Relish Elgin Spring 2015

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By Chef Cindy Bircham The more time I spend outside of kitchens and more time I spend at local farms, the more rooted I become in my belief that wholesome, high-quality food is a product of dedicated, impassioned farmers. The level of nurturing and care given before/ during/after growing anything—from soil to ducklings—directly influences what that food will taste like. By the time an ingredient, let's say asparagus or cheese, arrives on your plate in early spring (or at the grocery market), it seems like a deceptively simple journey from soil to farm to plate. The fact is a lot of planning goes on months, if not years, before it is procured. Spring may be the sign of rejuvenation but someone had to plant and tend for that new delicious life to mature.


Winter may offer some down time in a busy farmer's life, however, it is often short-lived. The end of the growing season the previous fall is filled with harvesting, breeding, composting, planting, and seed-saving. After a small break it's back to the grind with planning at the very least. Spring also brings farm equipment maintenance, sleepness nights with bucks and does, brooding chicks, sprouting garlic, seed starting, hand-milking, soil amendments, hiring new help, and repairs from Old Man Winter's wrath. Nutrient-dense sourdough breads and fermented sauerkrauts may take days or months to prepare in the kitchen; it's not much compared to the two years required to harvest just a few spears from a young asparagus crown in the field though.


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