Harvest Season with Maggie Kelly

If you've been staying up-to-date with our Production Services Roster, you may have noticed that we added a Food Stylist recently. Since we've been working with Maggie and her portfolio continues to grow, so do our appetites as we see the delectable platters she is preparing on-set with our commercial partners. Maggie has a rich background in food and preparation. Growing up on a farm, she learned the intricacies and importance of fresh ingredients and how to best put them to use. We had a chance to catch up with Maggie to get some pro-tips we might be able to incorporate into our holiday feasts. Though our plates may not look as good as hers, she shared some valuable lessons on how to work with your garden to prepare seasonal dishes all year round. 

"The most important thing I've learned about gardening in an urban setting, aside from the value of good dirt, is that space is precious. I have never enjoyed any food more than the food that comes from pristine dirt and honest, humble effort. To me, it is a sacred act of love for the people that I nurture.

Maggie in her garden.

Fresh Arugula

I have learned to plant indigenous plants which thrive in the climate naturally. They require less maintenance and less water while encouraging bees to pollinate and live my garden. I have also learned that I have forgotten much from my childhood and that we need to preserve the knowledge that has been handed down for generations. I have gone to my aunt Betty for counsel and to many websites and University extensions to troubleshoot, problem-solve and plan. More than a labor of love, gardening is powerful and literally grounding for me, as well as great exercise! It is also a wonderful classroom for my children that extends into my kitchen, and enhances our family time-educating them about the quality and value of clean food as well as protecting our resources. 

The food itself is a brass ring. I have learned in the last several years to plant things I know we will enjoy in amounts I know I can handle. I have also come to appreciate that you can never plant too many tomatoes! I try to plant things that I can preserve in some way to enjoy through the non-producing months.

Vintage Pressure Cooker

Another wonderful gift from my garden is produce you can't find anywhere except, if you're lucky and can afford it, at a farmers market. These specialty things, like Japanese turnips and okra to name just a couple, which were once considered humble, are treasured gems! We are extremely fortunate in the Midwest to have a long growing season and high quality soil rich with nitrogen fixing clay. In my cooking, I start with what is at its peak in my garden as opposed to a recipe that cannot take into account what is outside my back door. In fact I rarely use recipes – the produce itself dictates meals as we follow the season.

As far as my cooking, I often cook six things together using one technique. I tend to create dishes that combine small amounts of many things for day to day meals, such as stir-fry, curry or soup. Other times, I might make one thing with five different techniques, for instance: a carrot plate.

Carrots 5 Ways

In this dish, I use carrots raw, pickled, oil-poached, fried, and pureed in a sauce to bring it all together, served with greens and bright herbs also from my garden.
A plate like this draws from the pantry for pickled carrots and the freezer for the purée so that I'm not doing all the work at one time but able to enjoy it anytime. I pickle, pack in oil, dry, ferment, smoke, grill, and anything else I can think of to bring variety." 

Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and we want to know more of what spices are on Maggie's spice rack. As harvest season pulls to an end, Maggie has our wheels turning on how we can keep eating garden-fresh all year round. 

If you'd like to torture yourself with more photos of delicious dishes, check out Maggie's portfolio

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