Fresh peaches, fresh corn, fresh squash, fresh blueberries, fresh beets and potatoes… fresh food! I love the Farm Market season because it’s a great time to find all my favorite fresh produce. They say that food may travel 1500 miles to make it to our tables. Seasonal farm markets offer the opportunity to buy from our own community and serve Farm to Table. Here at Blessings on State, we are committed to serving fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables as much as we can. It’s a Midwestern value that we hold dear. County Market, our local grocery chain, even advertises the names of their local growers and producers that reduce the travel time and keep our food fresh.
I grew up in a farming community. I knew hog farmers and beef farmers and families that raised chickens and turkeys, and I went to school with their children. I grew up “in town” in the small town of Newton, Illinois. My dad was a gardener. He grew a lot of flowers, but also had an extensive vegetable garden each year. I grew up eating the freshest vegetables around. (I learned to love most of them, but I still don’t favor eggplant or okra.) I have an appreciation for home-grown, but I’m not much of a grower. Our property is so shaded that it’s very hard to grow anything other than perennials. I do have a kitchen herb garden on the back deck, but that’s about it. Since I can’t grow ’em, I rely on others to do all the work. I buy from the local Farmer’s Markets, at roadside stands and sometimes friends and neighbors have such an abundance they give food away!
When I was very young, we sometimes gigged asparagus along the roadsides out in the country. After we moved into town, we were always in search of “Indiana melons,” i.e., cantaloupe and watermelon grown in Indiana. I’ve gone from spitting seeds to buying seedless, but I have very fond memories of the seasonal search for that pick-up truck bed filled to the brim with Indiana melons. In our area we often look for “Calhoun County peaches” and “Beardstown melons” and we serve them to our guests. There are well-known local orchards, but I still get a thrill buying at the Farm Market or from a pickup truck alongside the road. I guess I’m still a small-town girl at heart.
Saturdays are my favorite breakfast preparation days. Lately, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants as I design my menu after I hit the Farmer’s Market at 7:00 a.m. Seeing what’s available inspires what’s for breakfast at the B & B. Oh, I plan the breakfast breads, but the vegetables that go in the egg dish and the side vegetable are up for grabs until I see what they have each week. One weekend I served sauteed squash as a side and our guests loved it. I also buy my breakfast meat at the market, so I know it’s fresh from the farm. One Saturday morning I used tomatoes, blackberries, Italian sausage, an onion and squash from the Farmer’s Market. I often use potatoes, but haven’t come up with any great breakfast recipes for beets and other root vegetables. If you have some ideas, please send them along!
One of the benefits of staying in a Bed & Breakfast is that food is prepared in smaller quantities, and using fresh from the garden or farm is always a viable option. We have a small family and I try to use fresh foods for our family meals, too. We’ve been enjoying a blackberry cobbler this weekend, made from berries from the Farmer’s Market and the Pioneer Woman’s cobbler recipe. I highly recommend both, and I know that Glenn will concur. Sweet corn is still in season and we have found some of the best! (I’m still trying to figure out a good way to serve it for guest breakfasts!)
Several of our local growers are organic, or focus in other ways on growing foods with high nutritional content. I enjoy cooking indulgent breakfasts and I love to use healthy ingredients. As an innkeeper, I’m very thankful to have easy access to such a terrific bounty of fresh food here in my own community.
About Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast
Experience a stay in our award-winning Bed & Breakfast located in a magnificently restored 130-year-old mansion in the heart of the historic district. Pampered luxury is our goal, to delight both business and leisure travelers. We offer two upscale guest suites, each with private sitting rooms and private baths. We provide multi-course gourmet breakfasts, 24/7 family-friendly hot and cold beverages and snacks, and cookies and milk at bedtime. Wi-Fi is available throughout our home and each suite has a digital satellite TV and all-season fireplace. We are located just steps away from Illinois College, the Governor Duncan Mansion and Illinois School for the Deaf and our neighborhood is highlighted on one of Jacksonville’s historic walking tours. Escape the standard hotel room and enjoy your own private suite in the finest Jacksonville area lodging.