Thursday, July 28, 2011
What Beautiful Vegetables!
Each and every Market day, at least one person comments on how BEAUTIFUL our stand is, or how GORGEOUS our vegetables are. This is a real ego boost. Often, the comment is followed by a question regarding HOW we got them to look so nice. We enjoy the opportunity to talk about our work and passion…good food.
Once, we had a customer emote, “oh, I’d love to visit your farm….all of it must look SO beautiful!” Tom and I exchanged rueful glances. The whole farm…beautiful? Well….if you know where to look.
We have our fair share of weeds, messes, and ugly vegetables. All that stuff just goes with the farming life. However, we learned long ago that image is everything, and we work hard to make sure our customers get the very best we have to offer. That is part of the reason we read seed catalogs and foodie magazines. This reading gives us a leg up on the new and trendy…and the best varieties.
I have heard it said….”Sell the best and eat the rest”. That is a good motto, but most home-growers turned market gardeners struggle to define THE BEST.
As I have said before, we’ve been growing vegetables for a LONG, LONG time. When we made the jump from home-growers to retail sales, we started selling to restaurants. That was a real learning experience! Many chefs consider themselves to be artists, and demand superior quality in both taste and visual presentation. This may mean tiny, tiny vegetables, or completely blemish free vegetables. We began to see vegetables in a whole new light. This post-harvest care takes a great deal of effort on the part of the grower. The skill, once learned, is invaluable. Food, indeed, can be ART!
After a few seasons, we left the restaurant sales to focus full-time on the Market. We both love the instant feed-back and the sense of community with our customers. We brought the knowledge gained from restaurant sales to the Market venue. We strive for our vegetables to be a visual delight as well as truly delicious. If vegetables are visually pleasing, the desire to eat them generally follows. Our joint dabbling in photography added to the whole food as art concept. Our vegetable stand is designed to appeal to our customers on many sensory levels.
When we harvest vegetables, we immediately rinse them in cold water. This slows the aging process, and allows us to sort them into sales groups. I generally sort into three piles…Market (the best) human consumption (completely edible…but, not so pretty. These are for our use, or for the Mission) Cull (this pile goes directly to the chickens).
My sorting standards are harsh, but necessary. I have often seen produce offered for sale in the stores that would have made my “chicken” pile.
Between picking the vegetables at their prime, sorting them, rinsing them and then chilling them, we are able to consistently provide a quality product at the Market. Different varieties also make a difference. The lettuce crop is subjected to my weekly “taste test”. You can be assured; if I can’t eat it….you won’t have to!
While the farm may sometimes be weedy or messy…we work hard to make sure our vegetables are indeed beautiful…and DELICIOUS!
Thanks for noticing!