Mother and son Gardening Super-Duo, Sharon Oldham (Boss Lady) and Houston Oldham are the master keepers and Gardening masterminds at Dancing Bear Lodge. Together they “toil in the soil” from season to season and bring bountiful gifts of fresh, organic produce to Chef Jeff Carter and his culinary team at the Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro.
In fact, during your next visit to the Bistro, many of the key components of your dish probably arrived only hours earlier that day, freshly picked from our property gardens!
To be able to provide the kitchen with these bountiful gifts, preparations must be made early in the year for the best possible harvest. Of course, each and every growing year is different, and the Oldham’s must contend with a variety of weather conditions here in East Tennessee and adjust accordingly. This years’ winter has been long and temperatures cooler than average.
We asked Houston Oldham, who benefits and draws from his formal education in Sustainable Urban Agriculture, “What preparations have already happened behind the scenes this year to encourage a healthy harvest despite the cool spring season?”
“This year, we moved the bean and tomato tunnels to a new location in the garden where squash grew last year. This crop rotation strategy ensures we can operate without excessive soil amendments or fertilizers and keep our gardens continually ORGANIC!
One fun thing that we did plant early in the season is RAMPS! We are lucky to have a culinary team member who values interesting and different edible o plants. Phil ( one of our stand out Bistro cooks ) brought us sustainably grown ramp cuttings. It’s hard to overstate how rare these ramp cuttings are. We planted them in the forest property, nestled into a dense trillium patch to promote a wild garden. “
– Houston Oldham
“This year, I’m working more closely with the kitchen. Chef Jeff has requested a variety of ‘cherry’ tomatoes in lots of colors! So we have orange, red, blue, purple, yellow and we’ll pick some early so we’ll have green ones, too. We’ll also have lots of heirloom varieties as well as good slicers. I’ll also plant more summer squash this year and in succession so we can enjoy squash blossoms late into the summer. Hot peppers are on the radar with varieties like Bolivian Rainbows, hot banana, Tabasco, and a new variety to the DB garden called Buena Mulata.
PLUS ~ More flowers will be planted this year. A colorful garden brings more pollinators and variety and pleasing to the passerby.”
– Sharon Oldham
“Having a bountiful garden with numerous vegetables and herbs right here on property is a chef’s dream. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to craft menu items with simply what’s being grown on property, adding in locally and regionally sourced proteins where needed, and creating original, seasonal dishes for our guest to enjoy.
It’s also a powerful and gratifying story for our servers to share with our guest as they describe our menu each night, knowing that during the season much of our produce is coming from our own Bistro gardens. I believe in this day and age, it’s almost expected, for restaurants of our caliber, to produce and utilize their own products, and we are happy to meet that expectation.
Being able to collaborate with Sharon each year on what we want to produce in the coming growing season and then actually seeing (and tasting) these plans come to fruition in the restaurant is priceless – and what every chef dreams of.”
– Executive Chef Jeff Carter | Oldham Hospitality