Guests at local restaurants like to know that the food they are eating is prepared fresh, and there is a new trend in the culinary world that chefs and food service managers are embracing. Many innovative industry professionals have taken the idea of farm-to-table service one step further by growing their own herbs and vegetables at their facility. This week, we’d like to take a look at this idea, and discuss if there are any ServSafe MN regulations that you should be aware of.
ServSafe MN and Growing Your Own Produce
From what we have determined, there is nothing in the ServSafe MN rules that would prevent you from growing garden vegetables or herbs for use in your restaurant or food preparation outlet. However, the rules pertaining to how you treat those items after they are harvested do still apply. Fruits and vegetables must be kept in a clean environment, they must be washed thoroughly and they must be kept free from potential cross contamination. We have four precautions that we suggest you take if you grow any produce for use in your facility:
- Use an organic sterilized fertilizer
- Use a clean water source to water your garden area
- Grow your garden in a secure location away from pests
- Wash produce immediately after harvesting
Using a sterilized fertilizer will reduce the risk of bacteria that naturally occurs in fertilizer from coming into contact with the food you harvest from your restaurant garden, and stagnant water can grow algae and other harmful contaminates which will be harmful to your plants and the guests who consume the produce grown from them. It is also important to rinse your produce after harvest. This will immediately remove unseen pests, dirt, fertilizer and other common contaminates that are associated with growing raw produce.
When we talk about growing your own produce, we are specifically focusing on herbs, vegetables and fruits that will be processed, cooked or served as menu items in your restaurant. If you plan on selling any raw items to customers for retail purposes, we strongly suggest you contact your local health inspector and the chamber of commerce to see if you are required to obtain any unique licenses or permits in order to do so.
The most common use of restaurant gardens is to grow herbs, chili peppers or other items that are used in small quantities, but there are several local outlets that produce nearly 100 percent of their vegetables on-site. Do you see your facility growing its own produce, or are you content to let your suppliers handle all of the work associated with gardening?