Jr. Chef School #3!!!

Jr. Chef School #3 is coming up this Wednesday, August 19 from 10am-12noon. The theme is Super Pasta, the guest chef is Chelsea Hindenach from the Village Bakery, and this event is FULL! I know Chelsea has plans to teach the kids to make some delicious food using as many ingredients as possible from the Athens Farmer's Market; so if you're at market this Wednesday, you'll be sure to pick up on the yummy scents of summer food and see kids having a great time learning how to prepare it.

I'm gonna take this moment to recap on the last two Jr. Chef Schools that occurred this year. The first one was with guest chef Jennifer Baldwin from the Village Bakery and she had a blast teaching the kids how to mix up some great tasting Berry Pancakes using local berries from some of our farmers. The kids got to go shopping and learn where their food comes from and how it's grown.

Some of the same kids had such a great time, they signed up for Jr. Chef School #2 with guest chef, ME! I also had a blast making Breakfast Burritos with my group. We visited several growers of produce and bought all kinds of fun veggies, as well as eggs, cheese, salsa and tortillas.

These kids were already so skilled or extremely helpful in the kitchen! They learned how to or helped to wash the produce, chop veggies, saute veggies and whisk and scramble eggs. Then they learned how to wrap all the ingredients up in a tortilla for a delicious breakfast burrito, and they did SO well. I was so impressed; I mean, it took me a good 6 months to learn how to roll a nice tight burrito. Way to go, Jr. Chefs!

There were 10 kids in each class, and they all got their own aprons, bandanas and cookbooks. If they didn't like cooking before, I bet they do now! I heard from many of their parents that they'd never seen their kid each such-and-such veggie; now they like it and know they can get it at the AFM!

And as a matter of fact, I know one of my Jr. Chef students made the 3RD place prize for his delicious souffle in the "3 or More" Cooking Contest put on by the Friends of The AFM on Saturday, July 18!

It was a really good time for all, and I feel fortunate that we were able to do this at our farmer's market. Thanks to Bob Fedyski and Sarah Conley-- I borrowed your pics from the Ohio Foodshed website for this post. See you at Wednesday market!


A Verified Grower's Valley of Green

A few weeks ago, Green Edge Organic Gardens, an AFM Verified Local Grower, hosted their 3rd annual Open Farm Day. After all these years of buying food for our home from them at the farmer's market, to casual conversations with Becky Rondy, one of the farm's proprietors, to working with Becky and her husband Kip to procure their delicious organic produce for our restaurant, my partner Andy and I realized we'd never been to see their farm! Andy made some amazing cole slaw for the potluck and we headed out to Amesville to see where our food was coming from.

The meal was great-- one thing I can always be sure of when going to a potluck in Athens County is that the food is going to be incredible. There were many creative dishes with fresh, local ingredients in them, including ours, which had cabbage from Cowdery Farm and carrots from Rich Organic Gardens.

Then came the awesome tours! I was so amazed after we hiked up to the microgreen house to learn that the sprouts that I eat on my salads come from soil that has been recycled for 10 years! Kip showed us thick sunflower, and delicate radish and buckwheat sprouts, all of which are healthy and delish. The soil they use is full of earthworms, eating up the roots of the sprouts that have been cut to sell, pooping all along the way, thereby fertilizing the soil and replenishing it for the next batch of seeds it will receive and nourish.

Rob then took us to the mushroom house, where they're growing shiitake, and yellow, white and blue oyster mushrooms. The environment in the mushroom house is carefully controlled-- temperatures must be cool and the humidity just right to grow the succulent fungi, but no other molds or fungus. Rob had the task of mopping the floors with bleach water after we left to keep contaminants at bay. It was cool to learn that Green Edge obtains even the spores for the yellow oyster mushrooms from folks down the road from them.

Next, we went down to the valley to check out the gardens. Green Edge is home of the Athens Hills CSA. Community Supported Agriculture is a great way to eat fresh, local food while providing wealth to your local economy and getting to know the farmer and the farm that your food comes from.

Cale and Dan, the farm's manager, showed us fields of potatoes growing, bushy with tiny white flowers.

We walked by the greenhouses full of shiny tomatoes and thick, glossy basil to the other garden, where we saw raised beds popping feathery dill and bright salad greens. The new concrete walls are an attempt to help protect the crops from flooding, which this farm struggles with yearly in their valley.

We ended with long, wide rows of deep purple eggplant in striking contrast to the light, wide leaves of summer squash, introducing blossoms. This place is enormous to me; I can't wrap my brain around this five acres of food. If I was trapped on that farm with everyone there, we'd have plenty of veggies for years to come. I deeply feel the absolute dedication that was put into developing the land for a beautiful, prosperous farm here. Years and years of hard work and vision made this possible. I think about it every time I eat their greens and microgreens. Check out their stall at the AFM on the east side of the main aisle for flavorful salad mix, mushrooms, eggplant, microgreens and more!


Some of My Favorite People pt. 2

Late summer and it's time for lots of beautiful fruit at the Athens Farmer's Market! There are many folks doing fruit well here, and one of them happens to be Cherry Orchards.

My restaurant has been working with Cherry for years. The owner, Neil, is one of the sweetest, kindest, most gentle people I have ever met and he has a beautiful passion for fruit. I love all the different varieties of everything that he grows, and he is so knowledgeable and ready to give out samples! Gary and Tina, who work for him, are also some of the nicest people around. I always have admired how they vend, rain or shine, with NO TENT! They'll be standing in the rain selling apples and peaches, and always with smiles on their faces. For years, Casa has gotten beautiful fruit baskets from Cherry, overflowing with bunches of grapes, plums, peaches and apples, and they are admired by everyone who comes to our stall. Their fruit is incredibly delicious! You can find them at the end of the east side of the market near the Market on State sign, across from Harmony Hollow (and his TOKENS HERE sign!).

Some of my other favorite fruit people are Pete and Marjie Shew of Shew's Orchard. Again, Casa has been working with the Shew's for many years; we get a whole slew of different varieties of apples from them, as well as apple cider vinegar, apple butter and lamb cuts. And again, some of the nicest folks I've ever met. Sometimes Marjie brings wool from her lambs to spin into yarn (that she then sells), which is very cool to watch! Pete is in the Back Porch Swing Band, and occasionally they play at Casa, which is a huge treat. Bruno and I are happy to call Shew's Orchard our neighbors at the market because it's not so far to haul bushels of apples when we're picking up for the restaurant, and they are great company. You can find them at the east corner of the T on the main aisle. Additionally, Marjie makes tasty jams and mustards, and if you love cherries like I do, you MUST try her cherry jam!

I'm gonna take this paragraph to inform you all that unfortunately, Casa's high aspirations to be at the Farmer's Market this Wednesday, August 5 and Saturday, August 8 are in vain. We are getting new flooring in our kitchens and prep areas and it looks like it will be impossible for us to be in there to bring you anything. So please accept our apology and look for us on Saturday, August 15! We look forward to seeing you then!


Music at the Athens Farmers Market

Flyaway Saturn showed up to play at the Aug 1, 2009 market...