Wednesday, July 31, 2013

August is local food month

Yellow squash now growing abundantly in the High Country

Fresh food diet boosts health

August through September is prime food production time in the High Country, making it possible to consume a huge percentage of your food from locally produced sources. So why not infuse your body with the freshest, most nutrient dense diet available?

Fresh, whole food is highest in micronutrients, including phyto-compounds that help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. More immediate benefits include a higher energy level, better athletic performance, a stronger immune system, and a leaner body.

It is well known that vegetables start losing nutritional benefits soon after they are harvested. Locally available grass-fed meat has also been shown to be a healthier choice than corn fed. When cows are fed primarily grass, the meat has a greater omega-3 content. The average American diet contains 11 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3, a phenomenon that has been hypothesized as a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders, such as celiac disease. Certain types of omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in the prevention of atherosclerosis, heart attack, depression, and cancer.

I’ve listed ingredients to pick up for your meals based on what is currently available at farmers’ markets. Stepping out into a garden and picking your meal is even better.

Breakfast: freshly baked bread or bagels, jams, jellies, honey, muffins, cereal, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe, peaches, eggs, veggies to add to eggs, locally roasted coffee.    

Lunch: Purchase plenty of salad fixins, such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and peppers to make a daily lunch salad. Flavored vinegars mixed half and half with olive oil make a great dressing. For sandwiches, try freshly baked bread topped with various types of goat cheese and vegetables. Prepare chicken salad.

Dinner: Protein sources are available from chicken, pork, beef, and goat cheese. Starches include pasta, potatoes and freshly baked bread. A good variety of vegetables and plenty of herbs for seasoning are available.

Squash is abundant and this simple recipe takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.

Sautéed summer squash
4 – 5 baby yellow or zucchini squash, cut into thin coins
½ medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly chopped oregano
Salt as desired
Place olive oil over medium low to medium heat in large sauté pan. Add onions and stir occasionally until golden brown. Add squash and continuously stir for two minutes. Add oregano and salt and stir until desired tenderness.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Experience where your food is grown

Sally Thiel and Joe Martin, co-owners of Zydeco Moon farm
High Country Farm Tour August 3rd & 4th, 2 PM – 6PM

If you enjoy exploring beautiful countryside and are interested in how local farmers make mouth-watering products, plan on participating in the 7th annual High Country farm tour. This self-guided tour boasts 29 stops with 15 first time farms.

Nonprofit Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture organize the event with the goal of strengthening the food system by educating the public about sustainable food and agriculture while providing farmers with opportunities to increase their income.

Nearly every farm on the tour will tempt you with farm-fresh produce, meats, dairy and grocery products for purchase, so have an ice-packed cooler and cash ready. Also, local chefs will be preparing delicious snacks at some farms labeled “snack stops”, available for purchase.

Weekend passes are available for $25 on-line at and are sold at area farmers’ markets, including Ashe, Blowing Rock, Lenoir and Watauga. The pass covers everyone in your vehicle for both days. Available at the first farm you visit for $30. Another option is to volunteer at a farm one day, then take the tour the other day for free. Sign up on the website.

To help you decide which farms to visit, a printed farm tour guide is available at the markets, and an interactive google map is found on the website. To maximize your time, it’s best to visit clusters of farms. One such cluster includes Landmark farm alpacas and Zydeco Moon farm located in northern Ashe County. Both farms are fun for kids of all ages.

Landmark Farm alpacas will offer a self-guided tour including "from alpaca to finished garment" exhibits, storyboards, and demonstrations, including fiber carding, hand spinning and knitting.

Visitors to Zydeco Moon will tour a passive solar green house, 3 high tunnels and 11 fields along Helton Creek and the ridge above the creek. A farm wagon will be hooked up for guided tours with stops for wild berry picking on the way to the ridge fields. Kids are welcome to bring fishing poles and try their luck in Helton Creek, one of North Carolina’s premier delayed harvest trout streams.

Zydeco Moon farm has been on the tour for the past 7 years. When I asked co-owner Sally Thiel what she liked about being on the tour, she said, “I think it’s important for people to know how food is grown and get to know who grows it.” Husband Joe Martin added, “We also like for those who are already farming or who are interested in farming to learn from our production methods.”

With 3 high tunnels, Sally and Joe avoid many prevalent fungal diseases and specialize in heirloom tomatoes. Sally offers this easy recipe for the tomato season.

Heirloom tomatoes parmesan pasta

Cut up a mix of heirloom tomatoes.  Marinate with olive oil, minced garlic, salt to taste, and chopped fresh basil for about an hour.  Serve over hot pasta with parmesan cheese.

Monday, July 22, 2013

4-H Camp 2013

Watauga County youth traveled to Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Camp this month.  The camp features lots of activities from horseback riding, canoeing, swimming, archery, and climbing. 

See some footage of camp fun featured here

Pizza Adventure Week

4-H Super Summer kicked off with the Pizza Adventure Week.  

We visited some special farms to collect ingredients and make pizza from scratch! We got to milk a cow, got some insight on how to care for farm animals, and picked herbs and veggies.  All participants reported they tried a new vegetable or herb.  One stated that she her favorite pizza changed from cheese pizza to veggie pizza.  Many expressed a desire to do more farming and cooking activities, like making pie and collecting eggs.
Thanks to some of the awesome places we visited:

Baublitz farm