Kids, Spring and Tennessee’s #1 Industry
Now that spring is here, people are naturally gravitating towards a healthier lifestyle. In the mental process of making this yearly transition, most start thinking about a healthier diet, exercise and getting more vitamin D from the sunshine. In the Lockeland Table cookbook I talk about the transition from winter to spring to summer, and the bountiful new choices of healthy fruits and vegetables from our gardens.
I make the point that the human response when transitioning from winter to spring differs greatly from summer to fall. The spring transition brings sunshine and warmer temperatures. People begin their “spring cleaning” by packing away heavy winter clothing, doing a deep cleaning and opening the windows to enjoy the fresh air. They also start re-focusing on taking care of their body and shedding the unwanted pounds that they packed on through the winter. Those heavy, stick-to-your-ribs comfort foods transition to the bounties that mother nature offers in her spring and summer gardens. It’s not surprising that people consume more of the healthy fruits and vegetables in the spring and summer, because they are easier to find and they are more locally abundant. The goal, though, is to encourage people to remember their local farmers year round. As local harvests may be less abundant in the colder months, there are still some vegetables harvested as well as many protein options, such as lamb, hogs, beef, duck, chicken, etc. As a chef, I feel it is extremely important to remind people that there are healthy and nutritious options available year-round.
This is an exciting time to be a chef as I try to keep up with local farms. I recently talked to Chris (WSF) about the latest harvest. English peas and fava beans have already made their appearance. As more produce continues to flourish through the late spring/early summer, we will see fresh radishes, kohlrabi, chard, arugula, fresh herbs and spinach.
Unfortunately…strawberries from Green Door Gourmet will phase out but (thankfully) peaches from the Peach Truck will phase in!! This is about the time we’ll bring back our Bob Woods’ Tennshootoe ham and peach option to the Pizza menu. We won’t see the squashes, eggplants, tomatoes, field peas, okra and turnips until June or the beginning of July. Some of these items may arrive earlier than usual due to a mild winter. I’m always excited about the menu changes and fresh flavors when new seasons arrive.
Lockeland Table actually has a few of its own box gardens out back, but they are not sustainable. We rely on WSF for most of our produce. This supplier is imperative due to the sheer volume of guests that we feed on a weekly basis. However, during the harvesting season, we do go out to the LT gardens and pick herbs, peppers and tomatoes daily as needed.
Surprising fact: The number one industry in Tennessee, ironically, is still agriculture!
Hopefully, after reading this blog, you’ll think about regularly attending your local farmer’s market, possibly getting in involved in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)* as an alternative to the big grocery store chains. As I mentioned above, spring is a great time to start eating healthier, to rejuvenate the mind and body with nutritious whole foods. Also, incorporate your kids in this outing. Teach them what healthy fruits and vegetables look like, taste like, where they come from and how to prepare them. What better way to embark on this adventure then to also support the booming local agricultural community? These farmers, my friends, need your financial support to ensure their sustainability. As the chef of a restaurant that relies on the sustainable produce from local farms to prepare for your enjoyment- I encourage this relationship. We all deserve fresh and nutritious local fruits and vegetables.
Now go enjoy this beautiful spring weather!!!
I’m off to eat a peach.