John Parker is the man bringing the most wonderful, fresh tempeh to our market. It is cultured here in Tennessee and is one of the most exciting things to come to our local scene in the way of ferments. We have breweries coming up with unique beers, vineyards fermenting grapes for amazing local wine, fizzy kombucha tea from many local sources, and now, an earthy, high-protein bean ferment that is coveted by vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters alike: Tempeh! Hailing from Indonesia, tempeh is so wonderful in taste and nutrition that it has made its way by popularity all the way to Tennessee. It has been popular in health food stores for years, being produced outside of TN, and now you can go to the Richland Park Farmer's Market and buy it directly from a local producer, Short Mountain Cultures.
John was living in Brooklyn, New York when he was gifted a copy of 'Wild Fermentation' by Sandor Katz. This book has given momentum to, if not started, the fermentation revival movement that is thankfully sweeping our society currently. It explores the ins and outs of fermentation, empowering the reader to practice fermentation at home to revive its relevance in food preservation and nutrition. John became obsessed with this book and was funtunate enough to attend the author's first week long workshop in 2009 within the Short Mountain community in Tennessee. This is where John got to explore all of the ferments he had read about, and this is where he learned to make Tempeh. He also got a taste for the sweet Tennessee countryside lifestyle, and a love for community living while at Short Mountain. When he went back to Brooklyn, he built an incubator and produced his own tempeh for two years. He also started composting and started a community garden.
Tempeh is traditionally made from soybeans that are cracked, blanched, inoculated, and incubated. The result is a fermented bean cake that is earthy in flavor and high in essential nutrients like B vitamins and protein. Tempeh can be fried, sautéed, grilled, baked, and roasted. It is extremely versatile as it can be a burger patty, sliced and added to any dish as a main protein, or a side. It takes on the flavor of seasonings, sauces, and marinades very well. It can start out as bewildering, then become saught after because of all of its benefits and unique flavor. Short Mountain Cultures offers the traditional soybean tempeh as well as some unique varieties including Adzuki, Black bean and Chick pea, a Beans and Rice version, and one of a kind creative batches. All of the beans are cracked by a hand mill and then prepared in small batches by John Parker himself.
In 2011, John Parker moved from Brooklyn to Short Mountain, TN. He was making tempeh with a friend and selling it through Jeff Poppin's CSA for several years. The community at Short Mountain and the CSA members helped support and grow the tempeh business. This year he decided to go commercial to reach more people with his tempeh. He shares commercial kitchen space in the Cannon County Arts Center with Half Hill Farm. This is the first season that Short Mountain cultures is a vendor at the Richland Park Farmer's Market. Come find John Parker and sample some of the unique varieties of Tempeh. Living rurally, the market is John's social hour and he loves sharing and developing relationships at the market. He is full of information on the benefits and preparation of tempeh and loves to share all of it. You can find him Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through December at 4701 Charlotte Ave, and usually you can follow the glorious aroma of coconut oil to the tempeh sample tray.