New partnership crafts home spice blend for President Biden
WILMINGTON – Both native son Joe Biden and Riverside-based Second Chances Farm (SCF) enjoyed a monumental year in 2020 despite the impacts of the pandemic, and the two will celebrate a bit together under a new product from the socially conscious vertical farm.
SCF has created a new limited edition product line of dried seasoning spices to celebrate the Biden-Harris administration, launching on Inauguration Day. Only 2,021 sets of First State Presidential Spice Blends, including the Joe ‘No Malarkey’ Spice Blend and Kamala Fearless Fusion Spice Blend, will be canned for sale, said Ajit George, founder and managing partner of SCF, the large indoor, hydroponic farm that solely hires citizens returning from incarceration.
The first can of hand-numbered spices will be sent to Biden at the White House while the second will go to Vice President Kamala Harris at her nearby home in the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington. Accompanying the spices will be a cookbook with about two-dozen recipes incorporating them crafted by 21 Delaware-based chefs over the past month.
“We waited to mail them until after the Inauguration for obvious reasons,” George said with a laugh. “It also includes an invitation for any of these chefs to come to the White House to prepare these dishes in case the president gets homesick.”
The Biden blend is a mix of ingredients meant to complement chicken, as Delaware’s official bird and Biden’s alma mater University of Delaware mascot is the blue hen. Meanwhile, Harris’ blend combines Indian and Jamaican spices as a nod to Harris’ and George’s shared Indian heritage and George’s time spent in the Caribbean.
“I’m a great believer that food is a way to unite people and break bread together,” George said.
So far, SCF has received several hundred preorders from around the country, although most have come from the First State, George said.
“I think people are buying them to send to friends, because it’s just a touch of Delaware. There are not many things that are uniquely Delawarean,” he said.
The rapidly expanding SCF found a new partner and venture amid the rush to craft a presidential product, connecting with Obis One, an organic black garlic farm based in Virginia. Its founder, Patrick Lloyd, was an old friend of George and previously a teacher at William Penn High School in New Castle, who retired several years ago to work full-time on the rare garlic product.
Created through an aging and dehydration process that originated in Asia, white garlic is turned into a deep brown or black color that carries a syrupy taste close to balsamic vinegar. The rarity of the spice has made it popular with chefs who are looking to make their dishes stand out – even world-renowned Delaware brewery Dogfish Head used Obis One black garlic in a limited 2013 brewpub beer.
“Some people say it tastes like candy. Others say it tastes like licorice, but chefs liken it more to a truffle,” George said, referring to the rare underground fungi cousin of mushrooms.
George noted that Lloyd’s dehydration process perfected for black garlic can also be applied to SCF’s herbs like basil, cilantro and dill.
“For us, that is exciting because it’s zero waste. Any given week there is something that grows a little faster than others and we don’t have the market for it. Because the food is very perishable, we will now be able to dry it and make spice blends from it,” he explained.
Lloyd agreed to close his operations in Blacksburg, Va., and move the Obis One production line to SCF’s Wilmington warehouse, starting a spinoff business called Second Chances Spice Farm that will employ about a half dozen returning citizens.
“I’m sure that it will grow as we grow more spices and expand the product line,” George said, noting the niche spice and seasoning market is growing. A recent report from Grandview Research estimated the global market will exceed $22 billion in sales by 2027.
“We aspire to be a custom blend of high-end spices, using our pesticide and herbicide-free herbs and organic black garlic combined with other things,” George added. “One of the things we’ve learned during COVID is that people are tired of cooking the same-old thing and they’re looking for ideas.”