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Sweet Pepper Marmalade: From the Blue Bin to Slices of Toast

Picture a colorful confetti of sweet pepper marmalade, one including a high ratio of chopped red, yellow, orange, and green peppers. The texture is amazing, somewhere between jelly and marmalade, with a flavor that’s so incredibly versatile that it can be used on cheese boards, in martinis—and, of course, on slices of your toast.

This sweet pepper marmalade is a collaboration among the Culinary Vegetable Institute; its parent company, The Chef’s Garden; and Emily Hutton, the founder and owner of the Prospect Jam Company.

Here is what Emily had to say about the partnership shortly after she had jarred the first batch of this delicious marmalade. “I’ve been a fan of The Chef’s Garden for a long time,” she said, “and I was eager to work with their products. It fits in well with our company mission, which is ‘Inspiring intentionally unique experiences through the craft of seasonal preservation while promoting creativity and collaboration.’”

The finest of marmalades must be made in small batches, which is exactly how it’s made at the Prospect Jam Co.

Brainstorming—and the Blue Bin

So, how did we get from the peppers being regeneratively farmed in the rich, healthy soil of The Chef’s Garden to the jars of sweet marmalade on people’s shelves?

One part of the equation was brainstorming, such as that taking place between Chefs Jamie Simpson and Tristan Acevedo from the Culinary Vegetable Institute. Their goal was two-fold: to help reduce food waste while coming up with new and creative ways to use the farm-fresh produce from The Chef’s Garden. “We love partnering with people who can work with us to transform ingredients into something new and enjoyable,” Tristan says, “and we love the products from Prospect Jam Co.” So, this collaboration is a true win/win.

Then there’s the blue bin. Although much of the product grown at the farm is the perfect size, shape, and hue that chefs and home cooks want, some of the crops may have a little bend or bump, be a bit bigger or smaller than others, or come with a unique blend of colors.

In other words, they’re regeneratively farmed for the maximum of flavor and nutrition, but they don’t look exactly like the others. (If you’re a fan of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you can compare this produce to the sweet and loving—but polka dotted—elephant living on the Island of Misfit Toys, or his friend Charlie—not Jack—in the Box.)

“One evening,” Jamie recalls, “I spent about 15 minutes sorting through the blue bin for sweet peppers. I washed them off and shipped them to Emily. From that came 200 jars of our sweet pepper marmalade. This created a wonderful marmalade, one that allows us to sell a pepper product long after the ones in the field are gone for the season. That allows us to extend the season, while celebrating our philosophy of food waste management.”

This approach towards agricultural waste management also allows us to transform delicious produce into teas and vinegars, soaps, hand salves and more.

“Next up,” Jamie says, “is when I’ll use the stems and tops of our ginger and turmeric plants to create batches of tea.”

Farmer Lee Jones applauds the innovativeness of Chef Jamie and Chef Tristan. “They embody what it means,” he says, “to turn lemons into lemonade. It’s never easy to precisely predict the quantities needed of a particular crop for a season, and that’s truer in 2020 and 2021 than ever before. Yet, they found ways to use our sweet peppers in ways to create a beautiful product.”

So, he notes, when you buy jars of our marmalades—whether pepper, carrot, beet, or tomato, or a tasty trio—you’re supporting our efforts to fight food waste in flavorful ways. “Plus,” Farmer Lee adds, “for people able to financially swing it right now, you can also donate a box of fresh vegetables to people in need.”

One of his most heartwarming holiday experiences in 2020, he says, is when he delivered these donated boxes to the Second Harvest Food Bank and a woman working there wanted to open a box before he left. “She was actually in tears,” he says, “when seeing the quality of the fresh vegetables.”

Looking for fresh vegetables for your family or as a gift? Here’s our Best of the Season Box.

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