By Lisa Whaley
The world, it seems, is beginning to rediscover the wonder of a homegrown tomato between two slices of bread with a bit of mayo.
Earlier this month, Mountain Harvest Kitchen celebrated its opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Unicoi, taking its place as another example of a growing movement among restaurants and food producers to encourage “locally grown” and “from farm to table.”
The new facility will provide local would-be entrepreneurs opportunities to turn kitchen industries into something that can reach larger markets – letting folks beyond the county line taste the finest apple butter, strawberry preserves and other local delicacies that can be found within many homes throughout our county.
The funny thing about this new movement, as any local over 50 can tell you, is that there is really nothing new about it – it is, in fact, a long-held tradition with roots that extend deep into the Southern soil.
Long before fancy restaurants began bragging about their locally sourced ingredients and farm-to-table produce, the rest of us were stepping out our back doors, baskets in hand, to pick a mess of fresh green beans, a few ripe tomatoes and several ears of corn for supper.
Sitting on the front porch, snapping beans, and, in my family’s case, listening to the songs of the mountain, are part of nearly every Southern families’ lore. For these early cooks, their siblings, children and spouses, it was as much part of the food’s flavor as a bit of ham in the green beans or a little salt and pepper on that tomato.
Sadly, as life became more hectic and family gardens became less common, the great tradition of preparing and putting up your own food became something of a declining art.
But it’s an art that is coming back – and so is the appreciation of its value.
At the Mountain Harvest Kitchen this month, would-be canners can learn the old-fashioned way to put up food with the help of a pressure cooker.
They even get to go home with a jar of green beans they canned themselves.
And that is just the beginning.
Food that once may have been thought inferior because it was made at home, has become prized for its superior freshness and taste – and that could mean money in the bank for local small farmers, gardeners and cooks with family recipes to share and dreams of supplying more than their neighbors with some of the best-tasting food around.