Benne Seed Origi-Saro

By D. J. Costantino | Shannon Sturgis

By

D. J. Costantino
Shannon Sturgis
Heirloom Squash, Squash Jus, Fermented Benne Seed Paste, Sliced Green Tomatoes, and Toasted Benne Seeds
Heirloom Squash, Squash Jus, Fermented Benne Seed Paste, Sliced Green Tomatoes, and Toasted Benne Seeds

At his Plate Sale pop-up, Mike Sheats cooks the food of the African American South through the lens of his McCrady’s and Staplehouse training. Thumbing through American Food: The Gastronomic Story, he stumbled upon ogiri-saro, a fermented melon or squash seed paste from Sierra Leone. Sheats bends it toward the South using benne seeds from Anson Mills. He boils the seeds to a mush before straining the paste and setting it out to dry. He then wraps the mass in banana leaves, salts the leaves, and ferments the packages at room temperature for five to seven days. “It’s a powerful smell, but that’s how you know when it’s ready,” says Sheats. The resulting product is sweet and nutty with ample funk and umami, lending itself to curries, soups, and stews. “A little goes a long way.” 

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