Spring is finally here ... in a big way.
The garden has been planted for more than a month now, and so far, I haven’t killed anything — although the lettuce had me worried for a week or so in the beginning.
The cucumber plants have started to put out feelers for vining, the tomatillos and peppers are flowering. There’s even a small Roma forming on one of the four varieties of tomato plants that I have in the garden.
So now I turn to that other seasonal ritual: spring cleaning.
Allow me to share with you some of the bits and pieces of food-related information that I have accumulated over the recent weeks and, in the process, perform a virtual spring cleaning of my mind and my work desk.
While my sister and I were at the flower show at the State Farmers Market in April, we ran across a couple of new local products. One of my new favorites is Willie’s Hog Dust, a dry-seasoning mix made in Sumter that tastes good on just about everything. Samples of pulled pork, beef tenderloin and a dipping sauce that incorporated the mix were offered at the show. All were delicious. I have since used Hog Dust when grilling pork chops and have sprinkled it over popcorn and green salads.
The website, williesrubbins.com, offers quite a few recipes and ordering information. According to the site, Willie’s Hog Dust is available at Ole Timey Meat Market locations, Four Oaks Farms, Columbia Regional Visitors Center and the State Museum.
Another versatile product is Mother Shucker’s Original Cocktail Sauce from The Oyster Bar in Columbia. Patrons of the Vista restaurant at 1123 Park St. will recognize this sauce immediately. Served warm, it’s a perfect accompaniment to fish and seafood.
Mother Shucker’s is available online at oysterbarcolumbia.com and at various local farmers markets (I found it the first week at the Forest Acres market on the roof at Richland Mall).
I have not yet tried this one, but I found the marketing information intriguing: Japanese Pink Sauce from Native Tongue Gourmet Sauces of Spartanburg. The idea for the company sprang from the mind of Jason McElveen when he was a student at Wofford College. His class project involved a business/marketing plan for a local hibachi restaurant. After a collaborative project fell through, McElveen started making and marketing a sauce on his own.
Online recipes suggest using the sauce not only for dipping but as an ingredient in pimento cheese or as a substitute for mayonnaise. Japanese Pink Sauce is available locally at Simply Savory on Devine Street, Mary & Martha’s on Forest Drive, various Piggly Wiggly stores and online at nativetonguesauces.com.
Perhaps the most helpful item to recently cross my desk is a copy of the South Carolina Specialty Food Association Membership Guide, published by the state Department of Agriculture. The guide lists farmers, producers and retailers of local specialty products (such as sauces, mixes, beverages and baked goods), along with contact information and description of available items.
This is not to be confused with the Certified Roadside Markets online guide, follow the link at agriculture.sc.gov, that lists roadside market hours and seasonal availability of products. Both guides are great starting points for discovering a new food source or, as with the roadside market guide, planning a day trip.
Speaking of which, it’s time for me to clean out the collapsible cooler that I keep in the car and head out in this sunny weather. Who knows what I’ll find next?