I spent part of the weekend in Atlanta, and got to have dinner with friends at a farm-to-table restaurant. Their menu was fun to read, with one whole page dedicated to describing their farm partners. These partners ranged from South Carolina (rice) to Florida (strawberries) to Louisiana (seafood) and all throughout Georgia (including southwest Georgia!), representing a wide variety of vegetable, meat, and dairy producers.
The seasonal vegetable plate included a kale and squash medley, baby carrots, and shiitake mushrooms. That combo of seasonal veggies, none of which we’ve had available for 1-2 months, made me think about what a difference 200 miles can make in the seasonality of vegetable production. And Atlanta, being sandwiched between mountains and coast, is probably ideally situated for sourcing seasonal, and relatively local, vegetables. Something like kale could come from the southern part of the state in fall and winter, very locally in spring, and from the mountains in summer, providing a nearly year-round supply of Georgia grown produce.
That train of thought got me wondering about plant hardiness zones in Georgia. Gardeners often rely on plant hardiness zones to decide which crops to plant when. The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed their first maps of plant hardiness zones for the country in 1960, and they’ve been updated over time, most recently in 2012. These maps divide the country into 10 zones, each representing 10 degrees of difference in average annual extreme winter temperatures. The 1990 update split each hardiness zone into “a” and “b” subzones of 5 degrees difference in minimum winter temperatures. For example, then, Calamint Farms is nestled well into zone 8b, where average annual minimum temperatures are 15 to 20 degrees F. Georgia includes four hardiness zones, ranging from 6a in the mountains to 9a along the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re curious, this article has hardiness zone maps for each state, so you can see the range of variability in winter minimum temperatures across the country.
In another sign of the difference in climate between Atlanta and here, I got sent home with several immaculate, mouth wateringly delicious, freshly picked, home grown slicing tomatoes, which we just flat out struggled to grow this year. I wasted no time in incorporating them into one of my favorite summertime meals, a one-skillet saute of all of the veggies summer has to offer (here in zone 8b, anyway): eggplant, okra, peppers, and tomatoes. Thanks Nancy!