When you hear the term farm to table, it refers to locally grown food that minimizes the distance between the source of that food and its delivery to the end user. It shuns corporate producers in favor of small growers and purveyors.
The term farm to table often crops up in tandem with a couple of other terms that focus on sustainability. To be authentically farm to table, food need not be either, but many are:
Organic food. This is produced using methods that do not involve the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.
Biodynamic agriculture. This is a particular method of organic farming that emphasizes the holistic interrelationships of the soil, plants, and animals as a self-sustaining system.
It’s easier than ever for home chefs to get seasonal, local food, thanks to the increasing number of farmers markets cropping up in communities around the country. Many grocery stores also are addressing the demand for seasonal foods by adding sections dedicated to locally grown fruits and vegetables to their produce aisles.
Maximize the flavor of freshly picked produce by making small, frequent shopping trips part of your weekly routine. Shopping like this may be a bit more time consuming than the once-a-week haul to the mega grocery (and it can be a bit more expensive), but you’ll be rewarded with more flavorful meals.
Here are some tips on how to best use fresh local produce at home from Aimee Olexy, creator of two of the country’s leading farm to table restaurants – Talula’s Table in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Prep your veggies as soon as you get them home, so they are ready when you need them.
- Always keep good vinegar, salt, and oils on hand. Using them is a simple and pure way to dress your veggies, farm fresh eggs, and protein.
- Knowing what’s going to be available will help you prepare recipes. Start collecting recipes in advance for those ingredients because you will be more apt to buy the produce if you have a plan.
- Eat in season, or, if there is an abundance of a favorite fruit or vegetable, freeze some to use during the off-season. For example, should a bounty of sweet summer corn or juicy ripe peaches come into your farmers market, buy more than you can eat now and throw the rest in the freezer to use in the fall.
- Incorporate local cheese with your local veggies to add some depth, calcium, and protein.
- Use your blender to make smoothies and soup. This is an easy way to convert your farm ingredients into instant meals.
- Make a big pot of stock. You can use up leftover vegetables from other dishes to make it. Having stock on hand gives you a go-to base for everything from soup to gravies.
- Dips and hummus are great with crudités. Put out a platter for healthy family snacking. It will help keep up energy and moods.
- Pay attention to what you are eating. Freshly picked food has heightened flavors. Savor your food and train your palate to taste the nuances.
- Create relationships with local farmers by chatting with them at the market. Ask them questions about what they’re planting, what’s growing now, and what’s coming up throughout the season.
- Journal what you eat, what you like, and which farmer produced it. This way, when you go back the following year, you’ll remember your favorites and which farmer grew them.