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CALS Celebrates the Tastier Side of Science

Squash
Squash

Nearly 200 Cornellians were treated to a taste of collaboration between the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, and Blue Hill restaurant on Nov. 19.

The event, held at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York, showcased farm-to-table cuisine that incorporates ingredients bred by CALS plant breeding and genetics assistant professor Michael Mazourek.

Mazourek is a leading innovator in the movement to breed better tasting vegetables that encourage people to eat more nutritious food. Since 2009, he has been collaborating with Blue Hill chef Dan Barber to create an array of healthy, innovative, and delectable dishes that are served at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the much-lauded farm-to-table restaurant.

The event, which was a joint effort between CALS and the Northeast Corridor Alumni Affairs and Development office, allowed guests to literally enjoy the fruit—and vegetables—of Barber and Mazourek’s labor.

Dishes included braised lamb neck with Honeynut squash puree, Ricotta gnocchi with pea shoots, and poached shrimp with Mazourek pepper sauce, all served up in a red-lit room that gave the occasion a unique Cornell flavor. A series of interactive learning stations allowed the guests—primarily Cornell alumni, friends, and students—to speak with Stone Barns farmers about relevant topics such as soil, pea plants, and cross-pollination.

Michael Mazourek
Michael Mazourek discusses his plant breeding work with the Honeynut squash during a event Nov. 19 at Stone Barns. Photo by Sirin Samman.

Mazourek was on hand to discuss his work with Stone Barns and Blue Hill, notably his star vegetable, the Honeynut squash, and he also explained the collaboration behind Cornell’s Mellow Yellow Greenhouse, which is modeled on the greenhouse at Stone Barns. This facility allows Cornell students to engage in organic crop research and production right on campus.

“Food has an important role in our lives both for how it brings us together and how it links to important issues related to our health and sustainability,” said Mazourek, who  also discussed his work with new breeds of disease-resistant cucumbers and pumpkins. His latest cucumbers are resistant to downy mildew and characterized by earlier maturation and higher yields, and he preserved the seeds that are the basis for jack o’ lantern pumpkins. The pumpkins are resistant to powdery mildew, a disease that threatens a crop worth more than $20 million per year in New York. 

Mazourek was joined by Sara Elliott, director of public programs for Stone Barns, and CALS Dean Kathryn J. Boor, who spoke about the vital role the college plays in supporting farmers, food innovation, and sustainability in New York state, as well as the successful collaboration with Stone Barns.

“We are excited to work with a like-minded partner who is also committed to creating a healthy and sustainable food system,” Boor said. “Together we are leading the way for the rest of the country in terms of creating new vegetables and plants that are disease resistant, resilient, tasty, and nutritious.”

Stone Barns
Cornell alumni learned about the collaboration work between CALS professor Michael Mazourek and Blue Hill chef Dan Barber at an event Nov. 19 at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. Photo by Sirin Samman.