Playing the goat
Behold, the mighty dairy goat. This productive, charming animal provides the essentials for a wide variety of cheeses and milk and is known for its hilarious antics in the barnyard.
Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain puts its more than 200 Alpine, LaMancha and Nubian dairy goats to good use, producing 12 different cheeses and whole goat milk.
The farm bills itself as North Carolina's only Grade-A creamery and uses organic fertilizer and feed that is free of animal by-products to keep its goats healthy and productive. The goats are "gently pampered" and enjoy air conditioning while they are milked and fed.
The Piedmont Dairy Goat Association wants you to come out to Round Mountain Creamery and learn more about goats up close. On Sunday, June 30, from 1-6 p.m., the creamery will open its gates for an afternoon designed to get your goat (in the best possible way).
Meet the goats, try your hand at milking and taste everything from provincial olives to campfire jalapeño cheeses. Get a tour of the farm, located at 2203 Old Fort Road, Black Mountain, and learn about goats first hand for $5. Info: http://www.piedmontdairygoats.com, http://www.roundmountaincreamery.com or 713-4887.
Wasabi: Not just in Japan
Wasabi may seem like an exotic plant best suited for foreign countries, but it has found a home here in Western North Carolina. Joe Hollis of Mountain Gardens in Celo has been growing it for 25 years and calls it a "happy plant" that has "taken off" in his botanical garden.
Mountain Gardens is on the edge of Pisgah National Forest and unlike most of the United States, it is an ideal environment for wasabi. The plants need a constant source of water and shady woodlands to thrive, and Hollis has found ways to provide both.
In addition to several acres of Chinese herbs and medicinal plants, Hollis has created a wasabi garden out of wading pools filled with rocks and soil. A stream of water trickles through holes on either side of the pool, keeping the plants moist while preventing soggy roots.
These patches of wasabi provide seeds and leaves that can be used for an array of commercial purposes, including high-end cuisine. The leaves can be used in everything from sauces to salad dressings to sushi wraps — anything a "clever chef" can cook up, Hollis says. In fact, Mountain Gardens sells its wasabi leaves to the famed Lantern restaurant in Chapel Hill.
With the right growing conditions, a patch of wasabi can be a successful plant for both home and commercial gardens. Hollis will offer a wasabi workshop on Saturday, June 29, from 1:30- 5 p.m. at Mountain Gardens near Burnsville. The class will cover the basics of site selection and preparation, with seeds and seedlings for sale. $50. Info and directions: http://mountaingardensherbs.com.