Monday, July 25, 2016

Freshly Grown Farms and Motor Supply Company Bistro

On one of the hottest days of the summer ... well maybe not the hottest, but it was HOT, we were off again to visit another small local family farm, Freshly Grown Farms, Columbia's Premier Hydroponic Farm, and enjoy lunch at Motor Supply Company Bistro, one of the most popular local innovative restaurants, who source their food from local farms and markets.

A quick drive across Hwy 378 to meet up with another friend, and then play "follow the leader" on some back roads, we suddenly found ourselves in downtown Columbia, in one of the most popular little areas called The Congaree Vista. Here local restaurants, shops and nightclubs abound, with something for everyone.

We pulled into the Motor Supply Company Bistro parking lot and were met with complimentary valet parking! Wow, how nice. We gathered our things and left our cars, handed over the keys and headed inside. Since we had reservations, we were greeted and quickly lead to the table all set up for our group on the large enclosed patio! Completely weatherized and climate controlled, it has a brick floor, high open-beamed ceilings and large ceiling fans softly twirling.

Chef Wesley Fulmer is the creative talent behind the scenes at this great restaurant, and the culinary delights he turns out are delicious. Just take a look:

Seared Bavetta Steak over Yukon mash and short beans
with a Crimi
ni Mushroom Bordelaise 
Oven Roasted Creamy Chicken Salad, Applewood Smoked
 Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato on Ciabatta Bread
Carolina Heritage Farms pastured raised pork with Blackberry Barbecue,
over Sweet Potato Puree and Short Beans
Pound Cake topped with fresh Whipped Cream and drizzled with Blueberry Sauce
What a treat and a few of us even enjoyed a cold local brew from River Rat Brewery, the Twisted Lemon Wheat Ale!

From the moment we were greeted and seated, and served by our great server, Kyle, it was outstanding and we will definitely be back. Thank you Motor Supply Company Bistro!

Now we were off to visit Paul and see his hydroponic farm, Freshly Grown Farms. As their lettuce products are sold to many local area restaurants, and featured at Soda City farmers market, we couldn't wait to check it all out.

Back on some country roads, twisting and turning, we arrived about 20 minutes later. The group was greeted by Paul, and offered some ice cold bottled water which was much appreciated. After a few moments of explanation about the mechanics behind hydroponics, we were ushered into a large greenhouse to see it all in action.

Grown using Nutrient Film Technique where a stream of water runs down the roots of the plants 24 hours a day. All plants are rotated every week, being harvested at the end of a six week cycle.

What is hydroponics? Hydroponics is a sustainable method of growing plants in a mineral solution rather than soil. This mineral solution recirculates throughout the growing system providing a consistent amount of water and nutrients to the plants bare roots providing the preferred amount of water, nutrients, and oxygen to each plant.

By using the hydroponics method and its recirculating process it uses only one/tenth the water of field grown crops as no water is lost to evaporation or wasted due to over-watering or runoff.

Hydroponics starts with clean analyzed water. Dissolved minerals (ions) are then added to the water. These minerals are mined from the earth and delivered in a form that has a guaranteed analysis. In this way, hydroponically grown produce is clean and consistent.

The hydroponic produce is offered as living produce with roots still attached. As the ecology process is maintained this allows the produce to be resistible to the e-coli infection unlike other produce on the market.

Hydroponics allows you to grow more crops in less space while conserving water through the recirculating system where the water is reused and not wasted.  This is suitable for farms with little space such as urban farming or for farmland that has been contaminated or unfarmable due to infertile soil.

The Freshly Grown Farms greenhouse can grow up to 1750 heads of lettuce per week 365 days a year. The climate is kept as close to ideal as possible for each season and lady bugs are introduced into the greenhouses twice a year to prevent any pest problems and to ensure clean pesticide free plants no matter what season.

Freshly Grown Farms grows Curly Bibb, Arugula, Romaine, Red Oakleaf, Lolla Rossa, Chard, and Basil and sells sprouts to local restaurants.

It was a great day exploring local and a fascinating learning experience. A tip to keep your lettuce fresh is to simply keep a wet paper towel wrapped around the root-ball with the produce wrapped in breathable plastic and store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

I purchased the Red Oakleaf and couldn't wait to get home to eat a delicious salad. In fact, a few ideas were rumbling around in my head on the drive home!

Where to find Freshly Grown Farms
Follow on Facebook
Check out their Website
Purchase their lettuces at Soda City

Freshly Grown Farms Salad with Homemade Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

1 small bunch Red Oakleaf lettuce, torn into pieces
5 fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 small red onion, sliced
2-3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Croutons of your choice

Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dried minced garlic
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. course ground black pepper
(original recipe adapted from ChinDeep)

Place lettuce in a large bowl and top with remaining ingredients. Mix all dressing ingredients in a blender using the pulse button (don't over mix because you want some blue cheese chunks). Add more blue cheese crumbles at the end or sprinkle some over the salad. Top salad with dressing when ready to serve.

Refrigerate any unused dressing.


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