While we're largely known for our beverages, we've experimented with a wide range of farm-crafted products over the course of our time at Heartwood. One illustration of how far-reaching our experimentation can go, is our tangy red pepper and asparagus salsa. Not only is it a delicious product that's satiated us on many occasions through the years, but it also served as a valuable lesson for me in open-mindedness and humility.
A couple years ago we partnered with our friends and neighbours at Uphill Farm, where we agreed to harvest and sell fresh asparagus as an additional offering in our bottle shop. By season's end, we had moved through a ton of the asparagus we'd harvested - but we were left with some excess that we needed to find a use for before it expired. Given our commitment to food circularity and upcycling, we knew there had to be some type of creative solution (for some reason, the thought of asparagus-steeped cider didn't inspire much confidence...).
Enter, Farmer Val - my colleague and mom. She, like many of us had spent weeks harvesting, and was determined not to let any of this high-quality product go to waste. To this day, I'm not entirely sure where the plan originated, but her thought was to use it as the centrepiece in a never-before-seen asparagus salsa recipe.
At the time, I commended her for her outside-the-box thinking - but I was definitely a little bit skeptical to say the least. I felt like the idea came way out of left field, and I really didn't know how to feel about it. We hadn't done anything quite like this before... would people respond well to it? Would it taste good? How much would it cost? I had my doubts, and it was rather begrudgingly that I agreed to the idea.
Val took the idea and ran with it. She partnered with our friends at Rootham's Gourmet Preserves in Guelph to craft the recipe and get it into package. What resulted was a delicious, rich, nicely balanced salsa unlike any I'd tried - not only had the asparagus been salvaged, but it flourished in a new and unlikely setting.
The response was fantastic; whether customers tried it on our patio or found it on our online store, people of all ages remarked at the uniqueness of the recipe; many of them even said they hadn't thought asparagus would work so well in salsa, and that they were pleased to find it accentuated the blend perfectly. The batch came and went, and we had to wait until asparagus was in-season for the next round of production. The wait gave me some time to think. I think I have good instincts in lots of ways; but sometimes, I need to leave my assumptions and biases at the door, and trust my mom's intuition.
When asparagus season rolled around this year, you wouldn't have heard any protest from me - I stepped back and let her work her magic.
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