In the summer of 2013, TerraMae owner Mark Oldham and his wife started the TerraMae farm to ensure the freshest possible ingredients grown just for the Chattanooga restaurant. On the southern edge of Nashville, Sharon Oldham put her 15 years of experience as a home gardener to work, filling several acres with heirloom tomatoes, beans, sprouts, squash, watermelon, peppers and even a special variety of purple corn. The produce is grown as organic possible, with compost for fertilizer and many heirloom varieties.
Once a week, Mark brings the latest crop to TerraMae’s Chef Shelley D. Cooper, who then works her culinary magic. TerraMae’s menu, which already changed regularly in accordance with the seasons, now is driven in part by what is coming in from the fields. With a bumper crop of cucumbers this summer, Chef Shelley’s Cucumber Gazpacho has been regularly featured and gained many fans. Squash blossoms, too, have been coming in non-stop, prompting Shelley to serve them stuffed and in salads. “Her herbs are just beautiful,” Chef Shelley said of Sharon’s basil and thyme. “It’s all about utilizing and incorporating these beautiful products. 50% of the vegetables we use come from the Farm.”
Chef Shelley explained that some of the ways they incorporated the Farm’s fresh produce were replacing fingerling potatoes with the purple potatoes Sharon grew, adding Heirloom Tomato and Country Ham Salad to the menu, and trading a Cabbage and Fennel side for butternut squash dishes. Throughout the menu you can see dishes that come with “a plethora of seasonal vegetables” to leave room for nature’s variations and Shelley’s ingenuity.
Now that the peak summer season is winding down, Sharon is looking forward to replanting the TerraMae Farm with cooler-weather crops like kale, lettuce and spinach for dishes such as Chicken Marbella with Lacquered Chicken, Angel Hair Pasta, Baby Kale, Olives, and Apricots, and creamed greens to pair with steaks and fish, as TerraMae had on the restaurant menu in the spring.
Terramae’s menus are inspired by the local fare eaten in the Southern Appalachians for centuries, a cuisine born from a deep love of the land, and the TerraMae Farm is a logical extension of this delicious practical magic. It’s just another way for this Chattanooga restaurant to further commit to the region and its rich culinary traditions.