Bean-Butternut Squash Chili is seasoned with sage, oregano, cumin and chili powder. PHOTO BY MARK MESSER

Squash and black bean chili make spicy winter warmer

Good food and good music go together well, but little did I know when my friend Liz Graves asked me to see The Mammals in concert in Belfast, that the music and food might come from the same people.

Adam Nordell and Johanna Davis, who grow organic beans and grains and heritage varieties of wheat and Abenaki flint cornmeal at Songbird Farm in Unity, were the inspiration for Mark Messer’s Black Bean-Butternut Squash Chili. 

Two of the members of The Mammals, Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar, are friends of Liz, so she was excited to hear them play last summer at an evening show at The Crosby Center, but it was the opening act, Sassafras Stomp, that impressed me most. Johanna Davis (on fiddle and shruti box) and Adam Nordell (on guitar and banjo) played with skill and sincerity that captivated me. A shruti box is a harmonium-like instrument.

While engaged in stage banter, they told the audience a lot about themselves, including that they run Songbird Farm in Unity, a farm with an unusual farm share program. Most farm share programs deliver produce every week during the growing season, but Adam and Johanna’s Pantry Share provides about a dozen locally grown organic grains and beans, including heritage varieties of wheat and Abenaki flint cornmeal, at the end of the season. They also offer a share of storage vegetables, like cabbage, beets, carrots, even Maine-grown sweet potatoes.

Most weekly vegetable shares are too large for me to use by myself, but a winter’s worth of grains and storage vegetables sounded great. I persuaded a few friends to join me, and Liz and I picked up the shares last November.

About a week after we picked up the shares, I was inspired to create this chili from the black beans and a butternut squash included in my share of the goods.


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Mark Messer

Mark Messer

Mark Messer is copy editor for the Mount Desert Islander.