There is nothing like the flavor of a fresh tomato plucked straight out of the garden or the scent of rosemary that’s just been picked. Many of you may have memories of picking fresh vegetables out of your mother’s or grandmother’s garden and carrying them into the kitchen to eat right away or to add to dinner that night. Now with the convenience of supermarkets and the busyness of life – many of us no longer have the time or energy for gardens but the benefits of food coming straight from the farm or farmer’s market can’t be ignored.
By eating and buying local, you are able to enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables that are picked at their peak of ripeness and packed with nutrients and flavor. Whereas much of the produce found in grocery stores is picked before it is ripe in order to travel long distances to reach your table. Of course, cutting down on food miles also helps save the environment by reducing emissions and supports local farmers and growers.
At Maplewood Senior Living , we source as much food as we can locally and for our Connecticut communities, some of it comes from our own farm in Easton. You may be wondering, why buy local? Chef Dave Simmonds, Senior Culinary Services Director at Maplewood Senior Living, told us, “Whenever I mention the ‘Farm’ to a resident or potential resident, they instantly want to go and help out. There is no denying that freshly picked food is just better.”
“In fact, I just passed a resident in the hall and she was holding a fresh heirloom tomato that was just picked from her daughter’s garden. She was glowing as she walked down the hall holding the tomato as if it was a the first-place trophy, it was priceless to see and the tomato was beautiful,” said Dave.
When produce does arrive at communities from the farm, residents do get a real thrill. It triggers memories of their gardens growing up and reminds them of digging up fresh potatoes or pulling up carrots. To compliment sourcing food locally, we also create open kitchens in our communities to enhance the experience. Residents can see our chefs at work creating their meals right in front of them. They can smell a piece of fish frying in a pan or hear the chef chopping herbs for a salad.
As people age, their sense of taste often decreases, which makes eating fresh, flavorful foods even more important. By watching our culinary teams at work, residents are engaged in the process and often talk to the chef about the preparation of the food.
For our residents who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, we offer our Inspired Dining program which allows them to engage in a culinary dining experience that helps them to discover the joy of living in the moment. Inspired Dining is an overall sensory philosophy, which includes the use of purposeful and custom-made scent focusing on enhancing mood and appetite. In line with recommendations from the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association, we serve fresh brightly colored foods on white plates with contrasting colored table linens to help make the food more distinguishable for residents who have difficulty with depth perception, which is very common among those with dementia.
Our chefs build relationships with local farmers and producers to plan their weekly menus around what is in season. The chefs in our Connecticut communities not only source produce from our farm in Easton, but additionally from the rest of the state and neighboring New York and Massachusetts. Baggott Family Farms provides everything from cucumbers and squash to corn, peas and peppers and from the Harvest Farm of Whately we get collard greens, kale, Swiss chard and mint. In the fall, Hudson River Fruit in New York provides us with delicious apples and pears.
In our Massachusetts communities, the proximity to the ocean adds another resource, especially on Cape Cod. Our chefs get deliveries of fresh seafood from Chatham Fish and Lobster and everything from lettuce, beets, tomatoes, herbs and squash from Crow Farm. When it comes to local cheeses, we source them from Great Hill Dairy in Marion that has award-winning Blue Cheese. In fact, it placed 8th in the 2018 World Cheese Championships.
Further afield, from Providence, Rhode Island, we source mozzarella, yogurt and ricotta from Narragansett Creamery. This family-run business was started in 2007 by Mark and Pattie Federico and they now produce 14 different kinds of cheese along with yogurt. PJ Cranberry Bogs are located nearby in Sandwich and the fall delivers freshly harvested cranberries, synonymous with Cape Cod, for pies and jelly.
Our Ohio communities, of which there are three, also benefit from the talent of local farmers and producers. Kaiser Pickles is our source for pickles, peppers and relishes. From Waterfields in Cincinnati, we source microgreens and herbs along with edible flowers. The benefits of consuming local honey have not been lost on our culinary teams either. In addition to adding flavor to dishes, eating local honey has soothing properties, it is antibacterial and it can help alleviate seasonal allergies. We source our Ohio honey from Stein’s Honey, a family-owned business started over twenty years ago with two beehives. They now have over 625 hives, produce honey, comb honey, cream honey and beeswax candles.
While it is not always possible to source everything locally, at Maplewood Senior Living, we do our best to source as much as possible from each state or neighboring states. The results of our efforts show in the dishes we create for our residents and their overwhelmingly positive response. To learn more about our commitment to culinary excellence and our Inspired Dining program, please contact us.
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