It's a bountiful life: Salad savvy
July/August 2015 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Toni Scott
Photos by Zeena Gregg
Young entrepreneur delivers freshness to your doorstep
More online: The conversation continues and Shallot Dijon vinaigrette
Carly McHenry started her salads-on-wheels business, called Car's Jars, in 2013.
Carly McHenry, aka the Salad Lady, is a modern-day milkman of sorts, though her deliveries are fresh, homemade salads. McHenry started Car's Jars in 2013 and hand-makes more than 300 salads each week, packing them in glass jars and then delivering them to homes and offices in the San Diego area.
How did the idea for Car's Jars come about?
When I started my first job out of college, I would pack my own lunches, which were mostly salads. Eventually, I started layering them in glass jars and making enough to last me through a work week. My co-workers started asking me to make salads for them as well and offered to pay me for them. The orders just kept building and the timing ended up working to start my own business.
Where do you get the inspiration for your salad recipes?
A lot of the recipes are ones that I grew up with. My mom would make a lot of them for my family, and I've always grown up cooking and being in the kitchen with her. My older sister is in the restaurant business as well, so we all put together ideas as a family. I hand-make all of the vinaigrette dressings, the salsas, and use a homemade recipe for the black beans.
Carly McHenry grew up spending time in the kitchen with her mom Nancy McHenry—and that tradition continues. Many of Car's Jars recipes are salads that Nancy made for her family.
What's one of the benefits of using locally sourced produce in your salads?
Our produce is pulled from local farms around the community and California, and I really believe that's why our salads stay so fresh, for so long. Because we're using produce straight from farmers right here, there isn't much time between when the produce leaves the field and goes into a jar in one of our salads.
Who is your average customer? Car's Jars is really for everyone. I deliver salads to an 80-year-old man who can't get to the grocery store regularly and to a lot of business professionals who need healthy meals for their work week. I also have a lot of customers who are busy moms.
The conversation continues
With a wide variety of salad options—featuring Carly-inspired names such as the Tus-CAR-ny, CAR-thenon and Un-CAR-nivore—McHenry strives to provide nutritious, convenient meals that make it easier for customers to enjoy fresh California produce.
What is your favorite salad on your menu?
The CAR-bo San Lucas. I like it because you can take the spinach out from the top and heat it up in the microwave for a warm meal. We have a few other salads that you can warm up too, like the CAR-prese, and have recently started making layered soups.
What does a day of salad making look like?
We start by making our fresh vinaigrettes each week and do all of our prep work on Saturday. It's a lot of chopping. I hand chop all of the lettuce, the carrots, the bell peppers, everything that goes into the salads, so they are as fresh as can be. We then pack 300 jars of salads on Sunday, layering every ingredient, and I deliver them on Monday.
Why do you think Car's Jars has been such a hit?
I think that the variety is a big factor. We change the salads every week and give our customers lots of options.
All of the farm-fresh vegetables and other ingredients in Car's Jars layered salads are hand-chopped and hand-packed on Sundays, and then delivered to offices and homes in the San Diego area each Monday.
Dressed for success: Here's the secret
All of the vinaigrettes used in salads for Car's Jars are made fresh each week. After experimenting and searching for new ideas and recipes, Carly McHenry developed seven core vinaigrettes and continues to add more to the line-up with the addition of seasonal salads.
One of McHenry's top tips for great dressing is to substitute pureed, cooked shallots for half of the extra virgin olive oil that a vinaigrette recipe would typically call for. This gives the vinaigrette a smooth, creamy taste.
McHenry's shallot Dijon vinaigrette is one of her favorites and is used in Car's Jars summertime roasted corn salad and barbecue chicken salad.