When I started to talk with people in the community about aquaponics, I heard one statement time and time again. “The vegetables taste like fish.” I knew that the only way to address this issue was to talk with a chef whose palate is refined enough to detect subtle nuances in food. I decided that for this post I would ask Chef Devin Lowder of When Pigs Fly Island Charcuterie Company to address this myth, to share with us why he prefers vegetables grown in aquaponics, to talk story about agriculture, and to get a few recipes from him.
Let me introduce you to Chef Devin Lowder.
Chef Devin comes from Denver, Colorado. After studying culinary arts at the New England Culinary Institute, he traveled all over the US including Alaska working as a chef. He now resides here in Hawaii with his beautiful wife, Kristin, and clever son, Skye.
Chef Devin is the current president of the Kona-Kohala chapter of the American Culinary Federation. He is also a board member of the Kona County Farm Bureau and serves as a member of the Hawaii Community College Program Advisory Council for the West Hawaii Culinary Arts Program.
The charcuterie that Devin hand crafts and sells at the Keauhou Farmers Market every Saturday is from locally sourced meats that are raised without hormones or antibiotics. When Pigs Fly Island Charcuterie Company, WPFICC, has the most diverse and extensive line of charcuterie on our Island. Chef Devin not only supports the farm to table movement but also lives it. So when I asked if I could take a few minutes of his time, he was more than willing to help out.
You will see me refer to charcuteries all through out this post. So, what is charcuterie? Pronounced, shahr-koo-tuh-ree, it is the craft of salting, smoking and curing food.
At the last Saturday’s farmer market Devin stopped by the Living Aquaponics booth and picked up bok choy, baby romaine, and two bunches of beets. From the Dias Farm he purchased a head of cabbage, from Earthly Delights he picked up hearts of palm, and from Goo Farm he bought bell peppers. All the vegetables and meats you will need to make the following dishes can be found at the Keauhou Farmers Market.
Baby Romaine Salad with Smoked Beet Vinaigrette
Smoked Beet Vinaigrette
½ cup chopped smoked beets
½ onion chopped (raw)
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup rice vinegar
I tablespoon Ohi’a Lehua blossom honey from Big Island Bee Company
3 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt
½ teaspoon pepper
- Place all ingredients except oil in a bowl.
- Using an emersion blender, mix ingredients until smooth.
- Add the oil at the very end.
A few tips from Chef Devin:
- Always add the oil at the very end to be sure it becomes creamy.
- If you do not have a smoker and therefore cannot make smoked beets you can salt roast them. Check out this link if you do not know how to salt roast.
- When he smoked the beets, he had them in his smoker for three hours.
Baby Romaine Salad
2 heads of roughly chopped baby romaine from Living Aquaponics Farm
½ cup WPFICC bacon
½ cup WPFICC 21 day aged pancetta
½ c chopped hearts of palms from Earthly Delights
3 slices tomatoes
Basil flower for decoration
While Kristin Lowder and I savored every last bit of the salad, Chef Devin made the entrée. Between each heavenly bite we talked about the statement, “food grown in aquaponics taste like fish.” I asked Chef Devin if he found that to be true. His response didn’t surprise me but rather confirmed what I thought. ”No, I do not agree with that at all. I use vegetable grown in aquaponics all the time. I think that is a myth perpetuated by misguided people.”
Kristin brought up a really great point. She said, “I have had lettuce that tastes like dirt and some that has tasted like sand. But, don’t they call that Terroir?”
So what is terroir? Terre is derived from the French word “land”. Terroir was originally used to describe flavor characteristics of wine grapes grown in France and is now used through out the world to describe crops grown in specific regions.
Roulade de Chou with braised Bok Choy and Beet Greens
1 medium head of cabbage
½ pound WPFICC Bacon
½ pound WPFICC Ham
½ pound WPFICC Andouille Sausage
¼ pound WPFICC Queso Fresco
- Cut cabbage in half, core, and steam until the cabbage is soft enough to work with.
- Lay steamed cabbage leave down. Place two slices of bacon down length wise, place ham on top of the bacon, then Andouille sausage on top of the ham, top with queso fresco.
- Roll the cabbage up and steam for 20 minutes.
Braised Bok Choy and Beet Greens
2 heads of bok choy
2 cups of beet greens
1 bell pepper sliced
2 tablespoons Sake
1 clove garlic minced
Salt and pepper to taste
- Toss ingredients in oil.
- Cook ingredients in a hot pan for 5 minutes.
Smoked Beet Sauce
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup chopped smoked beets
½ onion chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Thai basil flowers
1 teaspoon minced garlic
- In a saucepan bring the ingredients to a medium simmer.
- When the ingredients are warm, use the emersion blender to mix the ingredients.
Slice the cabbage rolls, plate with the braised greens, and drizzle Smoked Beet Sauce around this heavenly dish.
While delighting in this incredible dish, I asked Chef Devin why he prefers vegetables grown in aquaponics. He said, “They taste better, they last longer, and they are fresher. People say aquaponics vegetables taste watery, but I totally disagree. Some people say vegetables grown in aquaponics are dirty but that is just silly. It is living lettuce because you still have the roots and growing medium. That is why it lasts so long. I just prefer living lettuces over anything else.”
Look at these onions that Kristin Lowder planted with scraps from onions left over from a meal Devin had made three weeks prior.
Well guys, this was a long post. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Get your shopping lists ready and head down to your local Farmers Market.