The following is a guest post by Kurt Wewer,
The Garlic Poet Bar & Restaurant and Grain + Verse Bottleshop
Welcome to the Holidays!
You’re probably shopping for your holiday get together(s), and hopefully, you’re finding new and adventurous recipes to try out.
With those new and adventurous recipes comes new and adventurous products you’ll be hunting down all over Central PA and beyond.
It’s the harvest season, and although the bounty of summer has come to an end, there is still awesome product available that is the epitome of autumn in the northeast.
Everyone is looking for that perfect butternut squash, broccoli rabe, pomegranate, or a bunch of sage, and I feel it’s time we had a little discussion about what exactly you’re looking for.
What to look for in produce
It’s time to rethink the common view of how food needs to appear for it to be the best, most flavorful, or just plain old “good.”
Somewhere we got caught up in the idea that raw ingredients are supposed to look like children’s plastic toys — blemish free and perfect.
I have been growing food my whole life, and the best tomato I’ve ever eaten — in my professional cook’s opinion — was the absolute ugliest thing I pulled out of my garden! I had to cut off huge chunks because they were actually rotten.
The rest of it, though, was absolute bliss!
I’ve never tasted a tomato that was perfectly red and impossibly shiny that had the same flavor.
This isn’t news to everyone who embraces farmer’s markets and local agriculture, but I shop in farmer’s markets, and I still see less than perfect produce getting left behind in the crates.
At the grocery stores, it’s even more pronounced.
That one craggy misshapen apple is still that local producer’s pride and joy, and the fruits of their hard labor and long hours. Let me tell you — it tastes just the same!
Shifting our paradigm and truly supporting these tiny businesses is hugely important to help fix the food system, and as a food service professional, I beg anyone who is not making a solid effort to shop locally: please start now!
Where to source locally
Maybe you already do that. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir.
At the risk of sounding like an advertisement (oh well) maybe you know that JB Kelly’s seafood is super primo quality, or that Mezza Cafe’s tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves are kick ass.
From someone who is entrenched in the world of food –Thank you! You are making a difference in the availability and variety of Central PA-sourced-product, which makes it a lot easier for me to source what I need to make awesome, responsibly sourced restaurant fare. It’s really important.
Here’s the thing, whether you frequent your local producer or not, I ask you this question: Would you be willing to pay a little less and do a smidge more knife work for a bruised butternut squash that you know tastes better?
This is the question we need to start saying yes to. Saying yes to this is the key to the solution of so many problems that plague the current global food system.
Small farmers can grow better food with fewer chemicals if you’re willing to accept and love that hail-damaged apple.
Big farmers that are practicing monocultural agriculture can start growing more diverse food on more land if they know that they can sell you that less than perfect cucumber.
Demand for U.S. grown corn, soy, and wheat is down significantly, and I can imagine that if those farmers knew that you would still love, enjoy, and pay for bushels of bruised and tasty tomatoes every summer, maybe, just maybe, they’d diversify and embrace more responsible agriculture, but that starts with the consumer.
Say yes to ugly produce!
Meet Kurt Wewer
Kurt G. Wewer is a self-taught chef, butcher, forager, and farmer. Kurt helped to establish and now harvests from an urban, aquaponic micro-farm that provides fish, greens, micro-greens, and edible flowers for these award-winning restaurants. Responsible sourcing is at the heart of Kurt’s philosophy as a chef, where he maintains relationships with 60+ small local businesses throughout the year. During his time away from #restaurantlife he can be found doing numerous outdoor activities with his two children, playing music locally, or with his hands in the soil (water).