From Seed to Fork
by Kathryn Kingen
The Pacific Northwest is in its prime growing season and our colorful local bounty is coming to market. We have fabulous farming here, our soils are dark and rich providing fertile ground encouraging vibrant growth. With the carefully timed planting of seeds, delicate sprouts carefully nurtured, cooperation of weather, all fingers crossed and farmer prayers said — mature plants are now bearing their fruit. It's harvest time.
Local crops travel very little distance and for very short time periods so it is possible to pick and transport them, ready to eat right away. Have you noticed when purchasing summer produce, it is best to use it more quickly? That is because it has been picked fully ripened and does not need added time in your kitchen for full maturation. This ripening on the vine is essential for producing what we experience as the most nutritious and dramatic flavors of the year. Imagine the important nutrients that are being delivered from the mother plant as the last finishing touches to her masterpiece. The explosion of nutrients, moisture and flavor is considerable evidence that locally grown foods are superior.
How do these delights make it to our fork? I'll give you an idea of how the supply chain works. In Washington State, June and July are the months when our cherries are best. A farmer in Wenatchee may pick your cherries in the morning and have them trucked to the distribution center at Charlie's Produce where they arrive by afternoon. At the distribution center there is an "unbroken cold chain" safeguarding the precious cargo. Careful handling helps to prevent bruising, and degrading the product. Strict sanitation, pest control, ongoing food safety inspections as well as rapid-response recall systems are all in place.
Proper rotation, moisture and temperature controls maintain these delicate foods at their best. They are then sorted and orders are picked which may arrive in your grocery store or restaurant as early as the next day. Food safety is paramount so best practices of food handling are being conducted all along the food supply chain. Farmers, transporters, distribution centers, suppliers, restaurants and grocers are inspected to ensure strict standards of quality, safety and freshness.
How to prepare this inspiring plethora is the next challenge, so when it gets to your fork it is as delicious as it was meant to be. The added magic comes when you take these ingredients and compose a symphony of flavors. Knowing what is ripe and ready at what times is especially helpful and to that end I offer you Charlie's Produce Local Produce Availability Chart.
Salty's Chef Jeremy has a great idea for beautiful local Rainier cherries paired with wild salmon, so why not try his recipe and impress some locals? Or better yet come to our family-owned local Salty's restaurants and try some of our spectacular combinations yourself!