Laura Gallup is the advertising and marketing and occasions coordinator for the Ithaca Farmers Market in addition to the managing editor of Edible Finger Lakes journal. She lives in Ithaca however grew up consuming strawberries by the bucketful on her dad’s farm in Hector. On this new column, Laura might be sharing recommendations on how one can eat domestically year-round.
At its core, the Worldwide Rutabaga Curling Championship is an athletic competitors to see who can roll a rutabaga down the farmers market hall and get it closest to a goal. However the curl — which celebrates its 22nd yr on Saturday, is really far more than a sporting occasion.
“It’s like a joke that everyone will get,” mentioned Steve Sierigk, retired commissioner of the curl.
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Legend has it that in December of 1996, on the final market of a protracted season, a number of distributors and clients obtained caught up in a laughing match, throwing frozen chickens, produce, muffins and different wares down the chilly, slippery flooring of the market pavilion. In true American trend, it was a contest to see who might hurl issues the furthest. The following yr Steve formalized the end-of-year celebration with a devoted courtroom and provided rutabagas to anybody who wished to play, and the joke was began.
“We created one thing that was excessive. And I noticed – that is like neighborhood theatre,” mentioned Steve. “After we did it for 10 years, I noticed that this factor would actually hold going.”
With the assistance of some artistic distributors and clients, through the years the curl was one thing resembling an improv comedy present. Whereas the competitors is taken very severely – with an expert MC on the mic, referees with whistles and a course lined by hay bales – it’s additionally severely absurd.
The day begins with a parade of athletes led by the Rutabaga god and goddess carrying flaming torches, after which the group is serenaded by the Cruciferous Refrain, singing the Rutabaga Curl music. There are groups, cheerleaders, pretend cameramen (and generally actual media!) and costumes all over the place. Within the chilly pavilion for someday a yr, there’s a shared sense of dedication to a fantasy world.
“Once I was the commissioner, I at all times mentioned the flaming torches had been coming in from Mt. Cruciferous,” mentioned Steve. “And if somebody was interviewing me – they usually’d say there’s no such factor, I’d say what? It’s as actual as Santa Claus.”
This quintessential Ithaca occasion attracts in individuals who like to play and be goofy, like Jeff Luomo. Jeff confirmed up on the curl 10 years in the past and rapidly turned it’s greatest fan. “I like that it lets folks be part of a neighborhood occasion, and take part at any degree they’re comfy with.”
The second-year that Jeff performed, he organized a bunch of mates to carry Finish Rutabaga Curlty, protest indicators as members of the Folks of Ithaca for the Moral Care of Rutabagas Below Delicate Remedy (P.I.E.C.R.U.S.T.) group. Within the years that adopted he targeted on dressing in wild costumes, like Miley Cyrus’s tongue, an enormous rutabaga and an elf from the north pole.
Jeff has since moved away from Ithaca, however nonetheless travels again yearly to be the MC. He stands on a podium a number of ft above the crowds and retains the occasion shifting. His love for the occasion shines via and his full of life commentary makes each participant who steps as much as curl really feel just like the star of the present.
“The enjoyable about being the MC is – that is an totally severe occasion, so you might be in character, and you must consider in it wholeheartedly,” mentioned Jeff.
However the true star, the rutabaga, is a mysterious main woman. The big, spherical, brownish vegetable is definitely a cross between a cabbage and a turnip – touchdown it within the cruciferous household with cauliflower, kale, broccoli and Brussel sprouts. Whereas it’s one of many least aesthetically-pleasing veggies, the rutabaga style and texture are much like carrots, turnips and parsnips.
“The trick with rutabagas is that you must prepare dinner them completely, they usually can take a very long time to prepare dinner,” mentioned Lael Eisman, co-owner of Six Circles Farm. Lael and his brother Jacob harvested this yr’s competitors rutabagas in November and saved them away for the massive day.
When it’s time to reap rutabagas, one particular person walks down the rows and pulls the basis vegetable from the dust and throws them into piles. After that, one other particular person takes a machete and hacks off the lengthy root on the underside and the greens from the highest. What’s left is a dense, object, excellent for rolling down the market flooring.
Rutabagas are planted in July however harvested solely after the bottom will get a number of gentle frosts – as a result of this makes them sweeter. “The starches within the vegetable flip into sugar when it will get actually chilly, as a result of sugar acts like antifreeze,” mentioned Lael. “It’s their method of defending themselves.”
So, even when you don’t select to take part on this yr’s curl, you need to prepare dinner candy, scrumptious rutabagas all winter lengthy. And while you do, simply do not forget that for one chilly afternoon every year, our neighborhood comes collectively to rejoice an unsightly root vegetable — and the absurdity of all of it.
Featured picture and different choose photograph courtesy of Allison Usavage
The Ithaca Farmers Market’s final outside market might be this Saturday, December 21st. They may reopen the indoor, winter market Jan. 4th on the new location in Triphammer Market.