Mazourek a few years
ago to develop a
squash that combined
the rich flavor of a
butternut with the
smooth, dry texture
of Japan’s kabocha
until he had crossbred
a promising new strain,
called Robin’s Koginut.
By Adele Peters
by Mauco Sosa
SWEETGREEN AND ROW 7
Sweetgreen and chef Dan
Barber are rethinking
organic from the ground up.
This fall, an ultra-
flavorful variety of squash
will begin appearing on
the menus of fast-casual
salad chain Sweetgreen.
Called Robin’s Koginut,
the round, bronze-colored vegetable was created by Row 7, a
seven-month-old seed company
cofounded by Blue Hill chef (and
farm-to-table champion) Dan Barber, Cornell University vegetable
breeder Michael Mazourek, and
seed producer Matthew Goldfarb.
The company selectively breeds
squash, beets, potatoes, and other
vegetables to prioritize flavor along
with yield, storability, and disease
resistance—making them easier to
grow organically. Row 7’s seed-to-table approach has earned it fans
among high-end chefs. But the
Sweetgreen partnership broadens
its reach, part of Barber’s ultimate
goal “to get this out of my kitchen
and into the food chain,” he says.
Here’s how he’s getting everyday
consumers to embrace his produce.
With Row 7’s
launch earlier this
saw an opportunity
to embrace “the next
level of transparency”
in food, says cofounder
and co-CEO Nicolas
Jammet. The chain
bought more than
100,000 seeds (with
an expected yield of
236,000 pounds), and
in May, worked with
its farmer network to
plant them on six farms
across the country,
offering Row 7 the
first large-scale test
of how the squash
performs in different
climates and soils.
Over the summer, Sweetgreen’s culinary
team began planning a dish to showcase the squash.
Barber recommended a simple preparation—
roasted with salt and pepper—to demonstrate
how good the squash tastes on its own. That’s
part of the company’s mission, he says: “to write
a recipe at the breeding level.”
Mazourek’s team planted and
harvested the squash, and began
testing it for flavor, nutrition, and
other factors, including resistance to
pests and shelf stability. The Koginut
excelled. Barber was also drawn to
its shape, which could double as a
serving bowl. The pair began sharing
the seeds with partner farmers.
A test kitchen at Sweetgreen’s
headquarters, in Culver City, California, will begin serving the Koginut
dish to customers in October, allowing the culinary team to make any
last-minute tweaks to the recipe.
In November, the dish will appear on
the menu at all of Sweetgreen’s
89 locations nationwide.