close to or on par with the hybridized varieties.

Our event this year was the Bitter Together Radicchio tasting at Burdock & Co. We had 55 participants who enjoyed different chef preparations, including a radicchio ravioli, salad, and kebab. We also had a treviso radicchio tasting at the event. Treviso radicchio is dark magenta in colour with an oval shape.

Our Lower Mainland Seed Security Coordinator, Gillian, made it down to Portland for a Radicchio Symposium. Hosted over two days by the Culinary Breeding Network the event consisted of a symposium with educational presentations for farmers with subjects ranging from the history of radicchio to proper storage techniques. The tasting event that followed saw farmers and chefs collaborate to showcase the different varieties and types of radicchio for the public.