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350 Varieties Featured At The International Vinegar Museum


All right, for some weeks now, you've been on a journey with us. We've been visiting places that find the extraordinary in the ordinary. We call these places unsung museums.



Roslyn, in South Dakota, is a tiny farm community of about 200 people. For a long time, its biggest claim to fame was being the birthplace of Myron Floren, accordion player on "The Lawrence Welk Show."

GREENE: But since 1999, Roslyn has also been home to a museum honoring one of the oldest substances known to humans.

LAWRENCE DIGGS: Vinegar was already being written about in the earliest writings, going back before Babylonian times. We know that the Egyptians used vinegar and understood its property.

MONTAGNE: Vinegar - Lawrence Diggs is the founder of the International Vinegar Museum. It features more than 350 varieties displayed in elegant bottles, like fine wine.

DIGGS: Vinegar can be used for food, medicine. It can be used in industry. It can be used in cleaning. So when you put all those things together, you almost think, well, why not vinegar?

GREENE: Why not vinegar? Diggs also tells us that vinegar can be used to make cheese and paper and ceramics, and it works really well on jellyfish stings. He says vinegar got its start as one of the earliest man-made food preservatives.

DIGGS: Vinegar is acetic acid that is made from grains, fruits, vegetables, honey, grasses. As long as you have enough sugar or starch, then you can convert it into vinegar.

MONTAGNE: Over time, vinegar evolved into a flavor enhancer, attaining the lofty status of condiment. So of course, the museum offers vinegar tastings.

DIGGS: We have, for example, a tequila-lime vinegar that goes very well over ice cream. I think we even have one that's flavored with a snail. I don't recommend that (laughter).

GREENE: Tequila-lime vinegar over ice cream - I'm going to come try that with Lawrence Diggs, who I'd rather meet in person. Right there we were hearing him over Skype from the International Vinegar Museum in Roslyn, S.D., as part of our journey to unsung museums. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.