Ventura County has a beautiful climate, and because of that climate, different foods are available at different times of the year — any food in season here, right now, may not be in season in other regions or countries. But by looking at what’s available in the produce department of your local supermarket, you may not be able to tell if it is July or January! That’s because, in most of the United States, we have become accustomed to having the same foods available year round. Although we depend on and enjoy the convenience, it contributes to hidden costs that are not usually considered, which include loss of local farmland and farms themselves.
Food travels an average of 1,300 miles from farm to table, but the best, freshest produce only travels a few miles. Supporting farms in Ventura County is not only good for the farmers; it is good for the local economy. Agriculture remains a major business in Ventura County, and produces almost $1 billion worth of food crops annually. Farmers here grow 125 different crops and often harvest two to three crops from the same piece of land during the year. Eating foods that are grown in Ventura County can raise awareness of local agricultural cycles and of the seasons. Eating in season is also fun as we anxiously anticipate the time for our favorite local produce to arrive.
Once you’ve tasted a juicy, local vine-ripened tomato at the peak of the season, you’ll notice the difference from the hard pink tomato you’ll find in stores in the middle of winter. Of course, eating local and in season also accentuates a lot of the nutritional values of foods.
We have many different outlets for purchasing these local crops and supporting the local farms. Local farmers markets, farm stands and even pick-your-own farms are all nearby. The complexity of a dish comes from the depth of flavor found in each ingredient. This is simply achieved by sourcing ingredients grown only miles away. All of the ingredients in the recipe above can be found fresh within the county. I hope everyone tries and enjoys this salad at home and gets out and supports their local farmers.
Tim Kilcoyne is the head chef at The SideCar Restaurant in Ventura. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The SideCar Restaurant’s Beet Salad
- 3 bunches of beets (red, gold or Chiogga); reserve leaves for another use
- 1 shallot
- 6 cups spicy micro-greens
- 1 cup goat cheese
- 2 Meyer lemons
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- A pinch each of Kosher salt and black pepper
For the dressing: Zest and chop Meyer lemons (chop zest finely) and place in a mixing bowl. Add leaves from the fresh thyme sprigs and slowly drizzle remaining olive oil into bowl while whisking.
Toss all ingredients with dressing. Check and adjust salt and pepper to your liking and place in a serving bowl.
Top with crumbled goat cheese and enjoy.