Tuesday, August 10, 2010



The Blue Ridge has got to be one of the most gorgeous places on earth. It's
fertile, too, producing some of the best food in the world.
Last weekend I got to meet my meat.....goats, sheep, cows. I also got to meet
some of the farmers behind all the tasty veggies offered at the Watauga Farmers market.
And, yes, just like a kid I got to pat some very cute, shorn alpacas this past weekend. Stayed away from the donkeys, those cute little thing that farmers use to protect their livestock from coyotes, bears and cougars. Turns out donkeys can be quite ferocious and show their, well, ass!

I also got to tromp down rows upon rows of staked tomatoes, step over and around bright yellow globes of fall pumpkins, cantaloupes and watermelons, and peer into drying sheds of garlic and growing "tunnels" that protect cantaloupes and tomatoes, esp. from rain damage.

Chicken "tractors" and this chicken mobile home provided quite the lovely fowl housing.

The BRWA's annual Farm Tour was such a blast this year, with ten farms spread over 3 counties. Each farm was a model of sustainable farming, an ode to a way of life that these lucky few have embraced.
Apple orchards, honey hives, sunflowers, purslane and potatoes were on display, with farmers talking and explaining over and over to each visitor what their farm was all about. This is a great way to put a face and a place to the food that you eat. I strongly encourage you to find farm tours that are being staged near you, all across the country.

Charles Church of Watauga River Farm in the beautiful Valle Crucis community is one of my favorite farmers. Perhaps he reminds me of my Daddy, the farmer. I just know that he is smart and funny, and to sit and shoot the breeze with him is a delight. A lifetime ago he grew tobacco on his farm, but after the buyout program, he opted for help with the Golden Leaf Foundation to turn his acreage into an organic garden. That takes guts, time and commitment. I admire him for that.
Squash, potatoes, and zucchini were lined up in ice chests for sale. Someone asked about beets, and his helper said, "Oh, I'll go pull you some." Get some for me, I shouted.
How fresh is that?
Charles said too much rain had been a problem for him this growing season. And he will have no broccoli this fall, due to his plant provider. Five acres of broccoli has always been one of his main income-producers. Meanwhile, he has some terrific looking pork products, including a spicy sausage, for sale.
At Tumbling Shoals Farm, Shiloh Avery and partner Jason Roehrig showed us their growing tunnels, as well as the slips of fall crops they had started from seed in their greenhouse. They've cut out that middleman, the plant starter, so they won't have Charles' problem. But that requires a lot of man or woman hours, too. Shiloh is looking forward to December and January when they can actually leave the farm together for more than 24 hours.

I was in a pickle, so to speak, as to what to do with such fresh beets. Pickle them? Roast them for a salad? Or stack them with goat cheese? Or sandwich them between puff pastry with chevre? All of those recipes can be found in my latest, THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK.
I laughed when I remembered my friend who told me that she had never eaten the roots. She thought they were inedible, and so just went for their green tops and threw the dirty things away.

I roasted those babies in a 400 degree oven for about an hour, or until fork tender. Then rubbed them with a paper towel, to keep my hands from turning "beet red," to release them from their skins. So much easier than peeling before cooking.
Now, I'll chill them, then slice them onto a salad with chevre and toasted pecans or walnuts. Or at least what's left of them. I admit I downed a few while peeling. A girl can only show but so much restraint!

Here are two nice pieces about THE NEW BLUE RIDGE COOKBOOK, one about my appearance at the Mount Holly Farmers Market, right outside Charlotte. The other is from the Boston Globe, and all about Tomato Pie. Another blog at another time, I promise.

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