This time of year, Michael Porterfield’s farm turns into one giant pumpkin patch. He grows other cool-weather crops now, too — from carrots to radishes — at New Sprout Organic Farms near the Ingles warehouse on the way to Black Mountain. But, he’s got an entire acre dedicated to the festive fall veggie. Some find their way onto the shelves of area Ingles stores, a journey of only 300 yards. The others? Into local beer, of course!
“Because Asheville is known as ‘Beer City’ and as a spearhead for the local food movement, it only makes sense for these two great industries to work together when an opportunity arises,” says Porterfield. Luckily for Ashevilleans, an opportunity came up, thanks to the farm’s neighbor, Pisgah Brewing Company.
Porterfield originally approached Pisgah about hosting a harvest festival and, naturally, they talked about beer. “When I suggested pumpkin, since I grow so many, they started looking into recipes,” he shares. To everyone’s surprise, they discovered many pumpkin ales aren’t brewed with real pumpkins, only flavorings.
“How can it be a pumpkin beer with no pumpkins?” asks Jason Caughman, Pisgah’s founder/owner, asks. “Some do [use real pumpkin], some don’t. We’re doers.” Serious doers, actually. He brewed the beer himself, using more than a pound of pumpkin per gallon.
Caughman found Porterfield’s pumpkins especially appealing because they were locally grown — they have brewed with other local products like hops, honey, apples and blueberries before — but also because they are certified organic and were available unprocessed. He found them tasty, too. So, he bought 300 pounds of New Sprout’s pie pumpkins, a smaller, sweeter variety perfect for baking and brewing.
The result? A limited supply of local organic pumpkin ale with a hint of other fall flavors: think cinnamon and nutmeg. That’s as much as can be revealed about the recipe. Of how the pumpkins get incorporated, Caughman simply says, “Magic.”
Porterfield describes the end result simply, too: “Authentic.” The limited supply of pumpkin ale will be ready the last week in October and available where Pisgah’s products are sold. But don’t delay, as they expect it will go quickly. Caughman suggests it’s only the “fast and furious” who’ll get to enjoy it.
You can enjoy Porterfield’s pumpkins in locally made ice cream, too. He has teamed up with David and Lucia Barnes of Ultimate Ice Cream, an Appalachian Grown partner eatery. They purchased his pie pumpkins earlier this fall to create a flavor that Lucia describes as “the center of pumpkin pie in ice cream form.” They also purchased New Sprout’s Butternut squash, yes, to make ice cream. “You think of butternut squash as such a savory thing,” Lucia says, acknowledging she enjoys pleasantly surprising customers with the unique sweet creation. They bake the squash down, intensifying its buttery flavor, and then add clusters of candied almonds, pecans and cashews for some crunch. The Barnes expect both flavors to stay on their menu through the new year, and remind that a pint or quart would be perfect for a holiday meal or party — to enjoy under a warm blanket or by the fire
Porterfield looks forward to more partnerships like these with local food producers. In fact, he says, “We just started selling some of our produce to Roots Organic Gourmet,” a local hummus wholesaler. “Look for some exciting things to come out of this combination.”
He plans to continue selling his produce to Ingles, too. When shopping at your neighborhood store, look up to the ceilings for special signage created by ASAP that indicates New Sprout products. And, he’s looking to expand his farm operation, which he only began earlier this year. “As we go forward, we hope to be able to provide year-round organic produce to all of our customers in the Asheville area and beyond.”
November is squash month in ASAP's Get Local campaign. Stay tuned to an upcoming Eatin' in Season for more special winter squash items found around town.
— Maggie Cramer is the communications coordinator at Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (asapconnections.org). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.