But, Bob, Jr. knew he needed to face facts. These radishes already had shoots and blooms. So, he fired up his tractor and began plowing them under, all the while trying to figure out how to prevent that from happening again in the future.
Out of the corner of his eye, Bob, Jr. noticed his brother Lee driving a chef around the farm. That wasn’t unusual. In fact, approximately 500 chefs visit the farm each year. But what this particular chef did was quite unusual. He jumped out of Lee’s vehicle and ran in front of the tractor, waving his arms all the while.
Once Bob, Jr. stopped the tractor, he and Lee joined the chef, who was now down on his knees, saying, “Do you have any idea what I could with these blooms on my plates?”
Thus, the idea of growing for vegetable blooms was born at The Chef’s Garden.
“We’ve learned so much from chefs,” Farmer Lee Jones explains. “We used to follow the commercial belief that, once a vegetable had flowered, we had failed. But chefs have taught us that every single stage of plant life is unique and valuable.”
“The concept of using vegetable blooms,” says Farmer Lee, “naturally weaves in the concept of reducing waste. Forty percent of food is wasted in the United States, which is way too much. But, as you look at plants throughout their growth phases with a new eye – as the visiting chef did with our French breakfast radishes – you begin to notice how cool the different textures, flavors and plate presentations really are.”
Here’s another important benefit of these blooms. “People want to eat in restaurants where they can support sustainability, dining out with purpose. And, when chefs understand the whole plant and use various parts of a vegetable in unique, surprising and even entertaining ways, this supports sustainability – sustainability of land, of people, and of the environment, overall. Our chefs do an outstanding job of understanding the nuances of flavor and notes of intensity in our plants from the micro stage to when they bloom, and this is one key way that they contribute to sustainability.”
To provide chefs with wide ranges of options – including vegetable blooms – The Chef’s Garden employs continuous planting. “For example,” Farmer Lee says, “we might start planting arugula in March, planting six rows that week and every week thereafter through November. That way, we’ve got products to provide to chefs all along the growth spectrum.”
Farmer Lee shares a final thought, which is one way that he thinks about these expanded options for vegetables. “When I was a kid,” he says, “I got eight crayons in a box. Now, it’s normal to get 64, which greatly expands the options for creativity. The same is true when we use vegetables in every stage of growth, including when they bloom.”