For ease of reading, we’ve split the “Miraculous Mirepoix” post into two parts since there is simply so much to tell you! In this first part we will highlight the origin of each vegetable and the first steps for garden prep. Stay tuned for the second half of this post sometime next week!

This is the fourth post in an ongoing series featuring “grow-your-own” produce and how to make the most of it this summer. Our hope is to demystify the process … help your “green (or maybe not-so-green) thumb” emerge … have some fun, particularly with the kids hanging around your house or neighborhood this summer … and help everyone understand a little bit better how their food comes to be!

We hear you…“Gardening tips from a soup company?” Hey, we’re foodies – for us, food is endlessly fascinating and we think the more you know, the better you will eat; the better you eat, the better you’ll feel. Pretty simple notion and one that is fundamental to New England Country Soup … so let’s go play in the dirt and have some fun!

No, The Mirepoix (meer-pwah) Trio isn’t the next up and coming boy band and it isn’t some fancy drink you can order at your corner Starbucks. What it is is a humble trinity of three simple vegetables that come together to create some of the most exciting dishes known to man. The French name refers to a fine diced mix of carrots, celery, and onions, but the term mirepoix has since spanned the globe and works under other appellations such as sofrito  in places like Italy and Latin America and the Holy Trinity in Cajun communities. No matter what you call it, these three ingredients have formed the flavor foundation for many soups and stocks for centuries. To carry on these age-old culinary traditions, we use two of these three simple vegetables in our own soup bases and all three ingredients in one of our soups (carrots just do not work well in our New England Clam Chowder). But, Oh la la vache, we are getting ahead of ourselves…let us introduce you to les ingredients…

Bio: Carrot, Daucus carota

Origin: This humble root vegetable hails from the middle east, more specifically Iran and Afghanistan. At first, the carrot was grown for its aromatic leaves and seeds rather than the sweet and tasty roots. Throughout the earliest centuries of written history, mentions of various colors of carrots range from Spain to the Netherlands. It wasn’t until the 17thcentury that the iconic orange carrot (a particular variety bred to be sweet and crisp and gets its bright color from a hefty dose of beta-carotene) was introduced and spread across the world to become the lunch pail companion of peanut butter sandwiches for kids of all ages.

Bio: Celery, Apium graveolens 

Origin: Supposedly, King Tut’s mummy was found in his tomb wearing garlands of celery leaves. What we do know is the plant was fully cultivated by classical times. There is literary evidence of celery in Homer’s Iliad and in the Odyssey. The name “celery” can be traced back to the French spelling celeri and the Latin selinon. Famous English gardener and writer John Evelyn popularized the plant in his famous book A Discourse of Sallets(1699) which has now morphed into a comical tradition associated with the English football team, Chelsea, where celery is regularly thrown on the fields before a game.

Bio: Onion, Allium cepa

Origin: The onion, both cultivated and wild, has been a culinary ingredient since the dawn of time. Supposedly, the ancient Egyptians found the onion metaphorical and symbolic of eternal life due to its round shape and inner rings.  Pyramid workers feasted on a laborer’s lunch of onions and other root vegetables, Greek athletes ate loads of onions to “balance the blood,” Roman gladiators used onions as a topical muscle enhancer, and people in the Middle Ages considered the plant as important as gold or silver currency. Onions were used as a historic cure-all or “panacea” (that’s just a fancy Latin word for “cure-all”) helping fix everything from upset stomach to snake bite.

Growing:

The “magic” here, especially for kids, is you can grow this “holy trinity” from either “seed” or “stalk”, i.e. whole plants you can buy at your local farmer’s market or supermarket! Cool!

From Seed: Each of these plants will grow quite well from easy-to-find seeds from your local nursery. But, keep in mind that each of these plants take a considerable time to plant and grow from seeds and do not, necessarily, adapt to all soil types. Additionally, thanks to the tenuous nature of Mother Nature, small scale production of these plants doesn’t always succeed. If you have the time and patience, do try planting these “from scratch” and useBackyard Gardener for instructions.

From Stalk: Buy a bunch of carrots (preferably organic) with clean green tops from your local farmer’s market or grocery store. Also buy a bunch of celery with a clean root base that is void of any deep cuts or lesions. Lastly, buy a couple of small yellow or white onions with clean but prominent root ends.

So now you have a few growing details and little bit of background for each of these earthy vegetables. Take your short shopping list, collect these ingredients, and meet us back here next week for part two of “Miraculous Mirepoix” where we’ll talk planting, harvesting, and kitchen uses!