News Roundup: Oct. 18-24

News Roundup logoEach week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “UAVs soar over North Carolina State Fair,” Southeast Farm Press: Unmanned aircraft, like sneaky late-night radio UFOs, are hovering over the 147th North Carolina State Fair. Except that these small radio-controlled devices actually exist and are part of a new wave of agricultural technology being developed by NC State engineers.Three times a day at the fair – which continues this week and ends on Sunday – members of the champion NC State Aerial Robotics Club demonstrate the vast money-saving potential and worthiness of the small unmanned aerial vehicles, which can provide farmers with invaluable information about how to improve their crops for just a few pennies. …
  • “Culinary students, chefs serve up NC delights at the fair,” WRAL: Got to Be NC and the local branch of the American Culinary Federation have teamed up to offer a fresh take on N.C. State Fair cuisine. Chefs and their students are serving up catfish po-boys and bacon wrapped barbecue jalapenos from a yellow food truck outside the Kerr Scott building. It’s not your typical State Fair food, which is attracting many customers wanting an alternative. …
  • “Final Fire tickets to go on sale,” Greensboro News & Record: Final Fire is the culmination of regional culinary competitions held across the state by Got To Be N.C. Competition Dining Series. The competitions were a way to spotlight the talents of regional chefs and to promote products produced in North Carolina.Competitions were held in Wilmington, Asheville, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Charlotte. Tim Thompson of Marisol in Greensboro was the winner of the Triad’s regional competition called Fire in the Triad. It was held last spring. …
  • “After a slow year, bees rebound at NC State Fair,” News and Observer: For some events at the State Fair, a bad season can dampen competition for the blue ribbon. In the case of the bee and honey contest, entries fluctuate because of weather or the experience of amateur beekeepers. This year, the fair received 513 honey and bee product entries, a surprising increase from last year’s 326. …
  • “Fair Destination: Smokey Bear at the N.C. Forest Service exhibit,” WRAL: The big guy has returned to the N.C. State Fair. Big Smokey Bear is back at the N.C. Forest Service exhibit, greeting fairgoers by name and sharing all kinds of information about fire prevention and safety. “Just beware,” he told the crowd Friday morning, “I’m the fire prevention bear.”Smokey, who turned 70 this year, made his first appearance at the fair in about 1982. Chris Carlson, who worked for years in the forest service’s information and education department before retiring, is credited with building the 25-foot tall fiberglass bear who is wearing the biggest pair of jeans you’ve ever seen. …
  • “DuPont State Recreational Forest to post closing hours,” Asheville Citizen-Times: For the first time, DuPont State Recreational Forest staff will institute hours of operation, starting on Sunday, Nov. 2. The forest will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The more than 10,000-acre state forest lies on the border of Henderson and Transylvania counties, south of Asheville. Hours will be posted at each of the DSRF access areas: High Falls, Hooker Falls, Corn Mill Shoals, Fawn Lake, Lake Imaging and Guion Farm. Only forest employees and authorized personnel will be allowed within the forest between closing and opening hours except under permit, said Brian Haines, spokesman with the National Forests in North Carolina. …
  • “$1.9 million to fund clean water projects in NC, AG Cooper says,” Jacksonville Daily News: North Carolina’s waterways, wildlife habitat and water quality will get a boost thanks to $1.9 million in environmental grants, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today. “These grants will fund projects that protect and improve our state’s natural resources from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Pamlico Sound,” Cooper said. “Protecting these treasures is vital to our health and our economy.” The grants are the twelfth in a series awarded to environmental projects under an agreement reached in 2000 between the Attorney General’s Office and Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer. …
  • “Bailey Farms recalls serrano peppers,” The Packer: Pepper grower Bailey Farms Inc. has recalled more than three tons of serrano peppers sent to retailers and wholesalers after a positive test for salmonella. The recall covers serrano chili peppers sent to Meijer Inc. stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio that may have been purchased by consumers from Oct. 14 to Oct. 19, according to a news release. Other serrano peppers in the recall were shipped to Publix Super Markets Inc., Merchants Distributors Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Food Lion, Flavor 1st Growers and Packers, US Foods, Military Produce Group, C&S Wholesale Grocers, John Vena Inc. and Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. and available from Oct. 2 to Oct. 21. …
  • “Farmer hopes to bring precision back to precision ag with Falcon,” TriState Neighbor: While adopting precision farming practices across his farm, Allan Baucom’s frustration with soil sampling continued to grow. In order to ease the time-consuming, labor-intensive job that soil sampling had become, Baucom worked to develop the Falcon Automated Soil-Sampling System. “It’s designed to take consistent soil samples, repeatable soil samples, and quality soil samples,” said Baucom who farms about 14,000 acres within a 70-mile radius of Monroe, N.C. “To do that, the Falcon takes samples at a consistent depth on a repeatable basis.” …
  •  “Now THAT’s a winning lamb,” Salisbury Post: N.C. State Fair Abigail Wilson with her winning lamb that sold for big money. Abigail Wilson, 11, of China Grove, demonstrated the grand champion junior market lamb at the state fair. Powers Great American Midways bought the lamb for $11,000. …

 

 

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Beech blight aphids put on a show

What’s white, woolly and can be found dancing in the woods this time of the year? It’s not a kid dressed up for Halloween– it’s the beech blight aphid! They might give you a fright, but like a kid dressed up, they’re nothing to be afraid of.

The beech blight aphid is a piercing-sucking insect that feeds on the sap of beech trees. They primarily congregate in large colonies on the undersides of branches and leaves of American beech trees. Their populations build throughout the summer and are most abundant and conspicuous in September and October. The insects themselves are bluish in color, but they extrude a white woolly mass that covers them completely, and it may appear as if snow has covered the branches. Of course, the fall temperatures outside will make you second guess that assumption.

The beech blight aphid has some awesome dance moves that causes heads to turn. When disturbed, the aphids raise the hind end of their bodies and sway back and forth.  When grouped in a large cluster, it’s like a forest flash mob! This behavior has given the aphid the nickname of the “boogie-woogie aphid.”

They are rarely pests and control is typically unnecessary. So enjoy the show if you come across a group of these critters– they can be entertaining and don’t seem to mind showing off!  And turn up some music, especially if you’re listening to the Beatles!

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Today’s Topic: Jr. Livestock Sale of Champions garners nearly $168,000

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

The annual Junior Livestock Sale of Champions took place Saturday at the N.C. State Fair, and it took in the highest total ever. This year’s auction garnered $167,700 for the youth winners and to support a new scholarship program and educational activities. That’s a substantial increase over last year’s total of about $97,600.

The annual auction features the champion and grand champion junior market steers, barrows, goats, sheep and turkeys. Commissioner Troxler believes the State Fair’s livestock shows highlight some of the best animals and brightest kids in North Carolina. The sponsors of the sale recognize that youth exhibitors are the future of agriculture in North Carolina.

A good crowd was in the stands to watch the sale this year, and Troxler says he hopes to see that interest grow.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the Sale of Champions and the importance of youth livestock shows. You can read more about the Sale of Champions here.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

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News Roundup: Oct. 11-17

News Roundup logoEach week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  • “Pig farms rebound from virus; meat prices may drop,” WRAL: A virus that killed millions of baby pigs in the last year and led to higher pork prices has waned thanks to warmer weather and farmers’ efforts to sterilize their operations. And as pigs’ numbers increase, sticker shock on things like bacon should ease. Already, hog supplies are on the rise, with 5.46 million baby pigs born between June and August in Iowa, the nation’s leading producer — the highest quarterly total in 20 years and a record 10.7 surviving pigs per litter, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. …
  • “4-H gives students hands-on science lessons,” Richmond County Daily Journal: In an effort to engage Richmond County youth outside of the classroom, Richmond County 4-H recently partnered with Richmond County Schools, local professionals and volunteers to offer 4-H Science Adventures for all the fifth-grade students in the county. 4-H Science Adventures, held from Oct. 6-9, was geared toward giving teachers and students a day of learning about science topics that are currently included in the North Carolina Essential Standards for fifth-grade science in the natural beauty of Millstone 4-H Camp. Students were given the opportunity to experience hands-on how science occurs in the world around them. …
  • “Yadkin Co. Farm Reinvents Itself After Demise of Tobacco,” Time Warner Cable News: A North Carolina farming family reinvents its business after the demise of tobacco. They’ve been working the same land in Yadkin County for over 100 years and have made the switch to one of the area’s newer crops. RagApple Lassie Vineyard was never supposed to grow grapes. “We didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to own a winery?’” said owner Lenna Hobson. “We have a winery, and you’re here before me, because you’re on a 106 year old family farm that has been in the Hobson family since way before the turn of the 20th Century.” …
  • “Sweet potatoes lead produce hit parade in N.C.,” The Produce News: North Carolina produce crops brought in $608 million last year for fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries. And sweet potatoes led the way, Kevin D. Hardison is quick to point out. Hardison is a marketing specialist with a 14-year career in the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services in Raleigh that brings a working knowledge of the 60 kinds of produce grown in the Tarheel State. “We’re ranked first in the nation for growing sweet potatoes,” Hardison noted, gesturing toward racks of publications touting North Carolina vodka, butter and chips made from sweet potatoes, microwave-ready yams and even recipes for gourmet meals with sweet potato french fries. …
  • “McCrory to France, Ireland: Leave cigarette packaging alone,” The News & Observer: Gov. Pat McCrory made headlines overseas on Wednesday after he asked the French and Irish ambassadors to the United States to stop new cigarette packaging regulations in their countries. France and Ireland are considering new restrictions that would require cigarette packaging to use uniform sizes and colors. Companies would have to replace logos with the brand’s name in a standardized font and feature anti-smoking slogans and graphic photos. …
  • “The State Fair opens and the familiar fun returns,” The News & Observer: A year already? And it seems like only days ago that the kids, wanting to flip those pennies at targets on the midway – or was it the ring toss? – took home as prizes three goldfish. Mommy and Daddy put the raised eyebrow on Pops, who had funded the prize-winning effort, because they knew they’d be getting a fish tank after they got home. And plants for the tank. And a filter. One of the fish is nearing the size of a carp, healthy still. The others … well, we don’t talk about that. The North Carolina State Fair is back, and the early weather reports, always a concern, look good. …
  • “Durham boy’s wish will come true at State Fair,” WRAL: Food and rides get a ton of attention at the North Carolina State Fair, but for many, animals are the star of the show. That’s true for Howell Brown, a Durham boy who will be granted his wish this weekend when he gets to show Miss Me, a brown and white heifer owned by Mason Blinson. Howell relocated to Durham recently to undergo medical treatment, and he’s been working with Blinson to prepare for his moment in the spotlight with Miss Me. “I grew up on a farm, and I just enjoy it,” he said of showing cows. “It’s hard, but it’s fun. It will pay off one day.” …
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Flavor, NC: Weeping Radish Brewery

flavor-nc-weblogo-490wX143h-0011Twice a month we feature local restaurants, farms and farmers markets featured on episodes of UNC-TV’s Flavor, NC. This week, we review episode four of the first season in which hostess Lisa Prince highlights Weeping Radish Brewery and Butchery.

“Sweet tea may be the beverage of choice in North Carolina,” said Lisa, “but it’s not the only thing brewing in the Tarheel state. Weeping Radish Brewery and Butchery is the oldest microbrewery in the state and is located in Jarvisburg.  The brewery makes five different types of beer and includes an organic garden and all natural butchery.  Owner Uli Bennewitz has a commitment to having products made in North Carolina, using North Carolina ingredients.

Below is a recipe provided by Weeping Radish Pub chef Michael Jacobson  for Butter Bean Succotash:

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon of bacon fat
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup of cooked butter beans
  • 4 ounces fresh water prawns
  • 4 ounces garlic andouille sausage
  • 6 ounces bean broth
  • 1/4 cup diced tomato
  • 1 ounce of unsalted butter
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preparation:

In a saute pan melt the bacon fat over medium high heat. Add the prawns and sauté briefly. Add the diced onions and garlic andouille sausage and lightly caramelize. Add the butter beans and cook until it begins to reduce. Add the butter, stirring to melt and blend. Lastly, toss in your fresh tomato and season with salt and pepper.

New episodes of Flavor, NC air Thursday at 10:30 p.m. at UNC-TV, with encore airings to follow Sundays at 7 p.m.  More information about Flavor, NC is at www.flavornc.com, or you can follow the show on Facebook. 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s Topic: N.C. State Fair preview

Southern Farm Network logoAgriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

We’re just a couple of days away from the start of the 2014 N.C. State Fair, and as usual, agriculture will play a big role.

There’s so much to see at the fair that highlights agriculture: horticulture exhibits, bees, animals, the Field of Dreams and a whole lot more. The Agriculture Today exhibit is moving to a location near Gate 1 and will showcase a variety of modern ag technology. With the changing landscape of agriculture in North Carolina, the State Fair is committed to bridging the gap between consumers and the technological innovations required in the industry to bring food and fiber into the homes of our citizens.

The exhibit will use hands-on demonstrations and a straight-forward approach to presenting modern farming practices to provide a connection between consumers, technology and farms. It aims to educate and showcase both the advances in agriculture to date, and the technologies required to feed the world in the future. The exhibit this year will also feature a demonstration on how N.C. State University’s research with unmanned aerial vehicles will benefit individual farmers.

Another new twist this year is that the Junior Livestock Sale of Champions is moving to prime time. In the past, this auction has been held at 11 a.m. on the first Saturday of the fair. But starting this year, it will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 18 in the Graham Building.

Also this year, all youth livestock exhibitors will have the opportunity to benefit from the sale. The addition of more sponsors is allowing the fair to put a portion of proceeds from the sale into a scholarship program and educational opportunities.

Click on the audio player below to listen to Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss the N.C. State Fair.

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Southern Farm Network is a division of Curtis Media Group.

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October: What’s happening on the farm?

Peanuts from breeding trials at the Peanut Belt Research Station are harvested, bagged and tagged.

Peanuts from breeding trials at the Peanut Belt Research Station are harvested, bagged and tagged.

Farms are places of year-round activity. There is almost always something going on, regardless of the season. Each month we highlight one of our research stations and the work taking place on the farm during that month as well as give a little insight into the world of farming and innovative agricultural research.

There are 18 research stations across the state, operated in partnership between the department, N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University. The stations are strategically located to account for different soil types, climates, crops and livestock production. Department staff manage the day-to-day operations of the stations and the research field work, while researchers from the universities set up the parameters of the research. This month we are highlighting the Peanut Belt Research Station in Lewiston-Woodville. 

October is a busy time at the Peanut Belt Research Station. One might even say that it’s nuts. That’s because most of the station’s 67 acres of peanuts are harvested in October. This station has made a name for itself in the peanut industry. Since 1959, 14 peanut varieties have been released from this station, including all peanut varieties released by N.C. State University in the last 20 years.

A peanut digger digs up the peanuts, shakes the dirt off and then inverts them so they can dry in the field.

A peanut digger digs up the peanuts, shakes the dirt off and then inverts them so they can dry in the field.

Most peanuts at the station are grown for breeding trials. The work focuses on breeding peanuts for better yields, disease and insect resistance, appearance and taste. “Our breeding trial researchers often harvest by hand to maintain the purity of the seed since combines mix seed a bit from one plot to another,” said Tommy Corbett, station manager. “The researcher saves these seeds for future trials.” There are about 300 to 500 new lines of breeding trials every year and about 150 advance lines in research, too. It can take dozens of breeding trials and 10 to 14 years to release a new variety.

The station hires about 15 temporary employees in the fall to help with peanut harvest. Peanuts are prepared for harvest with a peanut digger, which digs up the first 3 or 4 inches of soil where the peanuts are found, shakes the dirt off of the peanuts and then inverts them so they can dry out in the field. After a few days of drying out, a peanut combine harvests the peanuts. “Harvesting takes a lot of time because we work in plots,” Corbett said. “We have two row plots that we pick, bag and tag and then we have to clean out our machine to do another plot. The station has more than 10,000 plots.

Seeds from the breeding trials are stored in 50-pound bags and saved in a freezer for the next season. Peanut seeds do not keep for a long time, the most is about three years. The station also stores seeds for other crops grown at the station in the freezer.

Peanuts are often harvested by hand to maintain the purity of the seed.

Peanuts are often harvested by hand to maintain the purity of the seed at the research station.

After harvest, the peanuts are picked up by BirdSong Peanuts to be graded and sold. Eighty percent of the peanuts grown in North Carolina are Virginia-type peanuts. These peanuts are the ones most often sold in the shell, as cocktail peanuts and at baseball games.  In 2012, Bertie, Martin and Halifax were North Carolina’s leading peanut producing counties with almost 110 million pounds of peanuts harvested. North Carolina ranks 4th in the nation in peanuts and has about 5,000 peanut farmers.

The Peanut Belt Research Station holds a Peanut Field Day the first Thursday after Labor Day each year. In addition to peanuts, the station does research on cotton, corn, sorghum and soybeans, with about 75 acres of cotton harvested during October.

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News Roundup: Oct. 4 -10

News Roundup logo Each week we round up the latest N.C. agricultural headlines from news outlets across the state and country, as well as excerpts from the stories. Click on the links to go straight to the full story.

  •  “Commerce Secretary Decker still hopeful Sanderson Farms will build in Cumberland,” Fayetteville Observer: State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said this morning she has not given up hope that Sanderson Farms will build a chicken processing plant in Cumberland County that would employ more than 1,000 people. “We are just very hopeful,” Decker said after an appearance in Dunn. “We need the jobs in Cumberland County so we’re hopeful there will be a positive resolution.” …
  • “Research station trying to cut costs for winter squash,” Salisbury Post: Workers at the Piedmont Research Station are looking to save farmers money and boost the number of locally grown squash available for fall festivals. The research station planted multiple varieties of winter squash directly after strawberry harvest, using used plastic covering for the plants and other materials. Piedmont Research Station Superintendent Joe Hampton said the study could greatly reduce costs to farmers, depending on how tests go. It’s the first year the research station has examined the idea. …
  • Up in smoke,” Robesonian: Robeson County tobacco farmers say the end of the federal tobacco buyout program won’t deter them from growing a crop that has supported their farms and families for generations — at least not for a few years. Established under the Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004, the federal Tobacco Transition Payment Program ended the regulation of tobacco prices, exposing farmers to the ups and downs of the free market. The buyout program was intended to help farmers transition to an economy without price supports or quotas, and since 2004 is estimated to have paid out about $10 billion. In Robeson County, tobacco producers have consistently received about $18 million a year, although few tobacco operations have survived the deregulation of the market, negative attitudes toward cigarettes and competition from foreign markets. …
  • “NC Pumpkin Harvest Good This Year,” Time Warner Cable News: Now that fall is here and Halloween is around the corner, it’s time for pumpkin picking, and despite a harsh winter and dry July under our belt, pumpkin growers say the crops are looking good. North Carolina pumpkin growers plant a lot of different varieties from Mammoth Gold to Sugar Pie. According to the State Department of Agriculture, pumpkins can range from less than a pound to more than 1,100 pounds. …
  • “NASA drones in national airspace to spot NC wildfires,” Asheville Citizen-Times: NASA plans to fly small drones to spot fires in a wildlife refuge along the Virginia and North Carolina border next spring, marking the first time the agency has integrated drones into the National Airspace System for wildfire spotting on the East Coast, officials said Wednesday. NASA has previously used retrofitted Predator drones to map and gather data on large wildfires in the West. …
  • “Program announced for those considering a food-based startup,” Hendersonville Times-News: To help aspiring foodie entrepreneurs create a successful startup from scratch, a two-day event will be co-hosted by Blue Ridge Food Ventures and the Asheville Center for Professional studies Nov. 6 and 7. “Grandma’s great tasting recipe is no longer the sole determining factor in whether a business succeeds,” said Chris Reedy, executive director of Blue Ridge Food Ventures. The program, dubbed “The Biz behind the Food Biz: from Winning Recipe to a Winning Business,” will feature food-based business owners, as well as accountants, attorneys, grocery store executives, marketers and financing representatives. According to a release from Advantage West, a nonprofit economic development partnership that serves the westernmost counties of North Carolina, “The Biz behind the Food Biz” comes at a time when sales of specialty foods are reaching an all-time high. …
  • “Tar Heel tobacco, peach growers favor check-offs as 2014 assessments kick in,” Southeast Farm Press: The long-awaited assessment on North Carolina flue-cured finally became a reality when a grower referendum was declared favorable after a three-month balloting period. And the vote was emphatic: the assessment was approved on 88 percent of ballots in a mail-in referendum, considerably more than the two-thirds majority needed for the assessment to pass. “The margin of support for this effort indicates the level of priority our farmers place on having a strong and organized voice to advocate on important issues,” said Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina President Tim Yarbrough of Prospect Hill, N.C. “It means the association will have the resources it needs to protect and advocate for the business of growing tobacco, and the need for that has never been greater.” Since its creation in 1982, the association has been funded by membership dues and industry contributions. …
  • “WNC ripe with agritourism,” Hendersonville Times-News: The cooling temperatures and brilliant foliage herald the coming of fall and, with it, numerous opportunities to experience the wealth of agritourism available in the region. For families, local apple orchards offer much more than just the standard pick-your-own fare. The farms offer attractions such as hay rides, train rides, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and barnyard animals, as well as delicious homemade seasonal treats such as fried apple pies, apple cider doughnuts and apple cider, and even barbecue on the weekends. For some of these farms, such as Justus Orchards, the agritourism season spanning from August to November provides their only revenue stream. …
  • “Rockin B named state’s Outstanding Conservation Family Farm,” Randolph Guide: Faced with seeming insurmountable obstacles in 2011, the Mickey and Shelly Bowman family met the challenge so successfully that last week they were named the 2014 N.C. Outstanding Conservation Farm Family. State and local officials attended ceremonies at the Rockin B Farm on Whites Chapel Road, where the Bowmans and their three sons raise cattle, chickens, hogs, goats and sheep. They’ve used a variety of conservation methods to protect the soil and water while controlling wastes responsibly. But three years ago, the owner of the chicken processing plant that the Bowmans raised birds for announced that he was closing the plant. Faced with payments for 10 chicken houses, things looked bleak for Rockin B Farm. But the family made changes, met the challenge and have thrived. …

 

 

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Got to Be NC Competition Dining: Chef Jon Fortes

G2BNC Competition Dining1Once a month we highlight a chef and a recipe from the Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining series. This month, we are featuring Chef Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill in Charlotte. Fortes is the 2014 Fire in the City Champion. He describes his cooking style as upscale Southern comfort.

The Got to Be N.C. Competition Dining Series faces off two local chefs in a single-elimination, blind-dinner format. The chef’s menu is created around a North Carolina ingredient that is revealed at noon on the day of the competition. This secret ingredient must be used in each of three courses, appetizer, entree and dessert. The competition is held in Asheville, Blowing Rock, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington.

Fortes went up against Chef Tom Dyrness of Mama Ricotta’s in Charlotte for the final battle of Fire in the City on Sept. 29. The secret ingredients were Scott Farms sweet potatoes and Pepsi. Fortes will compete in the Final Fire competition in Raleigh in November. Tickets are available starting Oct. 29.

Course_4_9.23.14 - Chef Jon fortes

Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Bacon Taste Plate by Chef Jon Fortes

Fortes provided the following recipe from the Fire in the City competition. He used the creamed kale component in the appetizer round in the semi finals, a popular and high-scoring dish. The appetizer, Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork Bacon Taste Plate, featured a trio of flavors: Bacon Confit with Creamed Kale; Bacon and Cheddar Gougeres with Crispy America’s Best Nut Co. NC Peanut Slaw; and Collard Wrapped Romano Pork & Bacon Sausage with Sweet Potato Puree.

In this recipe Jon has taken the creamed kale component and used it as a pasta sauce. Many varieties of kale grow across the state of North Carolina and are in in season now.

Pasta with Kale, Bacon and Parmesan Cream

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds pasta, cooked al dente
  • ¼ pound smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 shallots, small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups kale, washed and chiffonade
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

In a good size sauce pot, add bacon and cook until crispy, remove all bacon fat except for one tablespoon; then add in garlic and shallots and saute for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and boil until the volume is reduced by half.
Once this is reduced add cream and kale and cook until kale wilts. Add reserved cooked pasta and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes to warm through. Season to taste with lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Enjoy!

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Naturally spooky: Spanish moss

spanish moss

Though spooky, Spanish moss is a harmless inhabitant of the tree it adorns. Image: K. Oten, NCFS.

Spanish moss is an icon of beauty in the Southeast. However, this drooping, hair-like plant might make some people’s hair stand on end! It summons a somewhat creepy vibe, one that can be especially appreciated with Halloween lurking around the corner. And let’s be honest– when one envisions a haunted Southern plantation, it’s not quite complete without Spanish moss draping gracefully from the branches of enormous live oaks.

But what is this naturally spooky moss? That’s a trick question actually, because it’s not a moss at all! Spanish moss is an epiphyte, meaning that it grows on other plants but does not rely on its host plant for nutrients or water. Everything that is needed for its survival is obtained from sunlight, rain and air. Spanish moss grows best in hot, humid places and is in the bromeliad family, the same that includes pineapple.

A common misconception is that Spanish moss injures the tree from which it hangs. In actuality, the tree is not harmed at all. Spanish moss captures moisture and nutrients from the air with tiny scales that cover it entirely. Because the whole plant is capable of absorption, roots are not needed. To anchor itself to the tree, its stems wrap around branches of the host tree. Rarely, the weight of Spanish moss may contribute to the breakage of an already weakened branch, but in that case, the branch should have been trimmed long ago.

To add to the misnomer, in addition to not really being a moss, Spanish moss is not from Spain either. It is considered a native plant here in the Southeast. So why “Spanish” moss then? There are several stories that describe the origin of the name. One fable describes a Spanish Conquistador pursuing a Native American woman through a forest. Atop a horse, his beard was caught in the branches of an oak tree, torn off, and turned gray with age before spreading throughout the forest. A more humorous suggested derivation of the name is that French explorers called it “Spanish Beard” to insult the Spaniards. In retaliation, the Spanish named it “French Hair.” Obviously, the latter of the two insults did not stick.

So whether you love the classic Southern look of Spanish moss or can’t handle the spooky feeling it gives you, remember that it’s completely harmless and poses no threat to the tree it adorns. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the chiggers that often make their homes in a clump of it. Now that’ll make your skin crawl!

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