Good Taste Gets Bottled: Butternut Squash Seed Oil to Hit the Market

Newswise — What's a farmer to do with the pounds of waste generated when his butternut squash is processed? One New York farmer had the brainstorm to contact the New York State Food Venture Center (FVC) at Cornell. The result: A new product is soon to be marketed -- a nutty-tasting butternut squash seed oil that is perfect for salad dressings, marinades and for sautéing.Butternut squash seed oil bottles

It all started two years ago when Dave Schwartz of John B. Martin and Sons Farm in Brockport, N.Y., contacted FVC, located at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, asking for help with what to do with the squash waste his farm produces.

The farm is one of the region's largest growers of butternut squash. Workers harvest the squash, store it in refrigerated warehouses and process it for market as needed, generating a significant amount of waste, including seed.

The FVC evaluated options using funding provided by the New York Farm Viability Institute's Agriculture Innovation Center Program, which focuses on adding value to agricultural products.

"The farm sent 600 pounds of seeds and peels, and as a result of some trials we did, several potential products were developed," said Herb Cooley, a technician at FVC. "One of the trials involved separating the seed from the rest of the waste and drying it. We then tried roasting some of the seed and pressing that in our oil press, which yielded an excellent result."

Cooley suggested that Schwartz contact the Stony Brook Cookie Co., which is located at Cornell's Agriculture and Food Technology Park in Geneva, to see if the squash seed oil might have possibilities as an ingredient in the company's cookie recipes.

"While the oil never did materialize as a cookie ingredient, we did recognize the opportunity to market it as a stand-alone product for the specialty food market," said Stony Brook co-owner Greg Woodworth. "The recent upsurge in gourmet cooking and dining, along with the growing appreciation of locally produced foods, made this a very timely idea. The sustainability factor was very attractive to us as well."

Working closely with the FVC, Woodworth was able to fine-tune the production of the oil to yield consistent quality but maintain its unique flavor, he said. "The seeds are roasted before pressing, which gives the oil a complex, nutty flavor making it ideal for a variety of uses in food preparation."

Butternut Squash Seed Oil will be distributed by Stony Brook WholeHeartedFoods, the name of the company's new product line. The line will soon include varietal grape seed oils obtained from processing seeds from local vintners -- a process also developed by the FVC.

"It is very rewarding to see the results of the FVC's work being implemented by local processors and producers as these new developments improve the viability of New York agriculture and food systems," said Olga Padilla-Zakour, FVC director and associate professor of food science and technology at Cornell.

The company's first sale: to the executive chef of the governor's mansion in Albany, who was looking to add some New York-produced ingredients to his menu.

"The folks at the Food Venture Center have been invaluable with their technical guidance and support in helping us to develop the product and get it to market," Woodworth said.

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