UW field days will focus on the flavor of organic vegetables

Aug. 20, 2014

by Bob Mitchell

University of Wisconsin-Madison plant scientists intend to employ some highly sophisticated instruments to evaluate new varieties of organic vegetables: the palates of the people who produce or prepare them for discerning customers.

"We think there is a great opportunity to improve collaboration between researchers working to improve the quality of fresh-market vegetables, farmers who are interested in experimenting with new and potentially higher-value crops, and chefs who are committed to serving fresh local produce," says Julie Dawson, an assistant professor of horticulture whose work focuses on direct-market farms that serve urban and regional markets.

Photo: Closeup of sectioned winter squash

Winter squash will be sampled at the last of three organic vegetable field days. The events will be held Aug. 27, Sept. 22 and Oct. 24.

With that in mind, UW-Madison has scheduled three field days over the next 10 weeks during which farmers, local chefs and anyone else can sample the flavors of a variety of organic vegetable crops. The events will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. on Aug. 27, Sept. 22 and Oct. 24 at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. The events are free and open to the public.

"We have planted trials of several species of vegetables with a particular focus on flavor, selected by UW-Madison plant breeders and seed companies that produce organic seeds for fresh-market growers," Dawson says. "We have beets, carrots, onion, lettuce, hot and sweet peppers, melons, winter squash, cabbage, tomato, potatoes and sweet corn."

Each field day will include a tour of a breeding nursery or major field trial at the station, a look at all of the crops at the station's demonstration gardens, and a taste test.

The following are likely to be sampled at each event:

  • Aug. 27: tomatoes, sweet corn, melons, peppers
  • Sept. 22: beets, carrots, onions, tomatoes
  • Oct. 24: potatoes, winter squash, carrots

The West Madison Agricultural Research Station is located at 8502 Mineral Point Road, about a half mile west of the Beltline (U.S. 12 and 14).