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What You Need to Know About Local Produce

Greg CarboneCan you really tell the difference between locally grown produce and the store bought stuff? For me the proof is in the soup. In this case, carrot soup!

Youngster with amazing Touchon Carrot

Last summer I had the chance to visit Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. It is an amazing place with oodles of historical things to do and see. One of the highlights of my visit was a tour of the Colonial Garden and Plant Nursery and a chat with its founder, Wesley Greene. Wesley is a wealth of knowledge and has probably forgotten more about plants than most of us will ever know.

Greg and Wesley Greene

During my visit to the area I came across a recipe for carrot soup. Just reading the recipe inspired me to vow to make carrot soup as soon as I returned to the DIY Backyard Farm edible gardens.

Well, a promise is a promise and when I got home I yelled (inside my head of course), “Soup Is On!” I opted to keep my carrot soup really simple by allowing the fantastic ingredients do the talking. For the first pot of soup I used Touchon carrots. The uniform shape and wonderful orange color of this variety of carrot has always captivated me.

A wee bit of preparation and a nice whir in the Vitamix created a velvety textured soup that I could not wait to share with my family. The soup was amazing! Our children wondered aloud, “What is this?” as they used some crusty, whole-grain bread to clean every last bit from their bowls. Even on a warm day carrot soup felt so right.

Unfortunately, carrot soup requires a lot of carrots. Our new found love of this soup caused me concern that we would exhaust our carrot supply in a week or two. I immediately planted a ton of new seeds for late fall harvest. I also made the next few batches of carrot soup from store-bought carrots.

My store-bought carrot soup contained a few pounds of organic carrots from a popular organic produce producer here in the USA. Did you think the DIY Backyard Farmer was going to buy just any old bulk carrots?

Something was different with this version of the soup. As I stirred and tasted, I was surprised by the bitter, vegetative taste of the soup. My Touchon carrot soup required just a small amount of honey and maybe a teaspoon of salt to achieve a nice flavor balance. The store-bought carrot soup needed a lot more help. I sure hated to add in all the extra sugar from the honey.

Even with the additional honey and quite a bit more salt, I was disappointed. It was like drinking our house wine after being spoiled by some fine Sonoma County pinot noirs or perfectly crafted White Burgundies from France. Not the same at all!

I had seen (and tasted) enough to be reminded that locally grown and recently (as in right before cooking) picked produce is far superior to anything one can buy in the supermarket produce aisle. As I always say, “Everyone should have their own backyard edible garden.”

Purple Dragon carrot