Slow Food Asheville and Twin Leaf Brewery celebrate the candy roaster squash

GOING BIG: Arthur Cleary holds a giant candy roaster squash that was grown in Madison County. Slow Food Asheville and Twin Leaf Brewery celebrate the heirloom North Georgia candy roaster variety with an Oct. 25 beer release and potluck event. Photo by Cathy Cleary

As breweries all around Asheville celebrate fall with pumpkin beers, Twin Leaf Brewery will serve something a little different this year — North Georgia Candy Roaster Grisette Ale. Slow Food Asheville’s 2018 Heritage Foods Project culminates with an event honoring this large, long-keeping, sweet-fleshed variety of winter squash 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at Twin Leaf.

Each year, the organization chooses a particular heritage or heirloom fruit or vegetable to focus on — these are older cultivars, often isolated to a particular region or community. As SFA board President Abby Landry explains, “The goal is to highlight a food specific to this region and bring awareness to heritage varieties, ways that we can cook with it, ways that we can save the seed for the future and keep this variety around for the future because so many heritage varieties have died out over time.”

Since the project began in 2015, SFA has handed out Nancy Hall sweet potato slips, Cherokee Trail of Tears beans and Cherokee Purple tomato plants for community members and farmers to grow. Volunteers for the project go to local tailgate markets and festivals each spring to give away free seeds and plants as an incentive for community members to get involved and learn about the varieties.

The heritage foods are chosen for different reasons. “We wanted to pick a squash this year,” says Landry. “It’s such a cool plant to see grow and tastes so good.”

Heritage varieties specific to this region tend to be more tolerant of and acclimated to local weather patterns in addition to being resistant to certain types of disease, she explains. This year, the organization distributed almost 4,000 North Georgia candy roaster seeds, Landry reports.

Participants were asked to plant the seeds and invited to bring back a squash this fall to go into Twin Leaf’s special brew. When the candy roaster beer rolls out on Oct. 25, the group will hold a potluck showcasing dishes made with the squash. “It’s free and open to the public. People can bring a dish if they want to, but if you want to just come and hang out and try the beer, you can do that, too,” says Landry.

Part of the proceeds from sales of the beer will go to a 4-H program in Cherokee that works with youths and supports programs around heritage gardening. This spring, SFA donated seeds to the group for its Three Sisters garden, which features heritage varieties of corn, beans and squash. The money raised from sales of the candy roaster beer will help expand this garden next year.

Landry hopes the gathering at Twin Leaf Brewery will help SFA spread the word about this and other projects the organization facilitates. “I think we’re going to pull in a different type of audience by having it at the brewery,” she says. “We might have people there that have never heard of SFA, and it’s a good organization for people to know about.”

WHAT: Slow Food Asheville’s North Georgia Candy Roaster  Celebration
WHERE: Twin Leaf Brewery, 144 Coxe Ave. slowfoodasheville.com/events
WHEN: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25

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About Cathy Cleary
Cathy Cleary works with gardens and food. Her cookbooks include "The West End Bakery Cafe Cookbook" and upcoming "The Southern Harvest Cookbook." Find her blog at thecookandgarden.com She is the co-founder of non-profit FEAST Asheville, providing edible education to kids. Follow me @cathyclearycook

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