LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 9. Follow us all summer long as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms through the eyes and palate of our own Chef Jay Pierce
by MOLLY MCGINN
Holding a handful of farm-fresh raspberries is a rarity in the Piedmont area. All were scooped up over the weekend off the Farmer’s Cart at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen. Locavore’s rule number one: Be quick. We’re expecting to restock this week with raspberries fresh from North Carolina’s only organic Pick-Your-Own Farm, Plum Granny Farm.
Chef Jay Pierce made an unseasonably early trip west to Plum Granny Farm last week. Raspberry picking season officially begins at the end of July and runs through August. But you won’t find many around here. The delicate berries thrive in cooler weather.
“Your location is beautiful, the vista is incomparable and your travails are honest,” wrote Chef Jay Pierce to farm co-owners Cheryl Ferguson and Ray Tuegel after a recent trip to the farm. Named after the old timey Applachian nickname for the Passion Flower, Plum Granny, the farm “specializes in items that other folks around here just don’t grow,” he says.
Attribute that to the farm’s 140-year family history and penchant for good soil. Located near Hanging Rock, co-owner and family-farmer Cheryl Ferguson “grew up on this farm and her father, grandfather and great-grandfather all practiced the art of cultivation on this soil.” Ray Tuegel’s Kansas-farming roots “raised him amid the most beautiful soil that has ever been seen.”
“Their approach (Cheryl and Ray Tuegel) to farming is to nurture the soil and the land to return it to its optimal state,” according to the farm’s literature. “Building the soil with leaf mulch, compost, cover crops and manure is helping them produce better and healthier crops. In just a few short years, Cheryl and Ray have seen some major changes in the vitality of the soil as well as in variety of birds and other fauna that frequent their farm.”
And if you’re looking for raspberry recipes: stop.
“We are firm believers in eating something this wonderful out of hand,” says Jay. “Anything you do to them (heating, chopping, pureeing) or mix with them will dilute their flavor and diminish your delight.”
Straight from the farm: A note about Raspberries
from Cheryl Ferguson and Ray Tuegel
“In the piedmont [raspberries] are a bit out of their comfort zone. They do much better in the mountains because they appreciate and need cooler weather.
“The yields for Piedmont-grown berries are about half of that in the mountains. That is probably a major reason people don’t grow them as much here. Another factor is that raspberries are not as well known in this area as are strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.
“That lack of knowledge also translates into not knowing how to grow the crop. We like both challenges.
“We love to educate consumers about our products and to share what we have learned with other growers – either farms or backyard gardeners. We give talks for garden clubs, Reynolda Gardens and have been part of the CFSA Sustainable Ag Conference tour and have served as ‘Ask the Experts’ for the CFSA newsletter.
Pick up a farm-fresh hand full of Plum Granny Raspberries at the following locations:
Old Salem Farmer’s Market
Saturdays, 9 am to noon
Corner of West and Salt St., Winston-Salem, NC
Cobblestone Farmer’s Market
Tuesday, 10 am to 1 pm
Corner of Third and Patterson St., Winston-Salem, NC
Plum Granny Farm on Pick-Your-Own days
Check Plum Granny’s Web site for available times and dates. Raspberry picking season begins at the end of July through August.
1041 Flat Shoals Road, King, NC
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen Farmer’s Cart (when available)
Cary and Greensboro restaurant locations.
Plum Granny Farm’s raspberry varieties:
Prelude (Raz House)
Nova and Anne (golden color)
Just for kicks, check Hillsborough poet Aaron Belz’s new book, “Lovely, Raspberry”