Welcome to our “Plant-Forward Cooking in Montgomery County: Sustainable and Delicious Solutions” blog series! Created by members of our Environmental Impact Working Group, this series intends to encourage greater adoption of sustainable plant-based eating by Montgomery County residents. Featured blog posts will contain recipes and cooking tips for plant-forward, vegan recipes, with a focus on hyper-local ingredients and seasonal eating options in Montgomery County.
Throughout this series, we will be working with a variety of local farms, nonprofit organizations, and other partners to generate delicious recipes, tips and content. We hope to build upon the existing resources that have been created to highlight the abundance of local, seasonal produce that Montgomery County farms and producers have to offer.
The recipe and content below are courtesy of Tom Farquhar, owner and head farmer at Sandy Spring Gardens.
Sandy Spring Gardens is currently in its second season of offering a weekly farm stand at the Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic Headquarters. Every Wednesday, from noon to 2 p.m., Sandy Spring sets up a tent and tables in the courtyard at the entrance to their building on Montrose Parkway. This year, they have also added a Thursday market at the Kaiser Permanente Gaithersburg Medical Center. Most of the produce offered each week is from the Sandy Spring Gardens farming operation in Ashton, but now that local orchard fruit season is here, they are also offering peaches, nectarines, and very soon, apples, from Baugher’s Orchard in Westminster, Maryland.
In addition to these weekly farm stands, the farm has begun to collaborate with Kaiser Permanente on special events promoting Kaiser insurance products to some of their larger corporate clients. Aside from offering health insurance, Kaiser also promotes the dietary and lifestyle choices that correlate with good health for individuals in all life stages. Their mission strongly supports the need for production and provision of local, fresh vegetables, grown using environmentally sustainable methods.
This year, Sandy Spring Gardens has been collaborating with the food-service caterer at these two Kaiser Permanente facilities (Rockville and Gaithersburg) by providing fresh, locally-grown ingredients for some special menu items prepared by the skilled chefs in their lunchroom-cafés. At the beginning of August, the farm delivered freshly harvested sweet corn and cherry tomatoes for a special grilled corn and tomato salad that was offered on the café’s luncheon menu. Having the weekly farm stand on the same day as the luncheon special resulted in great sales at the stand, and the salad sold out early in the lunch hour.
A note from Sandy Spring Gardens owner and head farmer, Tom Farquhar, about sweet corn: “When I was a kid, growing up in Montgomery County, sweet corn was easy to grow. Today, it is very difficult to get to the ripening ears before the groundhogs, the deer, and the raccoons take the entire crop for themselves. To keep the furry critters out of the corn plot, some pretty fancy fencing is a necessity. As for the worms, new varieties of GMO corn, and new chemical pesticides, offer a solution to the commercial, conventional growers. We won’t use either of these last devices, because they do not comply with the National Organic Program. But we did build great fences! I think sweet corn and tomatoes are the two bright stars of the summer season to focus on in the month of August.”
Grilled Corn and Tomato Salad
- 4 ears sweet corn, unhusked
- Kosher salt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
- Zest and juice of 3 limes
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Soak the corn in its husks in a bowl of heavily salted water overnight in the refrigerator. Pro tip: keep the ears submerged below the surface of the water with a plate weighted down with a heavy can.
- Prepare and preheat your lump charcoal grill to medium low.
- Put the corn, still in its husks, on the grill, cover, and cook, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the garlic, jalapeño and a large pinch of salt.
- Add the lime zest, lime juice and olive oil and whisk to combine. Add the avocado, tomatoes, scallions and cilantro and toss gently to combine.
- Remove the corn from the grill. When cool enough to handle, peel back the husks, discard the silk and slice the kernels off the cobs with a knife. Add to the bowl of vegetables. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and enjoy!