How much does anyone really care about whether lettuce, green beans, or beets are in season, and if they were sustainably grown before landing on the dinner plate? A lot.
Every little piece of parsley has a seasonality and sustainability story. Educating oneself about it is key to how some restaurants choose ingredients.
Gastronomes are well-educated when it comes to understanding ingredients. People research what they eat. Chef’s care about what they cook. Put those two together and there is a lot of information that must be sought before an ingredient hits the pot.
Seasonal ingredients are ones that are used during the time that they are being grown, produced or harvested. They might be locally grown, or they might be grown elsewhere, but still are considered seasonal, even when they travel from afar.
To understand the sustainability of an ingredient, economic, environmental, animal welfare, access to food sources, health and community impact must all be considered. Many restaurants depend on ingredients from smaller farms where they have direct contact with the farmers, and can easily understand the practices employed by the farmer. Many larger farms are trying to follow suit, as they are more intensely scrutinized by a discerning public. It goes beyond the farms being able to effectively market their products, it centers around people caring about what they consume and the impact is has on the world, their corner of it and beyond.
Seasonal and Sustainable ingredients aligned with the Restaurant’s Philosophy
If every restaurant had its own sustainably managed farm or garden from which to source seasonal ingredients, that were then hand carried to the restaurant kitchen, it would mean that seasonal and sustainable ingredients would hit every diner’s plate. Few establishments are located on large tracts of land or even have the means for an herb garden out the back door. This means that most restaurants are beholden to purveyors, suppliers, farmers and growers to source their ingredients.
Choosing and sourcing ingredients based on Seasonal & Sustainable:
The Local Seasonal and/or Sustainable Ingredient:
Restaurants that work with local, small farms and growers for most to all ingredients, know the ingredients’ story, understand the farming practices used, and adapt their menus based on what is available.
The Seasonally Available, Not Local Ingredient:
The ingredient comes from another growing region, but is used when it is grown in that season’s region. Trusting the purveyor’s and supplier’s knowledge of the ingredient, and researching the ingredient’s journey can aid in the decision about putting the ingredient into a dish.
Knowing the food’s journey – tells whether it was grown/handled/transported in a sustainable fashion. Understanding the impact that the ingredient has on the economic to environmental factors, etc., help in decision making about which ingredients to use.
Learn. Learn. Learn. Understand how food is grown or produced and how and when it got to where it can be accessed. From there make educated decisions that mesh with the restaurant’s philosophy about which ingredients to use.