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New UVM Booklet Teaches Growing, Preserving African And Asian Crops

UVM Extension
A new booklet from the UVM Extension is a guide to growing, harvesting and preserving the crops that many new Vermonters from Africa and Asia are used to growing and cooking with in their communities.

The refugee community in Vermont has brought a host of new crops, new foods and new farming techniques with them to state.

The University of Vermont Extension is hoping to get the word out to other growers who might be interested in experimenting with these new crops. In some cases, the crops are available at farmers markets and at specialty ethnic food stores. But some are very hard to find and you may need to know a farmer who is willing to part with a few seeds to grow them.

Alisha Laramee, program specialist with the New Farms for New Americans Program and co-author of the new book Global Food, Local Food: A Guide to Growing, Harvesting and Preserving African and Asian Crops in the Northeast, joined Vermont Edition to talk about the eight crops featured in the booklet.

She says they tried to choose at least one crop from each of the communities she works with in Vermont, including Somalia, Bhutan, Burundi, Sudan, the Congo and Burma. Laramee points out that these crops not only have huge cultural significance to these communities, but also high nutritional value.

The eight crops featured in Global Food, Local Food: A Guide to Growing, Harvesting and Preserving African and Asian Crops in the Northeast:

  • Roselle: very popular with the Burmese community, where it is grown for the greens. Laramee says it can be found in almost any Burmese garden and that other African groups use the flowers to make tea.
  • Bitter Melon: popular with the Bhutanese community. It is a bitter, fast-growing vine that some are looking into using to brew beer.
  • Rice: a staple in all of the communities Laramee works with. There are many varieties but only a few short grain types will grow in the Northeast.
  • Amaranth Greens: eaten by all of the communities Laramee works with. It is a green spinach that is high in lysine and protein.
  • African Eggplant: a green eggplant that is grown on an eggplant tree, which even grows well in the Northeast. This tasty vegetable is also a favorite of the Bhutanese.
  • African Corn: grows more vigorously than sweet corn, but is not sweet in flavor. The book says to roast and toast the corn kernels to get the most flavor.
  • Daikon Radish: a vegetable that's fairly familiar to Vermont, but Laramee says the preservation techniques practiced by the Bhutanese community and featured in the book--pickling and drying the radishes--may be less well-known.
  • Mustard Greens: these greens can be dried or cooked fresh. The Bhutanese commonly ferment and dry mustard greens to keep them through the winter.

Many of these crops were unavailable locally when these farmers first came to Vermont. But through seed-sharing with friends and relatives in other parts of the country, and with the help of the New Farms for New Americans program, these vegetables are now locally available. Laramee hopes more gardners and farmers will try something new this year with the help of this book.
Learn more about Global Food, Local Food: A Guide to Growing, Harvesting and Preserving African and Asian Crops in the Northeast here. There is a book launch party on Monday, April 13 at 3 p.m. in the Lafayette building at UVM.

Patti is an integral part of VPR's news effort and part of the team that created Vermont Edition. As executive producer, Patti supervises the team that puts Vermont Edition on the air every day, working with producers to select and research show ideas, select guests and develop the sound and tone of the program.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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