Local Foods Week, one of the premier food events of the Centre Region, is officially underway. FarmFest attendees were already in the swing this weekend, after two days of intensive local foods celebration at the Grange fairgrounds on Friday and Saturday. But the rest of Centre County can still participate in the group chow down sweeping the county by storm.
Locavores are in their glory right now with the full monty of summer produce, dairy products and local meats available. Berries, sweet corn and tomatoes are all in season in spite of a drought, and now is the time to consume. There is no reason to not get your nine to 11 servings of vegetables and fruits in the summer; it’s the best time of all to eat locally.
If your home garden is producing zucchini and cucumbers at an alarming rate, make the most of it. Get out you veggie spiralizer and make some “zoodles” from zucchini for a delicious summer main dish salad that requires no cooking at all. Now is the time to make pickles that you can enjoy all winter long with those little cucumbers so crisp and firm. Canners — man (or woman) your stations, and get those berries while they are fresh picked. You can pick your own, too, and know that you are getting the best possible fruit. There is still time to enter the Grange Fair contest next month and try to win more medals than Unionville resident Patty Mitchell, a competitive canner who takes her game very seriously.
All the area farmers markets will be at full tilt with loaded tables this week, and one has a very special event planned. The Tuesday Boalsburg Farmers Market at the Pennsylvania Military Museum is hosting the 6th annual Golden Basket Chef Competition, and five area chefs are vying for the coveted prize that includes bragging rights for a year. The chefs are scheduled to compete on Tuesday between 2- 4:30 p.m., in a cooking arena set up under tents in plain view of all the market shoppers.
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Confirmed chefs for the Golden Basket competition include Andrew Hufnagle, from Zola Kitchen and Wine Bar; Mark Johnson, from Big Spring Spirits and MJ Custom Craft Cooking; Zach Lorber, president of the Southern Allegheny Chefs Association and chef at the Port Sky Café at Penn State’s Altoona campus; Andrew Monk from the Nittany Lion Inn; and first-time competitor Quintin Wicks, from Revival Kitchen in Reedsville.
Most chefs bring along a sous chef or two to assist them, and it is fun to watch the teams in action. There’s a palpable air of excitement surrounding the cooking area where onlookers and cheerleaders savor the aromas released by the sizzle and chop of the culinary teams. And, yes, there are samples of the various dishes for the crowd to taste, but not until after the dish goes to the judges’ table for evaluation.
A seat at the judges table is an enviable honor. This year the judges include Jamie Oberdick, who posts on WPSU’s Local Food Journey blog; Kevin Kassab, the Health Officer and Supervisor of Inspections for the Division of Health and Neighborhood Services for State College Borough; Michele Marchetti, a freelance writer, copy editor and president of the board of directors for the Friends & Farmers Cooperative; Vilma Shu Danz, operations manager and assistant editor at Town & Gown; Maggie Anderson, editor of State College Magazine; and State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham. Sarah Potter, Jim Eisenstein and Ali Cimoreli are taking care of logistics for the competition.
Another major component of Local Foods Week is the Farm Tour Pass that affords a back-stage view of what goes on to bring those local food products to the vendors’ tables at the markets. Held Aug. 6, this opportunity to connect with your local farmer is not to be missed; you will walk for a spell in their boots and gain an appreciation of what their effort — and you will never feel that same about those vendors again.
Whether you are visiting Goot Essa Farm in Howard to see the caves where the wheels of blue cheese are aged, opting to visit Spring Bank Acres in Rebersburg for a taste of homemade ice cream and a horse-drawn hay-ride, or striding through the rows of hot pepper plants at Piper’s Peck in Bellefonte, the farm tours are sure to please. You can even end this year’s farm tour with a glass of wine by the pond at Mount Nittany Winery.
Other new farms/sites on the agenda are the Student Farm at Penn State and the Penns Valley Food Centre in Spring Mills. Bee Tree Berry Farm, Triangle Organics and Penn Dell Holstein Farm are also providing tours, and the Millheim Market will lead visitors through the Penns Valley Learning Garden next to the farmers market pavilion. If you work up a big appetite for lunch, visit the North Atherton Farmers Market where three local food trucks offer a wide selection of sandwiches made with local products. Just be sure to check the Farm Tour hours for each site, as they vary widely and many are closed in the afternoon. Though the Farm Tours are scheduled between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., many are open for just a 3-hour time span within that range. Plan accordingly.
The cost for the Farm Tours is $15 per carload or $15 for up to six bikers. Farm Tour passes are available at the local farmers markets during Local Foods Week and single Farm Tour tickets will be available on the day of the tours, Saturday, for $5 per farm. The Farm Tour Pass is a bargain, especially if you fill your car.
Local Foods Week in Centre County will also feature partner restaurants offering specials that make use of our local abundance, something that more and more of them are doing all the time. There is no better place for foodies — and no better place to teach your children to be foodies — than right here in central Pa.
For more information, check out the link on the PASA website, where you can also purchase your Farm Tour tickets and download a map.
Anne Quinn Corr is the author of “Seasons of Central Pennsylvania,” of several iBook cookbooks (“Food, Glorious Food!” “What’s Cooking?!” and “Igloo: Recipes to Cure the Winter Blues”) that are available for free on iTunes. She regularly posts to the blog HowToEatAndDrink.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aug. 6 Farm Tour locations
Bee Tree Berry Farm, 494 Benner Road, Bellefonte, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Goot Essa Farm, 351 Wise Road, Howard, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Millheim Farmers Market, Millheim American Legion Pavilion on Route 45, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Mt. Nittany Vineyard & Winery, 300 Houser Road, Centre Hall, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
North Atherton Farmers Market, Home Depot parking lot, 2615 Green Tech Drive, State College, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Penn-Dell Holstein Farm, 470 Immel Road, Spring Mills, 9 a.m.-noon
The Piper’s Peck, 1667 Valley View Road, Bellefonte, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Spring Bank Acres, 531 Millheim Narrows, Rebersburg, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Student Farm at Penn State, along Big Hollow Road, State College, 9 a.m.-noon
The Penns Valley Food Centre, 106 School St., Spring Mills, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Triangle Organics, 5799 Penns Valley Road, Aaronsburg, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
The following recipe came to me from my sister, Mary, who found it online at Allrecipes.com. It’s a winner; I’ve made it three times in two weeks, varying the recipe slightly each time. Zucchini noodles, dubbed “zoodles,” are made with a spiral slicer that makes quick work of the process. Move over kale salad, there’s new favorite on the horizon.
GREEK ZOODLE SALAD
1/4 English cucumber, chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, halved, or more to taste
10 pitted kalamata olives, halved, or more to taste
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 ounces crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Cut zucchini into noodle-shaped strands using a spiralizing tool. Place “zoodles” in a large bowl and top with cucumber, tomatoes, olives, red onion and feta cheese.
Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper together in a bowl until dressing is smooth; pour over “zoodle” mixture and toss to coat. Marinate salad in refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.