Scrumptious Pantry grew out of my passion for food with a sense of place, and heirloom varietals with their amazing variety of flavors and their strong personalities are our constant inspiration. Our food tells stories: stories of people, of culinary heritage, of precious seeds, of biodiversity. It tells these stories in every bite.
We craft packaged food based on heirloom food values: food that captures the ingredients’ character and preserves their integrity. In order to achieve that, we start from the ground up. By partnering with family farms that follow time-honored, sustainable farming practices, our vegetables burst with flavor. Together with our farmers, we are steadily increasing the amount of heirloom varietals we grow, as we all learn again how to cultivate these treasured varietals successfully on a commercial scale.
In the kitchen we are fiercely protective of the varietal’s personality, carefully transforming it using heirloom recipes as inspiration. We want to live in a world with rich biodiversity, so we are strong supporters of the Non-GMO movement and source organic ingredients.
Our goal is to exclusively use heirloom varietals in all our products by 2018, making a long-term contribution to the preservation of historic vegetable and fruit varieties. We call it the Heirloom Revival Project – Growing the future from the treasures of the past!
Please check the Q&A below for more detailed info on our heirloom focus and our mission. If you have any questions, you can reach me by emailing lee(at)scrumptiouspantry(dot) com, or by calling me directly at (301) 979-9751.
Thank you for your support
Lee Greene, Founder
Question: Why are not all of your products certified organic?
Answer: In order to be sold with the organic seal, we need to use 95% certified organic ingredients and manufacture our food in a USDA organic certified kitchen. Currently, not all our kitchens are certified and not all our produce is either.
For our produce, we work with family farms that have strict sustainability protocols, but not all are certified USDA organic. Some are certified naturally grown or in transition and awaiting certification, others are practicing IPM (integrated pest management). Growing organically takes time and experience, as does growing heirloom varietals. Many heirloom varieties have lower resistance and lower yields than hybrid crops, so asking our farmers to grow those varietals and then grow them organically right away is a risk not many farmers can afford to take.
When it comes to secondary ingredients for which we do not personally know the manufacturers – such as vinegar, sugar and spices - we only use products that are certified USDA organic.
Please check our ingredient statements to learn which ingredients are certified organic and which are not.
Q: What is an heirloom?
A: The word “heirloom” describes “a family treasure, passed down through generations”. Your grandmother’s kitchen spoon is an heirloom, and your grandfather’s pocket watch. In the produce world, people started using it to describe vegetable and fruit varieties whose seeds still represent the varietals in their original form and which have been kept alive by generations of farmers. At Scrumptious Pantry, we define as an heirloom as a variety that is open-pollinated and was introduced before 1945.
Q: But did farmers not always breed varieties for better traits?
A: Yes, farmers have always been selectively breeding: by choosing the strongest plant or the one with the best yield, they developed seed stock that was best adapted to their land, its microclimate and soil conditions and promised a plentiful harvest. Many heirlooms have been improved this way.
Q: So what is the difference between an heirloom, a hybrid and a GMO variety?
A: Hybrids are bred from two genetically different parents in order to create a new variety with specific traits. For example, a plant with exceptional yield is cross-bred with one that has superior disease resistance. While hybrids are usually the result of a lab situation, it is a process that could have occurred in nature.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the other hand cross absolutely unrelated species, nothing that could ever happen in a natural setting. Example: in order to create a tomato with frost resistance, scientists inserted genes from the Winter flounder (note: no GMO tomatoes are currently commercially cultivated).
Q: Why are heirlooms better than hybrids or GMO crops?
A: Our rich heritage of produce varietals is the core asset of biodiversity – and our biodiversity is at risk with the advancement of hybrid and GMO crops. In the US, we have lost 90% of historic fruit and vegetable varieties since the 1800s. An example: from originally over 7,000 apple varieties, less than 100 are still cultivated in the US. Most of those are on the brink of extinction, as the quest for uniformity, yield, and easy distribution has dramatically reduced the amount of varietals that are cultivated on a commercial scale: four (!) varietals only account for 90% of the world apple trade.
For this commercial progress, we sacrificed flavor and nutritional value. Tomatoes are now bred so they can be shipped green and ripen on a truck – flavor stopped being the tomato’s raison d’etre. Research also points to a loss of nutritional value. Plus, a loss of biodiversity also increases food insecurity – remember the potato famine in Ireland? That happened because Irish farmers were predominately growing one varietal and were unable to fight the one pest that attacked it.
Q: So why wait till 2018 to use all heirloom ingredients in your products?
A: Most heirloom varieties have disappeared from commercial cultivation. Farmers have been growing more hybrids for better resistance, yield and shelflife. As a result, the know-how to grow heirloom varieties is very limited.
It takes between three to five years for a farmer to learn how to successfully grow an heirloom at a commercial scale, as our example of the Beaver Dam Pepper shows.
We’ve been working closely with seed companies, gardeners and market farmers to identify potential varietals, and with our farmers to conduct field tests before asking farmers to take the leap of growing to scale.
2018 is a realistic timeframe given the scale of the project.