Harvest Time: Celebrating Our Food Sources
with Suzanne Klein
September 25, 2013
When harvest time rolls around every fall, it's a good time to reflect on how we source our food and our spices.
Savory's trip to paprika fields in France
Consumers are increasingly looking for locally produced or certified-organic foods, and care about purchasing consumables from reputable and trustworthy suppliers who know where the food products they are selling are sourced.
Our Spice Sources
Savory Spice Shop was founded nearly ten years ago with the goal of providing high-quality herbs, spices and seasonings at a fair price and in customer-friendly quantities. We carefully select our spice suppliers—buying directly from the source in some cases—and handcraft our blends from these fine sources.
If you have been to our stores, you likely know that we grind and blend our product in small batches and package our seasonings by hand. What you may not know is that the founders of Savory Spice Shop, Mike and Janet Johnston, travel the world to find reliable spice sources, meet growers and producers, learn about seasoning techniques, and gain inspiration for creating the highest quality product. On a trip to France Mike and Janet visited a number of salt flats, where they gained insight into salt harvesting methods and built relationships with the families who are now sourcing some of Savory’s sea salts. This year, they traveled to the Caribbean in an effort to understand and capture the authentic flavors of Bajan Seasoning. This trip included kitchen time with a local chef, who schooled them in the flavors and techniques of Barbadian cuisine.
As much as they would love to, Mike and Janet can’t personally visit every single one of our suppliers across the globe. So, over the last ten years, we’ve taken care to establish strong relationships with the suppliers we can’t meet face-to-face. When sourcing a new product we put samples of the product through the ringer, testing it in our grinding and blending rooms and in our test kitchen to make sure the quality matches our high expectations. Suppliers also provide insight into how the spice product was cultivated, processed, cleaned, and treated before it even reaches our shop.
Mike and Janet visiting salt producers in France
Spices are a natural product. As they are cultivated outdoors and not in a lab, spices must be cleaned by an FDA-approved method, and that method depends on the specific characteristics of the product. Savory’s products go through many quality control measures before they end up on our store shelves and in your pantry. We take great care in the handling of our spices to maintain a consistently safe and high-quality product.
Our Organic Selection
We offer a variety of products that have been organically grown and processed. As always, our primary concerns are the quality and pricing of our product. Where comparable in price and quality (to their conventional counterparts) we have switched to carrying organic. We do have a few products that we offer in both organic and conventional, such as vanilla beans and cinnamon, to appeal to our diverse customer base. Some of the favorites in our organic collection include:
- Organic Ground Ceylon Cinnamon: This “true” organic cinnamon comes from the mature trunk bark of a cinnamon tree. Its higher oil content makes it more potent than its non-organic counterpart.
- Organic Ground Cumin: We grind our cumin seeds weekly and we never tire of the amazing fresh aroma and earthy flavor we get from this organic variety.
- Organic Moroccan Saffron: Cultivated by hand in the fields of Suktana, a town just south of Taliouine, Morocco, the entire community lives among the saffron fields and practices the same natural farming methods to produce this amazingly high-quality saffron.
- Organic Extracts: Some of our most popular extracts are organic. These high-quality extracts are flavored with only the pure, organic ingredients—almond, lemon, orange, and Madagascar vanilla.
Our Domestically Sourced Spices
The sassafras tree is native to the East Coast
Most spices are grown in the equatorial regions between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Therefore, most spices must be imported by the United States. While some culinary spices and herbs have adapted to growing in the U.S. (e.g. peppermint, sage, garlic, lavender, and some chiles) there are only a few spice-producing plants that are actually native to the Americas (e.g. some chiles, cacao, vanilla beans, allspice, and sassafras). When we can find high quality domestically produced spices, we jump on the chance to carry them in our stores. Some of our favorite domestically sourced products include:
- Organic Black Garlic: This popular culinary phenomenon (a bulb of garlic that turns dark, sticky, and sweet after fermenting for a month) originated in Korea but is now domestically grown in the U.S.
- Organic Gumbo Filé Powder: The dried, powdered leaves of the sassafras tree, this herb is native to the U.S.’s East Coast, from Maine to Florida and stretching west along the Gulf Coast. It is the essential flavoring and thickening agent for authentic Louisiana gumbo.
- New Mexican Mild Green Chile Powder: Hatch, New Mexico is known as the green chile capital of the world. We use the popular New Mexico #6-4 variety for our mild yet richly flavored green chile powder.
- California Bay Leaves: Native Americans used these leaves from these native evergreen trees as an insect repellant. Today we use these mountain laurel leaves, which are much stronger in flavor than Turkish bay leaves, in soups, stews, and pickled vegetables.
Our Local Offerings
Savory's "Local Offerings" section
Savory Spice Shops are locally owned and operated by passionate spice merchants and food lovers. These culinary aficionados build relationships with local “main street” businesses and supply local restaurants, preserving companies, breweries, wine makers, ice cream shops, and other small, local food producers with the freshest spices available.
We recently added a small “Local Offerings” section to each store. This new section allows us to highlight and support our customers who are making amazing, unique food products, many of which use our spices. In this section of our shops, you may find spiced jams and teas, infused oils and sauces, flavored pastas and honeys. These offerings reflect the character and food passion of our communities.
For those of you who have been shopping with us for the last decade, thank you! And for those who are new to our spice family, welcome! We appreciate your support. Your appreciation for food is why we are so passionate about what we do. Happy harvest season!