Manakintowne Specialty Growers in Powhatan, VA and Sorrel Soup with Toasted Croutons

Great meals begin with beautiful fresh ingredients, so when three excellent chefs, namely Sean Brock, Walter Bundy and Dean Maupin, told me about a farmer that grows truly exceptional produce, you can bet we went On the Road to meet them and see their farm!

Manakintowne Specialty Growers, in Powhatan, Virginia, is located about a half hour outside of Richmond.  We went to visit them during our stay at The Jefferson Hotel in May.  Jo and Rob Pendergraph started their farming business back in 1985, primarily growing herbs.  Now, after 26 years of farming, they own 21 acres and grow more incredible produce, vegetables, herbs and specialty products than you could ever imagine!

Their farmhouse is picture perfect

Their products are not certifiably organic, primarily because they have not gone through the process to become organic.  However, they use all sustainable farming methods and no pesticides.  We went through the property nibbling on everything in site, so I can attest to that! 🙂

They grow lots and lots of lettuces and greens

Everything smells and tastes so good when it’s this fresh

Jo told us that it was the inspiration of Chef Marcel Desaulniers many years ago that made her take her farming seriously.  She brought some ingredients to him that she had foraged from their original farm.  He was not as excited as she was about these ingredients, so she went back home and decided they could do much better by growing their own specialty produce.  And they certainly have.

They grow every Micro Green imaginable

They now sell primarily to local chefs, although they do go to a couple of Farmers’ Markets each week (listed below).  They will deliver as many as 100 restaurant orders each week.  They do not grow large amounts of any one thing, but rather offer lots of different types of specialty ingredients to chefs.

These are the chef orders waiting to be delivered

Rob handles many of the day to day business matters

The list of their produce and specialty ingredients is quite long, but they are probably best known for their greens which range from salad greens and lettuces to braising greens.  (We had a salad with some of their delightful lettuces at Lemaire in Richmond.)

You can dry large quantities of lettuce this way…

Or you can dry them on spin cycle in the Maytag washer!

A short list of some of the other produce they grow includes Easter Egg Radishes, Pea Shoots, Baby Turnips, Broccoli Rabe, Cardoons, Sorrel, Peppers and all types of specialty herbs (French Tarragon, Summer Savory, Mountain Mint, Lemon Verbena, Pineapple Sage and ParCel) and beautiful edible flowers.  You might remember the Lavender Honey Ice Cream that I made a few weeks ago.  It was made with fresh lavender that was sent to us from Jo.

These were some of the items we received in our goodie box

We want Jo to be our neighbor when we move to Virginia!

The edible flowers are so pretty

Chef Sean Brock told us about Manakintowne when we interviewed him at McCrady’s in Charleston, SC.  He was familiar with their produce when he worked as an Executive Sous Chef with Walter Bundy at Lemaire in Richmond.  He told us they were way ahead of their time in that they were growing Micro Greens and other specialty ingredients when he worked in Richmond about ten years ago.

Chefs Walter Bundy of Lemaire in Richmond and Dean Maupin of Fossett’s in Charlottesville use Manakintowne’s produce in their kitchens and think very highly of the quality of their ingredients.

More lettuces!

Lots and lots of greens and veggies

Jo and Rob have eight to ten part-time employees (depending on the season) that help them each day with the harvesting, washing and delivery of their produce.  Many of them started working with them in their teens and are now still there at 24 years of age.  If they get to take home some of these goodies every day, I would be working there for that many years, too. 🙂

Pea Shoots

Their soil may be one of the reasons that everything grows so prolifically.  They were fortunate to be able to purchase land that had at one time been a cow pasture.  Jo said that this area of Virginia tends to have a good bit of red clay, however, they have been very successful by adding compost and other organic matter back into the soil along with crop rotation.

More Pea Shoots

This success shows in all of the incredible produce that is grown on their 21 acres in Virginia.  We saw and tasted some of the most unusual flowers, shoots, lettuces and herbs that we have ever seen.  As Jo said, it is all about the flavor, aesthetics and presentation and their gardens are truly a chef’s delight.

We thoroughly enjoyed meeting Jo and Rob and appreciate the time Jo took to show us around their farm.  It is situated in a beautiful part of Virginia and has made us seriously consider moving to the area.  Besides that, if we move there, then I won’t have to grow so much of my own stuff…I can just visit Jo and Rob at Manakintowne!

Jo shipped a box full of wonderful produce to us shortly after our visit.  It was filled with Micro Greens, Lavender, edible flowers, Garlic Scapes, Sorrel, Pea Shoots and other wonderful ingredients.  I did make three recipes from those beautiful products.  One was the Lavender Honey Ice Cream (which we are now addicted to) and one other was this lovely Sorrel Soup.  I will share the last recipe with you soon.

These were in my goodie box

This Sorrel became soup!

This soup was a perfect way to begin a dinner party one evening.  It was light in texture and elegant.  Our guests enjoyed the creaminess and fresh Sorrel flavor in the soup.  I created the recipe based on the amount of Sorrel that I had and the other ingredients that were on hand.  The potatoes added a nice texture to the soup.  I finished the soup with some buttery croutons that I made from a loaf of hearty Artisinal bread.

A small bowl of this soup is a perfect start to a special dinner

If you live in the Richmond area and would like to purchase some of Manakintown’s fresh produce, you can find them at these Farmers’ Markets:

South of the James Market in Forest Hill Park – Saturdays 8 am – 12 pm

Powhatan Farmers’ Market – Thursdays 4 – 7 pm

They are also a member of Fall Line Farms.  This is an “on-line farm to family Co-op program designed to connect family owned and operated farms in the central Virginia area with customers in search of local food year round. Fall Line Farms represents more than 75 local farms and businesses serving the falls of the James region.”

I wonder if Jo can send some more Sorrel…the soup was soo good!

Enjoy the recipe!

Sorrel Soup with Toasted Croutons


1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
4 cups homemade chicken stock (or use Swanson’s Organic Chicken Broth)
12 oz. white potatoes, peeled and diced medium
12 oz. fresh sorrel, rinsed and trimmed
1/2 cup heavy cream, preferably organic
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Buttered and toasted croutons for serving (made from a hearty Artisanal bread)


In a heavy pot or Dutch Oven, melt the butter over medium heat. *Do not use cast iron. Add the shallots and saute over medium heat for just a few minutes, until softened.

Add chicken stock and potatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Add sorrel and continue to simmer another 15 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and sorrel are very tender. Transfer in batches to either a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return to the pot. Alternatively, puree in the pan with an immersion blender.

Keep soup warm over medium heat. Add the heavy cream. Check for seasonings and add salt and pepper, as desired.

Top with toasted croutons and serve immediately.

You can refrigerate the leftovers. They will hold for 2-3 days.