“This should be a great year for berries,” says Walter Harrill of Imladris Farm in Fairview. “A very solid berry year indeed.”
That's good news for local food lovers and supporters, who have been worried about the possible impacts to berry production from the late frost, which had devastating effects on WNC's apple crop. “There were some blueberries impacted by the freeze — and some of the early season varieties of blackberries — but because of the wonderful variations in micro-climate that we have here, that freeze has not impacted everyone,” says Harrill.
In fact, Harrill has a bumper crop of blueberries, but he acknowledges that it will be hit or miss across the region. He adds, “Raspberries look good for everybody as far as I know; because they bloom from late-May to late-August, they fall outside of the frost danger.”
Kevin Barnes, who owns Ultimate Ice Cream with his wife, Lucia, plans to use all the berries he can get from Imladris in his ice cream this month. “We love buying from people that we have relationships with,” Barnes shares. But, that's not the only reason he sources from local farmers — he also regularly purchases pumpkins from New Sprout Organic Farms and ginger from Ol' Turtle Farm. (Other farmers stop by Ultimate with produce, too, after spotting the ice cream shop in ASAP's Local Food Guide and trade directory, Mixing Bowl.) “The quality of local product is so far superior to what we would find in the market place.”
Greg and Ashley Garrison of The Hop Ice Cream Café feel exactly the same way. The duo plans to purchase black and red raspberries and blackberries from J Bee Farm (formerly Jordan Blackley Farm, owned by Laura Blackley and Cindy Jordan) in Candler this summer. “The quality of ice cream made with local berries is so much tastier!” But they also stress, “It is important first and foremost to support our local economy and keep farms like J Bee running so they can continue providing the area with awesome locally grown berries and other products.”
Ice Cream Social
In celebration of the summer and ASAP's Get Local berry month, both Ultimate and The Hop will host special local berry ice cream days at each of their locations, July 12 and 19, respectively. Several local-berry options will be available at each Appalachian Grown-partner ice cream shop. The Hop plans to make options with cow's milk, local goat milk and vegan milk available, as well as sorbet. Each business will donate 10 percent of their ice cream sales on their local day to ASAP.
The events are also chances for folks to get social with the eateries' berry suppliers and purchase more farm-fresh products. Patrons can meet Walter Harrill from Imladris at Ultimate's Tunnel Road location on July 12 and meet Laura Blackley at The Hop's Merrimon location on July 19.
Got a special request? Get social beyond the events. Post to ASAP's Facebook wall or tweet ASAP @asapconnections which local berry ice cream flavors/combinations you'd like to see, and they'll share with both Get Local partners. Also share which other local items you'd like to see incorporated into their ice creams this month and beyond. Barnes says he's always up for trying something new.
To find more Appalachian Grown restaurants and eateries incorporating local berries into their menus and products this month, as well as a list of local berry producers, browse ASAP's online Local Food Guide at AppalachianGrown.org.
Cool cobblerOf course, local berries aren't just great in locally made ice cream. If you've already bought or are planning to pick up local berries at your neighborhood farmers market, try J Bee Farm's berry cobbler recipe (below). Better yet, pick up a pint of local berry ice cream to top it and cool off the sweet treat.
J Bee Farm's berry cobbler:
2 tsp cornstarch
1 cup sugar
8 tbsp local honey
6 cups J Bee berries (we prefer to mix in blueberries, blackberries and raspberries)
3 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter (cut in 1/2 in cubes)
1 cup plus 3 tbsp whole milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 glass dish. Whisk 1 cup of sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl and add berries and toss. Drizzle with honey. Bake mixture in a glass dish for 10 minutes until bubbly. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Blend in cold butter with hands or food processor until it looks like cornmeal. Add milk and stir until dough forms. Drop 1/3 cup mounds of dough onto fruit. Cook 25-35 minutes and serve warm.
What: Get Local Berry Ice Cream Socials
When: July 12 and July 19
Where: Ultimate Ice Cream (1070 Tunnel Road and 195 Charlotte St. in Asheville) on July 12 from 12:30 to 8 p.m.; The Hop Ice Cream Café (640 Merrimon Ave. and and 721 Haywood Road in West Asheville) on July 19 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Why: To celebrate local berry producers and ASAP's Get Local berry month; 10 percent of proceeds each day will benefit ASAP.
— Maggie Cramer is ASAP's communications manager; she can be reached at email@example.com or 236-1282 ext. 113