What is in this article?:
- Eberhard Müller: Growing something quite different
- Supplied own restaurants
- All about being niche grower
• Take a walk around Eberhard Muller's blocks of vegetables growing within earshot of the roaring cars practicing on Sebring, Florida’s famous racetrack, and you’ll come across crops rarely seen in the U.S. In fact, many Americans have never heard of some of them: mache, wild arugula, black kale, knob celery, fine leaf frisee and treviso chicory, and Mizuna mustard — all growing among more familiar baby head lettuce, carrots and leeks.
HE KNOWS what kind of veggies top chefs want: Former New York chef Eberhard Müller’s 180-acre Florida farm supplies them with the freshest — and most unusual — varieties.
All about being niche grower
“I’m interested in the novelties, stuff no one grows. This is all about being a niche grower” he says.
He still travels a good deal to see what growers in other parts of the world are developing that might interest U.S. buyers.
“Chefs are always interested in what the next hot thing will be, and so am I. I have to anticipate how tastes may change.”
When he began farming, Müller used travel to educate himself about agricultural techniques.
“I still go to Germany whenever I can to see what they’re doing on their farms. There are some very good farmers there. When I began to farm, I worked in Morocco with two growers from Germany, two winter seasons for four to six weeks.
“I wanted to see and to learn. I knew how to make salad dressing and how to make an omelet but not how to grow a head of lettuce. I need to know many things so I did a lot of learning in those early years,” he says.
He’s enthusiasticabout farmingin Florida, even though moving the operation to Sebring presented an unexpected hurdle. The fields had been used for growing shallow-rooted turf. When they were plowed, he discovered partically decayed tree trunks and roots not far undr the surface, all of which had to be removed.
That put the Sebring farm a couple of months behind schedule, and work still continues pulling out the debris.
“This is a good place to farm, though,”
he says. “They say this is the deepest muck area anywhere in the world. That’s pretty amazing. Organic matter is high, about 8 percent. The soil pH is very low, though, so we have to add lime to raise the level.
“We got a deep subsoiler in for the buried tree trunks and roots. For two months we didn’t even plant, so, in a sense, that killed the whole season here.
“We’ve also found it’s a little colder here than at Belle Glade, so we don’t get the fast growth we did there. Farming here this year has been very, very, very challenging and cost me a lot of money — but we’re going to work it all out,” Müller says.