Terroir of Le Pecan Pointe (or the Taste of Place)

Most of us Americans, brought up to purchase our food at the grocery store, aren't accustomed much to thinking  about where our food comes from. Yes, we have a vague notion that the oranges, say, are trucker up from Florida, or the tomatoes flown over from California, as the packaging informs us. But where in Florida, exactly, is the orange grove? Who amends and tends to the soil the tomato seeds are laid in? And how do they go about it?

Unless we've a strong interest in food and agriculture, one naval orange or cherry tomato, in our minds, tastes pretty much like another. They almost always look the same on the shelf. (The grocer demands it.) And if they don't, we may wonder if something went wrong.

But what is flavor--of language, region and culture, and especially of food--without an appreciation of origin?

Even the novice wine drinker understands, at some level, the unlikelihood that two different years of merlot, even from the same neighborhood, if not the same winery, will taste the same; the variables involved in the bottles' production are simply overwhelming. All one need do is unearth and savor a fraction of the native possibilities. What was the type and variety of grape? Did it rain while planting? Grow warmer during the growing season? The harvest? How about the mineral content of the soil? (...and the water used to irrigate?) What nutrients, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and/or pesticides did the farmer put down? And what did the soil microbes, earthworms, and pests, "beneficial" or otherwise, have to say about it? Elevation? Fermentation? Regional acclamations? Allocations and economic temptations?

So it is with the taste and appearance of our food--the pecans from our orchard, the yogurt from our cows, the honey from our bees on our granola--and the unique terroir out of which it emerges: The sheer diversity of variables is tremendous. And while, over the years, we've come to what we think is a good understanding of many of these natural variables, in an effort to produce the best quality food, we appreciate that many others may remain a bit of a mystery to us.

Take our milk, which has a way of changing, from week to week, in concert with seasonal variation in the grasses our six Jersey cows graze. In the early spring, we've detected a hint of onion (...why again?) in the body of our milk. And approaching summer, a fuller, sweeter taste, as the (...?) grasses mature and become richer and more nutritious forage. We've also considered the temperament of our cows who, after all, give milk as lactation after giving birth to a calf or heifer. One can imagine, then, that with variation in our milk comes natural variation in our yogurt: perhaps lighter and looser one month, thicker and creamier the next. Does the culture react differently with the milk's changing composition? The protein structure with the vat temperature? Perhaps, but to what degree it's hard to say.

Like our bees, ever in search of nectar for sustenance, we'll continue to make an effort to find out, so as to offer to the public the most flavorful foods our land can sustainably offer. As we do so, we hope you'll share with us in the pleasures and surprises of eating from the land, and offer what you've tasted and learned to family and friends.

Justin DeFelciantonio