Last October, USDA deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan delivered a $28,000 check to the Community Farm Kitchen’s stall at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. One year later, the renamed Harvest Kitchen has a new commercial kitchen in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town that’s specially designed for labor-intensive prepping of farm goods, with extra sinks for washing vegetables and fruit. The produce comes from a variety of local providers, including its original namesake, the Community Farm of Ann Arbor, the area’s pioneer of “community-supported agriculture.”
Harvest Kitchen is a CSA, too, but instead of a crop share, members get ready-made meals. The roster of part-and full-time employees includes three professional chefs. Besides dishing up changing weekly menus like ratatouille, cumin lentil burgers, and bacon mac and cheese, in September owners Michelle Hartmann and Mary Wessel Walker were deep into their end-of-season stockpiling. “We’ll freeze about 1,600 quarts of tomatoes at peak flavor time this year,” Hartmann says.
In addition to feeding about 100 Ann Arbor and Ypsi member families seasonally (a 25-week vegetarian meal share currently costs $2,500, or $2,800 with meat; half-shares and special diet options are available). Harvest Kitchen also sells individual meals, like tandoori chicken or antipasto salad made with Goetz Farm tomatoes and Tantre greens ($6-$12) and has a growing line of retail offerings. Granolas range from a crispy, caramelly, and supernutty version called “Michael’s Special Request” to completely nut-free varieties. “Plum Pucker” salsa–made with plum tomatoes, whole Michigan cherries and roasted garlic–hits a perfect balance of sweet and savory with just a hint peppery heat. Peppery-green “Anvil Stacker Hot Sauce” puts the burn on in a major way. Thai Peanut Sauce, on the other hand, is as mild as its coconut milk, tahini, and peanut butter main ingredients might suggest.
Harvest Kitchen has plans for further expansion, including growing its own ingredients just outside of town. Meanwhile, find them at the Farmers Market or online at harvest-kitchen.com.