Archive | Spring 2013

LAST BITE: Asparagus Points the Way to Spring


Asparagus has officially come to be recognized as one of the signs of spring. We now anticipate this glorious spring crop the way we do summer heirloom tomatoes or autumn apples. Even though asparagus has been cultivated around the world for thousands of years, it just recently seems to have made enough of an impact on nutrition gurus and foodies alike as an easy way to make an elegant and delicious side dish that is actually good for you. This perennial vegetable is the gift that keeps on giving.

Asparagus has many nutritional benefits such as vitamins A, C and E as well as calcium, magnesium and zinc. As we get older, we start looking at the nutrition of food that includes good amounts of B vitamins, potassium, folic acid and dietary fiber as well. Add to that the fact that it is low in calories and low in sodium, asparagus has it all.

Designer vitamins cannot match the simple elegance and flavor of a spear or two of raw, steamed, sautéed or roasted asparagus. And yes, bigger is better and we are talking diameter; it is a sign of good quality.

There are … Read More

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Growing Up: Agriculture in Atlanta Has Arrived

Background: Love is Love Farm Inset: Truly Living Well grows food year-round


As with many things in Atlanta, the city’s urban agriculture movement is overlooked and underestimated. But that’s just fine, because maybe it just motivates the growers who are leading the urban agriculture revolution here to work that much harder.

Not like they need the extra challenge. Rural, urban, suburban—it makes no difference: Farming is hard, tough work. But it’s also about the most rewarding job one could have. First, though, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to the term “urban agriculture.” If you Googled it, you’d find a dozen different definitions. The long and short of urban agriculture is simply growing food in an urban environment, the city. And Atlanta is fortunate enough to have several different farms and gardens that present different approaches to urban agriculture. Many of them follow organic principles, which aim to foster a healthy environment, improve personal health and public wellness and build a sustainable farm economy.

Atlanta’s most celebrated urban farming operation, Truly Living Well (TLW) is known as much for its community connections and agricultural … Read More

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Sauce Boss

Hard work, many hands turn BBQ recipe into a business

SLAP SAUCE owner Michael McCord


Perhaps you always envied the quirky cheesemonger floating around the farmers market—the one who quit his mind-numbing desk job in search of the American (triplecream) dream. Better yet, you created a recipe for a fat-burning fudge sauce that is going to launch you to Skinnygirl fame. Or maybe you just tasted something similar to chalk dust from the grocery store and thought, “Hey, I can do sooooo much better than that.” If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to launch a specialty food line, Atlanta native Michael McCord did just that. If he can do it, so can you.

It all started back in 2004, when a handful of Michael McCord’s buddies helped him smoke a whole pig in a grandiose effort to impress his then-girlfriend (now wife) and her parents. “I would love to say that SLAP SAUCE is an old family recipe that has been passed down through the generations, but in actuality I whipped it up in my small college kitchen on a particularly hazy football Saturday. The pork itself was melt-in-your-mouth delicious,” … Read More

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No Kidding Around

These Goats Make Great Chevre


There’s a special look in people’s eyes when they sell food that they have grown, and created with their own hands. The goat farmers of Capra Gia Cheese Company in Carrollton each have that look—clearly proud and passionate about each package of artisan chevre they hand you while you stand in line at their farmers market tents.

Whether you buy it plain or mixed with fresh seasonal fruits or spicy herbs, you get a sincere transaction from start to finish, as well as a funny story, smart quip or quote from the farm.

One customer asked Jenny O’Connor at the Peachtree City Farmers Market why she worked so hard. She was quick to respond, “Because I’m crazy. Just nuts. You have to be somewhat insane to do what we do.” Her 5- year-old son Jesse runs through her booth with his Batman cape flying. She shrugs and looks at her son’s long hair merging into his black cape, and says, “See? It runs in the family!”

Other members of the Capra Gia family include Mark Stevens, Ted Brooks, Jeremy Bethel and Heidi Lewis and all … Read More

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Fresh Ideas for a Southern Spring


Spring creeps sneakily into the South. It’s hard to plan what to wear, much less a menu. One day it’s blustery cold and the next warm and balmy.

Just when you think you can’t take yet one more day of flat, grey, soulless skies you might find yourself out walking, head down against the biting wind, and notice a flash of yellow, tightly wound daffodil buds thrusting through a ragged pile of fallen leaves.

Yes, we have four seasons in the Deep South, but the edges are blurred. It’s not as if the rivers begin to thaw or the ice breaks upstream. Spring tiptoes in, the flowers open slowly in a gentle cascade, first the bulbs—the buttercups, the tulips and the lilies. Then, the trees pick up the pace and open in an explosion of color—cherry blossom, dogwood and azalea. And, then, it seems, before we know it, spring has raced away and the heat of the Southern summer is full upon us. Spring is the shortest of the Southern seasons and perhaps, like a virtuoso on a whirlwind tour, spring is all the more special because of its limited … Read More

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Seeds for the Future

The Original Recycling Offers Ultimate in Sustainability and Surprises


Just a few generations ago seed saving was a common practice among American farmers. Ensuring the next year’s crop was the primary reason, and economic practicality was surely a close second.

The results of regular seed saving are remarkable: stronger plants that are better acclimated to specific growing areas, greater resistance to disease and insects, and sometimes the development of new plant varieties by selecting for attractive characteristics. Before modern hybridization techniques became widespread it was easier to save seeds and select for certain traits from one generation to the next. Now it’s a bit harder: Hybridized seeds will not come back “true” to the fruit you see on the plant; instead you will get something that resembles one or the other of the parent varieties.

In the past, folks were proud of the varieties they had saved over the years. Farming families had their prized okra handed down from their grandfather or a wonderful tomato that only grew well in their fields. Corn was one crop that was jealously guarded and with good reason: Because it cross-pollinates so easily, most of the corn … Read More

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THE ART OF FOOD: Cooking with the Seasons


Lovers of food all over the world wait in anticipation for each new season to emerge and offer its bounty. It’s the promise of an experience beyond simply the sustenance of filling our stomachs, although that in itself is reason enough.

With winter coming to a close, hearty stews and soup pots are put away. Spring signals a new beginning and good things to come. This time of year, the harvest is just edging its way out of the earth. Seasonal selections of vegetables are fresh and full of life.

We can’t fire up the flames fast enough for alfresco grilling and picnics in the park at the first hint of spring. Like fresh ingredients that offer a lighter fare, we ourselves lighten up in spirit. Frolicking and frivolity in the first sundrenched days of spring gets us outside and into fresh air.

Spring also signals the long-awaited arrival of local farmers markets, hinting at the bounty and abundance that we have missed for many months. Woven Moroccan baskets or reusable shopping bags are the only adornments we care to wear, vessels for the treasures we will surely uncover … Read More

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Schoolyard Gardens: An Education for Young Sprouts

Schoolyard gardens at Morningside Elementary School


Five years ago, only a handful of third graders at Morningside Elementary School knew what sorrel was. Now, thanks to the hard work of parent volunteers, the talent and time of local chefs, the vision and mission at a nonprofit called Schoolyard Sprouts and donations from neighborhood businesses, the perennial leafy herb is on the tips of tongues of every youngster at the intown Atlanta school this year. Raised garden beds brimming with greens, an outdoor classroom, healthy compost bins and picnic tables now fill a courtyard at Morningside Elementary on Rock Springs Road.

As a part of efforts at the school to educate students about making healthier lifestyle choices, administrators and parents continued a relationship with Schoolyard Sprouts, which took seed in 2007 at the school’s former kindergarten campus. The gardening and farm-to-school program became a school health and wellness initiative resulting in a Bronze Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in 2009.

And, just last year, another nearby intown school, Springdale Park Elementary, earned the same award. Programs at both schools are thriving as students now plan, plant, … Read More

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Many Hands Make Light Work: Wolfscratch Farm Gets Mobbed!

Atlanta Crop Mobbers hard at work


My father grew up during the Depression on a family farm in the countryside east of Atlanta. My grandparents, Ruth Lee and James Selma Bryan, fed their eight children well on the crops they harvested from their land. But the acres of earth that once yielded healthy fresh food have been buried for decades now beneath layers of hot asphalt and the pandemic, impermeable suburban sprawl.

A generation removed from my agricultural roots and unfortunately more accustomed to navigating crowded aisles of garishly packaged groceries than rows of living, edible foliage and fruit, I decided it was time to explore my farming instincts. Could my green thumbs—or some sequence in my DNA—that had afforded me year-round colorful ornamentals in my yard also help me feed myself?

And so for a season, one day each week I became a field hand. I signed on to work in exchange for food at a community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription farm in the rolling hills north of Atlanta, and reported for duty to a picturesque valley with soil so rich, beautiful and alive, I could not help but gingerly run … Read More

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FARM TO PANTRY: Capturing the Seasons in a Jar


We wait for fresh strawberries, those luscious red tomatoes, plump okra and crisp cucumbers to come to our farmers markets or spring from our home gardens. But the season for each is short and then they’re gone.

Canning allows you to capture this freshness and flavor in a jar. Think of enjoying those heirloom tomatoes in January, sliced up on your veggie pizza. Or serving cranberry chutney with your pork barbecue in July. Strawberry jam with goat cheese on your holiday table. A taste of summer all year ’round.

We no longer have to compromise by settling for flavorless fruits and veggies off season.

Home preservation is the way to do this. If you take up small-batch canning, for example, you can catch a great variety of produce as it comes into season. Your pantry can be filled with four seasons’ goodness—and also four seasons’ meal ideas: appetizers for parties and guests, amazing dessert possibilities as well as breakfast and lunch options.

Nothing is healthier; nothing is tastier than produce canned at the peak of ripeness with no added preservatives, no artificial coloring, no huge amounts of sugar or salt.

So let’s talk about … Read More

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