New Jersey gets a bad rap for overcrowding, hairspray and pumping our fists (not our gas).
But we’ve got SO much more to offer, right? I know that firsthand; as a chef, culinary exploration is pretty much my jam. Whenever I have the chance to see a new farm, learn about an interesting ingredient, or sample a creative cuisine, I go for it.
Luckily there are endless possibilities right here in our collective backyards.
Silverton Farms is one of my favorite spots for learning, tasting and growing as a chef. The farm, owned by the amazing Farmer Tom, is dedicated to preserving and nurturing locally grown produce.
Silverton offers fresh-picked produce, and has one goat (Esmerelda) one sheep (Lady) and over 20 breeds of chickens producing free-range eggs.
I met Farmer Tom for a project, but our quick business-focused encounter quickly turned into an organic, veggie-loving relationship. Going to visit him at Silverton Farms is like visiting an old friend. Our shared appreciation of good food is borderline comical; as Amie says, “I’ve never seen two people talk so passionately about vegetables.”
But isn’t that what joy in life is all about? Finding your passion and sharing it with others? I know it is for me.
As you walk onto the grounds of Silverton Farms, the captivating windmill beckons you into the gardens. When Tom approaches, he ushers you right into the rows of produce; we visit spinach, the sweetest/spiciest jalapeños you’ve ever had, 3 varieties of kale, broccoli, parsnips, tomatoes, sweet corn, and the so-perfect-for-a-yoga-website “joi choi” (a variety of pak choi).
One step onto Silverton Farms and you can tell that it is run with dedication, loving intention and careful attention for the land. When Tom speaks, you feel his passion – where his vegetables come from, his sense of humor (lima bean “embryos” anyone?) and his desire to share with the world. The love he has for his vegetables is infectious.
Our conversations plant seeds (pun intended) for my future culinary creations with his endless palette of veggies. When I see what I think is a humble scallion and learn it is a Ishikura onion, with a hollow closed upper chamber like a pontoon, I immediately wonder, can I stuff it? Fry it (and then I wonder, why is frying the answer to a lot of my questions? ha!)
I love thinking about all of the cooking methods that I can use to honor all of the amazing things Farmer Tom grows.
For my life and work, it’s important for me to use all of my senses. Starting in a garden is a great place for me to begin – I draw real inspiration from the way a plant grows in its raw state.
In New Jersey, this is really possible for anyone these days. There are farmers markets in almost every corner of the state, you just gotta get out and look. Get out there, talk to your farmer and embody the spirit of our Garden State!
Chef Marcy Ragan is a Monmouth County bespoke personal chef, caterer and educator. She has spent a lifetime thinking about, cooking and enjoying her next best meal. Marcy comes from a long line of great home cooks and truly believes that real food shared together brings joy. Trained in kitchens of Perugia, Italy and then at the French Culinary Institute, her cuisine is well grounded in classic European technique. Her approach to cuisine is fresh, delicious, and elevated – without being fussy. Her clients benefit from nutritious, well balanced and appetizing food that is tailor cooked to their specifications, no matter what the occasion. She enjoys spending time with her amazing boys, seeing live music and loves practicing yoga. Her yoga practice enables her to take pause and utilize the calm and strength within. [/box]
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