By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4) – Restaurants across the state including in downtown are highlighting ingredients facing extinction in specialty cocktails through Saturday.
The move is meant to help bring awareness to food preservation and other efforts lead by the nonprofit Slow Food USA.
“It is from the flower of Hawaii, and it grows out of the rock of lava,” said Susan Wieser, senior restaurant manager at Urban Farmer. Their drink includes Ohi’a Lehua Honey. “It creates this really distinct amazing flavor that is super creamy and super floral.”
Urban Farmer is already a restaurant trying to provide sustainable food options to its customers with microgreens next to its windows and their own pollination on the roof above their building.
It is one of many businesses hoping to educate the public about the Ark of Taste by Slow Food USA. More than 200 items in the U.S. have made that catalog since 1996. There are 4,000 worldwide.
“It has to be good, fair, clean, and endangered,” said Wieser. “I think when people think of extinction they think of animal extinction and things like that.”
The Colorado Orange Apple dates back the 1800s, and at its peak in 1908, there were 3,200 acres of orchards growing that fruit, according to Slow Food USA. But as of 2016, there is only one tree surviving that can still grow this breed of apple.
An effort to save the fruit has led to between 50 and 60 new trees growing in the state, but none of the new plants have yielded any fruit. Like the apple, there are beans, potatoes, cattle, and sheep that come from the list’s “mountain” region including Colorado.
“When it comes to foods like this, it is a matter of making sure we have fair farming practices.”
Whether it is a type of apple or honey, access to these more unique type of ingredients have dropped as stores and restaurants prefer more common options. Slow Food USA tries to connect farmers and growers with chefs to help bring more attention to these dying food products. The goal is to help generate more interest from consumers and diners so these items will survive.
For the second year in a row, Denver will host Slow Food Nations this summer. The free festival educates the public about issues like food preservation.
Some of the items on the Ark of Taste list will be available for visitors that weekend. The event runs July 13 – 15 and organizers expect to attract up to 25,000 people. There are also ticketed workshops on a range of topics scheduled for the event.
A Taste of Slow Food Nations, which includes dozens of restaurants including Urban Farmer, offering unique drinks with those endangered ingredients runs until June 30.
“As a restaurant like ours, being able to support those local farms and local communities is really important to us because that’s what helps these things stay in production,” said Wieser. “It would be sad to see those things disappear.”