Recipe for fun: Asheville summer camps offer food-themed adventures

HARVESTING GREENS: Kids at Evergreen Community Charter School's Field to Feast summer camp can look forward to learning about foraging and healthy eating habits. Photo courtesy of Evergreen Summer Adventures Photo courtesy of Evergreen Summer Advenures

For a foodie city such as Asheville, it makes sense that whisks, measuring cups and garden-fresh ingredients play a role in many area summer camps. Whether it’s baking, farm-to-table adventures, medicinal teas or international cuisine, the summer food camp scene provides a variety of culinary opportunities for children of all ages.

Two early camp options start Monday, June 13: Franny’s Farm Summer Camp and Mountain Kitchen Camp. Both are one-week sessions with additional camps offered throughout the summer.

Franny’s Farm in Leicester runs 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and is for children ages 7-13. The camp will treat kids to the full farming experience. From learning how to raise and care for donkeys, turkeys, chickens, goats and sheep to tending summer gardens, campers will experience a world and way of life that has lost its role in many modern homes. “So many families just don’t have the time and the space to grow food anymore,” says camp director Cyn Slingsby.

Slingsby hopes that children who sign up for the camp will have an “aha” moment as they sample fresh basil, chives, tomatoes and spinach straight from the garden. “[We want] to give them the opportunity to experience that you can grow your own food, and that it’s quite different from things that have been shipped across the country or across several different countries,” she says.  

Whereas Franny’s Farm will encompass a combination of garden and farm, chef Ofri Gilan’s Mountain Kitchen Camp plans to offer a week’s worth of classes on international cuisine. “They will learn to cook from scratch,” Gilan says. From Italian to Japanese to homestyle American cooking, each day will offer a new theme and a new opportunity for kids to learn about a different culture through its food.

The camp, designed for children 8-12, will run 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Outside of cooking fundamentals, campers will explore a variety of local farms and markets to discover where their food comes from. While out and about, they will have the opportunity to  buy local ingredients for their upcoming meals, as well. By the week’s end, parents will be treated to a homemade dinner prepared by the students. The newly trained chefs will leave with an e-book listing the week’s recipes as well as photographs captured during the camp session.

World Peas will host Baking Safari Camp, July 6-8 and July 11-15. The sessions will meet 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the West Asheville Presbyterian Church on Haywood Road. The days will be filled with collaborative baking projects ranging from pizzas to pies, brownies to cookies. Owner and operator Lisa Smith notes that everything is made from scratch using “wholesome ingredients.”

In the afternoons, campers will take walking tours to nearby restaurants and bakeries on Haywood Road. Some of these visits will include behind-the-scenes peeks at the kitchen as well as samples of treats. Each day students will also leave with goodies “like a whole pie or a single-layer birthday cake or a dozen cookies,” Smith says. “Something they can take home at the end of the day and share with their family.”

STARTING EARLY: These young bakers collaborate on a recipe at a camp hosted last year by World Peas.
STARTING EARLY: These young bakers collaborate on a recipe at a camp hosted last year by World Peas.

Also in July, Evergreen Summer Adventures will offer Field to Feast, three consecutive weeklong food camps. “The overall mission is to make what can seem like a chore — working in the garden, cooking dinner — into something that is really fun,” says Marin Leroy, the program’s environmental education coordinator.

Intended for grades three to nine, the camp will run 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and each week will have its own theme. According to Leroy, Puff the Magic Muffin will involve playing with yeast and studying what makes things rise in the kitchen, Roots and Shoots will give campers the chance to learn about making lip balms, soothing oils and teas using garden bounty, and the Garden Chef Cook-Off Challenge will offer kids the chance to participate in their own version of popular kid cook-off shows.

During each week of camp, children will have the chance to tend Evergreen’s garden to better understand the growing process. “The goals of the class are to expose kids to where their food comes from at its source,” says Leroy. “So I really hope that they learn something new about how food is grown and gain some confidence in how to do it themselves.” Leroy notes the camp’s second goal is simply to get kids “excited about trying new flavors and trying new textures of foods.”

Whether you have a child interested in tilling the soil or kneading dough, this summer’s selection of food-themed camps offers a wide sample, sure to satisfy everyone’s individual palate.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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