One important lesson I learned during my visit to St. Simons Island was how difficult it is to promote the use of locally sourced ingredients even in a region awash in native seafood, fruits, and vegetables. The more people seek out and demand better quality food, the easier and more cost-effective it will be for local purveyors to compete with mass produced mediocrity. The King and Prince, an historic resort on Georgia’s coast is pulling out all the stops reaching out to local growers and cultivating an appreciation of fresh and tasty ingredients among guests. I had the pleasure of meeting some of these companies and sampling their goods:
Georgia Olive Farms
Georgia isn’t the first place that comes to mind when thinking of olive growing. But this State in fact has a long heritage of growing olives beginning with the first Spanish settlers. For a time, cottonseed oil supplanted olives but
starting in the 1870s, trees were gradually replanted and cultivated. Arbequina is the most popular strain grown throughout southeastern Georgia due to its frost hardiness and ability to grow in many different soil types. I did a comparison tasting of a Georgia extra virgin oil with a similar top brand from California and definitely noticed the difference. It was deep green and extremely buttery on the tongue.
incredibly versatile, mild onions need to thrive. Discovered by accident in the 1930s when they started appearing in local farmers markets, nearly 100 local farmers now grow Vidalias. Growers still plant and pick their crops by hand.
Lane Southern Orchards
Even though Lane Orchards located just outside of Fort Valley, in the heart of Middle Georgia, raises a wide variety of fruits and pecans, they are best known for their signature peaches. Over 100 years experience raising peaches has helped them perfect the short growing season…16 weeks from bloom to harvest. But even after all this time, production is still very much a hands-on labor intensive process. Peaches are culled, picked, and packed into crates by hand before being shipped to local stores. Georgia’s cool nights and warm days yield better tasting and sweeter peaches than higher yielding competitors in South Carolina and California.
Wild Georgia Shrimp
Whether you’re a foodie, health nut, or simply concerned about what you ingest and how it affects your health, you are probably already
aware of the important distinctions between farm raised and wild caught seafood. In the case of shrimp, it’s critical to understand that Georgia’s shrimping fleet is down to 100 from a count of 300 just a couple decades ago. Imported farm raised shrimp has overtaken the market, lowered prices, and driven many independents out of business. This is too bad because not only is farm-raised shrimp filled with antibiotics, it tastes bland since they are only fed one type of soy-based food. The natural food source for Wild Georgia Shrimp comes from the nutrients supplied by clean, coastal Spartina marshes and estuaries flanking the southern Atlantic coast. The area’s strong tides combined with natural filtration through Georgia’s expansive marshland give shrimp a sweet succulent taste and a good firm texture that can only be produced in the wild.
Photos courtesy of Steve Mirsky. Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored visit.