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Tanya Tandoc: Fantasy Gardening and Cooperation

Campobello Island / Flickr / Creative Commons

I am not a gardener. Plants wither and die at my very glance. I don’t even like it when I accidentally touch leaves, because they can itch or harbor bugs or any number of dreadful things. I envy those who can nurture a plant from shoot to fruit, but I am not one of them. I’m happy just to be able to use the produce and flowers that talented gardeners and farmers offer.

Strangely, I am in love with seed catalogs. The delicious descriptions of heirloom vegetables and fruits and herbs, along with the gorgeous pictures, make them like porn for cooks. I look at the catalogs over and over, thinking about what amazing dishes I could make with chocolate beauty peppers, or dragon’s tongue beans or scarlet Nantes carrots.

Luckily, I work with a group of farmers who will actually plant and grow some of these for the restaurant. Now is planning time for farmers and chefs. I used to troll every farmer’s market in the area, looking for the unusual, seasonal produce that would make my dishes special.

The main problem was that the farmers didn’t usually have enough of what I needed, and couldn’t deliver. I would haul everything back in my suburban and hope I had purchased enough.

I now work with a few farmers who grow and gather produce just for restaurants and a small group of interested consumers. MC Honor Farms consults with my chef Kelly and me to grow plenty of tomatoes, herbs, lettuces and unique heirloom vegetables for us to use when they are in season. I love that they deliver. There is nothing better than a huge box full of warm Cherokee Purple tomatoes, ripe and ready to eat.