Colonial History + Environmental Science: A New Visitor Experience at National Colonial Farm

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Interior of "Laurel Branch," historic farmhouse on the National Colonial Farm.

Interior of “Laurel Branch,” historic farmhouse on the National Colonial Farm.

“Look at this house. See how lucky we are today?” I overheard a mother saying to her eight year-old daughter at the National Colonial Farm. I understand the impulse to teach children not to take for granted the conveniences we have today – electricity, telephones, indoor plumbing, and so many others. As any colonial historian will tell you, life was brutal and short in those days. We should appreciate the advances that allow us to live longer, healthier lives.

Coal-burning for electric power is the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas in the U.S.

Coal-burning for electric power is the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas in the U.S.

 

 

But there’s another side to the story. For all of those technologies that make our lives easier, there is an environmental cost that we often don’t think about. The unfortunate reality is that we contribute to climate change every time we flip on that convenient light switch. We dump endless supplies of plastic and other non-degradable disposables into landfills and waterways. I began thinking about mother-daughter conversations fifty years from now. . . .  one hundred years from now. Would they say, “See how lucky we are today?” This became one of the inspirations for new kind of weekend visitor experiences on the National Colonial Farm that began in October 2014.

Using colonial history to provide a context for conversation, we want to get people thinking about the environmental choices they make.

November’s Theme: Artificial Light and Energy Conservation

Most Americans go to bed between 10:30pm - 12:00am, using electricity to support this habit.

Most Americans go to bed between 10:30pm – 12:00am, using electricity to support this habit.

Nature’s rhythms undoubtedly governed the lives of colonial people more than they do today. In 2014, we turn on a light when it’s dark. We turn on air conditioning when we are hot. We take every opportunity to “conquer” nature with our technology. But colonials had fewer options. They headed off to bed shortly after sundown. Candle light was available, but too dim to accomplish much work.

With coal burning providing almost half of the energy produced for electricity in this country, maybe it’s time we explored the benefits of letting nature take charge once in a while? This is the question we are exploring this November and December.

Interpreter Ashley Thompson teaches Board member Shirley Harmon and Accokeek Foundation president Lisa Hayes to shape the candles as they add layer of wax.

Interpreter Ashley Thompson teaches Board member Shirley Harmon and Accokeek Foundation president Lisa Hayes to shape the candles as they add layer of wax.

Even in colonial times, the cost of staying up late was an issue that could cause a family squabble. Candles, often purchased rather than made, would have been costly for a struggling tobacco planting family. So to help the Bolton family save a few pence, visitors have had the opportunity to dip candles with costumed interpreters as they invite discussion on the merits of being thrifty with energy.

Interpreter Felix Hernandez demonstrates how to hand-crank electricity to power a set of typical incandescent holiday lights.

Interpreter Felix Hernandez demonstrates how to hand-crank electricity to power a set of typical incandescent holiday lights.

 

Meanwhile, in the Visitor Center, we’ve offered a connection to present-day conservation with a light bulb comparison activity. If you’re a night owl, which light bulb will help you save the most on energy? Incandescent, Compact Fluorescent (CFL) or Light Emitting Diodes (LED)? Visitors can see for themselves by cranking our hand-held generator to power each bulb. But the answer is not clear-cut. There are several environmental impacts related to recycling and producing the bulbs that may affect decision-making. We’re here to start a thought-provoking conversation about an object that everyone uses.

I’m looking forward to seeing if combining colonial history and environmental issues is something that visitors respond to. Are we sparking meaningful conversations? Are people talking about light bulbs and candles on their ride home? This is what we’d like to know. Please write us if you have feedback!

 

–Written by Andrea Jones, Director of Programs and Visitor Engagement

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Inaugural Festival Provides Food for Thought

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Board member, Amanda Truett with “King Corn” costume winner, Frank Pipitone.

Whether it was crunching on cricket bars, running a food miles race or learning how to cook healthy on a budget, the inaugural Food for Thought festival offered something for everyone to consider the sustainability of our food system. Held September 20th on the National Colonial Farm, the festival was designed around an essential question of whether we should return to a locally sourced food system like our ancestors had. Over 250 people participated in the event, which featured a panel discussion with leaders in the field of food sustainability, two theater performances on food and farming, cooking demonstrations, food tastings, vendors, games and children’s activities.

Preparations for the event began in February, when Andrea Jones, Director of Programs and Visitor Engagement, conceived the idea for a humanities-focused food event as a way to explore agriculture through a past-to-present lens. Mixing colonial and contemporary activities, the festival encouraged participants to understand the cultural roots of our current agricultural system. As Jones explained, “This festival provides an opportunity for the community to reflect on how we got to the point where we don’t know where our food comes from, and what we can do to change course to a more sustainable model.”

The heart of the festival was a lively panel discussion. James McWilliams, author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong And How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, posited that eating local is not enough, that society must use additional metrics to gauge the sustainability of the food we grow and eat. Joining him in conversation was culinary educator JuJu Harris (author of The Arcadia Mobile Market Cookbook), farmer Forrest Pritchard (author of Gaining Ground, A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm), and Slow Food DC co-chair Sarah McKinley. Bringing a range of experience and expertise to the conversation, the panelists left the audience with plenty of food for thought.

Food for Thought panelists included authors Forrest Pritchard, JuJu Harris, James McWilliams, and Slow Food DC co-chair, Sarah McKinley.

Food for Thought panelists included authors Forrest Pritchard, JuJu Harris, James McWilliams, and Slow Food DC co-chair, Sarah McKinley.

The Foundation’s Ecosystem Farm manager, Holli Elliott, encouraged people to think outside of the (lunch)box when it comes to sustainable eating by offering samples of unusual foods. People eagerly snacked on weed salad made from the often maligned or overlooked plants commonly found in our backyards, and voted on their favorite flavor of protein bar made with cricket powder. Two companies, Chapul and EXO, kindly donated samples of their cricket bars as a way to promote insects as a more sustainable protein source than livestock.

Farmer Holli and volunteers serve up heirloom tomatoes during Food for Thought festival.

Farmer Holli and volunteers serve up heirloom tomatoes during Food for Thought festival.

Food for Thought was made possible through a generous grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, and additional support from MOM’s Organic Market and Graham Holdings Company. The event was featured on the MHC Humanities Connection radio program, the Marc Steiner Show, and in several regional newspapers. It brought many first-time visitors to the park, introducing a new audience to the role of the Accokeek Foundation in promoting the natural and cultural heritage of Piscataway Park and our commitment to stewardship and sustainability.

–written by Heather Leach, Agriculture Education Manager

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Modern Homesteading: Simple Steps toward Sustainability

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Did you know that food makes up the largest percentage of waste in US landfills? On average, we toss 40% of our food in the trashcan, where it ends up in oxygen-deprived landfills to sit for years – largely intact – producing large volumes of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. Not only is it harming the environment, and burdening our already overflowing landfills, but as a nation we are effectively throwing out $165 billion each year, when one considers the costs to grow, ship and dispose of all that uneaten food.

But there are simple steps that each of us can take to restore the balance and reduce the environmental impacts of food waste.

  1. We can start by buying less, and processing or preserving excess food when we have it, so that it can be enjoyed at a later date. Interested in learning more about food preservation? Join us for our free Modern Homesteading Preserving Workshop, September 14.
  2. If you find yourself with more than you can eat, share your bounty with those in need. With one in seven US households currently food insecure, reducing food waste can be as simple as donating food to the neighborhood pantry or making a home-cooked meal for a friend. While these steps require you to make small changes in your buying and eating habits, shopping and cooking smart can become second nature in no time and help to save you money and protect the planet. If you take these steps, you’ll find that far less food is headed for the garbage.
  3. Some amount of food waste is inevitable though, but that doesn’t mean it has to be destined for the landfill. A simple step anyone can take to further reduce food waste is composting. You can compost whether you own five acres or rent 500 square feet. Not only does composting keep food out of the waste stream, but it also provides you with a nutrient-rich soil additive that you can use in your home or garden, thereby saving you even more money in lawn care costs.

FoodRpng_700pxwComposting – An important final step in keeping food out of the waste stream.

What is composting?

Composting is the controlled decomposition of organic matter into a nutrient-rich soil component called humus. Aerobic microorganisms do most of the work of breaking down your food and yard waste into healthy soil. While this process would happen naturally over time, composting helps to speed it up.

How to Compost (the basics):

At the most basic level, the only ingredients needed to start composting are organic matter (greens and browns), water, air and microorganisms. The microorganisms will find their own way to your compost pile as long as you provide the right conditions. The State extension office offers plenty of resources on backyard and worm composting to help get you started. Like this or this.

Consider organizing a composting project in your community. It is a great way to improve the local environment, develop skills, empower residents and build a stronger neighborhood. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance just published a report on the value of community-based composting, to give you the inspiration and tools to get started in your own community.

At the Accokeek Foundation, we have deepened our commitment to sustainability and stewardship by vamping up our own composting system to not only provide nutrient rich compost for the farm, but also to educate and inspire a passion for sustainability in others. What ways do you and your family help to reduce food waste in your community?

–Written by Heather Leach, Agriculture Education Manager

 

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Support Maryland Farms and Commit to Buying Local This July

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Last weekend we celebrated the many ways that Prince George’s County is rich in both cultural and natural resources. Thank you to everyone who visited during Saturday’s event, and for those many dedicated market customers, we are especially grateful to your commitment to eating local and visiting the farm stand at its special location during the event. This week, we are back at the farm and we will be bringing you the beginnings of summer’s bounty: vine-ripened tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, and more.

Accokeek Foundation member and market supporter shops organic produce at the Ecosystem Farm Market.

Accokeek Foundation member and market supporter shops organic produce at the Ecosystem Farm Market.

 

Summer Fresh Bounty from the farm

As you take the time to stop by the On Farm Market this week, reflect on why you make that commitment to buying local. Is it because you know you’ll get exceptional freshness and taste, you’re enhancing your family’s health and nutrition, or you’re doing your part to protect the environment while supporting a stronger local economy? Today kicks off the annual Maryland Buy Local Challenge where Marylanders accept the challenge of shopping locally between July 19 and 27 (but we encourage you to shop locally year round!) From meat and dairy to fresh vegetable and wine, Maryland offers a variety of ways to shop and support your local farms. Are you ready to take on the challenge? Sign up today and share your commitment to buying local today! You’ll not only be a part of a growing culture of locally based consumerism, but you’ll be the envy of your friends with your amazingly delicious recipes!

Share your Buy Local Challenge success with us on Facebook or Twitter by posting photos of your market finds and recipes. Be sure to include #buylocalchallenge in your post or tweet and enter the Buy Local Photo Contest here!

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From the Field: The Trials and Tribulations of Organic Farming

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Ah, that splendid time of year at the farm: summertime! The heat index rises, thunderstorms come and thunderstorms go, the humidity is… well, anyone have a knife? The best part of the summer season, though, is the arrival of those sweetly-delicious summer veggies: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and squash. Wait, where’s the squash?!

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Squash Vine Borer eggs

 

Sadly, we experienced a bit of a setback with the squash this season thanks to our not-so-dear friend, the Squash Vine Borer. Despite all of the standard good organic farmer practices including crop rotation, creating nutrient rich soil, ensuring adequate water supply, and patience, this year’s squash crop has been severely damaged due to these evil Darth Maul Moths!

 

darth-squash-borer

 

The Squash Vine Borer, a type of moth that flies during the day, are said to be attracted to the bright yellow color of the squash blossoms and will lays its eggs on the leaves of the plant. Once hatched, it is the larvae that cause the most damage. They will–as their name implies–bore into the stem of the vine and eat the plant from the inside-out. The damaged vine is then unable to take in any water, causing it to wilt and die under the heat of the summer sun. With hope, we can resurrect the vine by cutting away the damaged parts, replanting, and hoping it’ll take root.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy what we have available this week at the market:

Napa cabbage
Bok choi
Carrots
Beets
Tomatoes
Zucchini
Green beans
Scallions
Eggplant
Basil
Blueberries

Not sure what to do with all of that summer fresh eggplant and zucchini? Try one of my favorite French provincial recipes!

Ratatouille with Eggplant and Summer Squash

(recipe by The FruitGuys Almanac website)

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INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup or less olive oil

2 large onions, sliced

2 large cloves of garlic, minced or mashed

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

2-6 zucchini

2 bell peppers, seeded and chunked (optional)

Salt to taste

2 stems basil leaves, chopped

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

4 tomatoes, cubed

PREPARATION

  • Heat halt the oil in a large frying pan or dutch oven over high heat.
  • Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring until onions are limp but not browned.
  • Stir in the eggplant, zucchini, peppers, salt, basil, and parsley; add a little of the oil as needed to keep the vegetables from sticking.
  • Cover pan and cook over moderate heat about 30 minutes; stir occasionally, using a large spatula and turning the vegetables to help preserve their shape.
  • If mixture becomes too soupy during this time, remove cover to allow some of the moisture to escape.
  • Add the tomatoes to the vegetables in the pan and stir to blend.
  • Add more oil if vegetables are sticking.
  • Cover and cook over moderate heat for 15 minutes; stir occasionally.
  • Again, if mixture becomes soupy, remove cover and allow moisture to evaporate.
  • Ratatouille should have a little free liquid but still be of a good spoon-and-serve consistency.
  • Add more salt if desired.
  • Serve hot or cover and chill to serve cold.
  • Serve over pasta or rice.

 

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From the Field: Ecosystem Farm Market Week 2

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Last week was the opening weekend of the Ecosystem Farm Market which offers fresh, organic produce to the public every Saturday from 10 am – 2 pm. (But don’t worry if you miss it on Saturday, there will be produce available for sale in the Visitor Center on Sundays–though I’m sure that the best veggies will go early!) It was a successful opening, welcoming approximately 50-60 locavores who found us via online, by following the road signs, read about the market opening in an email sent to members, or just so happened to have stumbled upon us!

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Farmer Holli with Farmhands Mark, Heather, and volunteer “The Baron” welcome you to the on farm market.

 

Week two on the farm is sure to be a hit as well. This week’s On Farm Market pick list includes:

Spicy Salad Mix
Bok Choy
Carrots
Loose Beets
Egyptian Walking Onions
Napa Cabbage
Mustard Greens
Salad Turnips
Chard
Collards
Blueberries
and a few of the first Eggplants and Squash of the season. Huzzah!

With such nice weather in the forecast for this weekend, turn your market shopping into more of an adventure by taking one of the nature trails to the farm.  The Blackberry Trail is the most direct route, leading from the main entrance road to the farm road (hang a left and walk up the dirt road to the farm entrance.) Staff and volunteers worked very hard this week to blaze this trail, making it more passable for trail visitors. Linda will be in the Visitor Center, ready to answer any question visitors have about the market and other park activities going on this weekend — like the workshop on composting for modern homesteaders.

Not sure what to do with Bok Choy? Try this uber-delish coleslaw recipe from the Sweet Beet and Green Bean blog. I made a variation of this last weekend; served it along side pork BBQ; adding an apple for an extra sweetness the family couldn’t resist. I didn’t get a good picture (it was gobbled up too fast!), but here is a lovely image from the recipe online.

choy slaw

Isn’t that purdy?

Bok Choy (or Pak Choi) is an Asian Cabbage with a crunchy tenderness unlike the typical head of cabbage you’ll find in the grocery market. Try swapping it out for cabbage in a slaw by using more of the crunchy stem, or saute the leafy parts for a stir-fry, it’s all a great way to introduce this new veggie to your household.

So this weekend, add stopping at the farm market to your To-Do list, and rest assured you are getting quality for a fraction of grocery store prices. We are excited to offer fresh, locally-grown organic produce each and every week. It’s part of our mission to inspire a commitment to sustainability. Speaking of sustainability, remember to bring your reusable tote bags (or reuse those plastic bags). We’ll have some on hand for you if you forget, but it’ll be helpful to both the farm and the earth if you reuse and bring your shopping bags from home.

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The Kerouac Crusaders: Cross-Country Travelling Volunteers

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Crusaders, Erika “Riks” Enriquez and Nicole “Nics” Fleming, are spending the summer of 2014 travelling across the U.S., visiting 15 states in 30 days. Along the way, these two ambitious friends are opening their eyes and minds to discover what their home country has to offer by volunteering at organizations such as Clean the World, Climate Cycle, Cradles to Crayons, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, Second Harvest Food Bank, and on Day 14 of their trip, the Accokeek Foundation!

Joining Farmer Holli and Farmhand Mark at the Ecosystem Farm during last week’s Farm Happy Hour, “Nics” and “Riks” learned a great deal about the specific needs of the plants that become our food. They got down and dirty on the farm, helping with seed starting, watering, transplanting basil — for a truly unique volunteer experience on the farm. As a bonus, they got to pick and take home the sweetest strawberries they’ve ever tasted before heading back to their destination in Washington D.C.!

You can learn more about these inspiring ladies from the West Coast on their Crusade Blog where they journal about their experiences, and share videos like this one about Day 14: Volunteering with the Accokeek Foundation.

Day 14_Volunteering with the Accokeek Foundation from Nics and Riks on Vimeo.

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From the Field: On Farm Market Season Opening Weekend at the Ecosystem Farm

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I am extremely excited about this weekend! Tomorrow (aka: Saturday) will be the season opening of our on farm market, and I can’t wait to see the fruits of our labor. Ecosystem Farm manager, Holli Elliott, with the help of volunteer farmhands and staff, has been working diligently to provide fresh, organic produce for the public to enjoy. The Accokeek Foundation’s Ecosystem Farm welcomes anyone to visit, creating a thriving engaged community that is passionate about food. Returning for its second season, the Ecosystem Farm Market will be open from 10 am – 2 pm every Saturday throughout the growing season. The farm market accepts all forms of payment including credit card and now SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. The farmers do encourage shoppers to bring reusable shopping bags to make carrying all of that fresh produce home easier.

So, without further ado, I present this week’s fresh picked from the farm list…

Cherry Belle Radish
Hakuri Salad Turnips
Large Beetroots
Bok Choi
Napa Cabbage
Chard
Kale (Lacinato and Curly)
Collards
Carrots
Salad Mix
Garlic Scapes
Chocolate Mint
Lemon Balm
Egyptian Walking Onions

Prices range from $1-$4 per bunch–why not come support local organic farming when it’s probably a lot cheaper than your grocery store?! Also much tastier :).

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Never tried or maybe even heard of chard? Well if you’ve been feeling a little down recently maybe it can help! Chard is full of magnesium, which can help those with a magnesium deficiency that can be a cause of clinical depression.

Chard can be prepared much like you would spinach–sauteed, steamed, baked–the possibilities are endless. For a quick and easy dinner idea using chard, check out this tasty dish I found on Food.com.

Linguine With Swiss Chard and Garlic
(serves 4)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumb, coarse
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 lb linguine
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 lbs Swiss chard, stalks thinly sliced, leaves cut into large pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat.
  2. Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  3. Scrape into a small bowl and stir in Parmesan cheese.
  4. Cook linguine in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. While pasta cooks, wipe out skillet.
  6. Add remaining oil to skillet and heat over medium heat.
  7. Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes to taste.
  8. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden but not brown, about 30 seconds.
  9. Stir in Swiss chard.
  10. Stir in salt and 1/4 cup water.
  11. Cook, stirring occasionally until Swiss chard is tender, about 8 minutes.
  12. Add additional water if chard becomes dry.
  13. Drain linguine and return to pot, add Swiss chard, and toss to combine.
  14. Serve sprinkled with crumbs.

There are so many ways to utilize freshly picked produce in your everyday life, and the health benefits are boundless. So come out to the farm, and take advantage of all the produce. Share with us some of the recipes you try at home!

 

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Getting Outside is a Perfect Way to Celebrate the Great Outdoors this June

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Both President Obama and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has declared June as “Great Outdoors Month,” urging every American to uphold our legacy of conserving lands for future generations. Whether it’s hiking, fishing, kayaking, bird watching–or simply having a picnic and enjoying nature–getting outdoors with loved ones is a perfect way to celebrate the Great Outdoors.

fishing and boat river

Fortunately, you have in your very own backyards–literally–a space for doing just that. And it’s free! The Accokeek Foundation has been stewarding, for more than 50 years, the 200-acres of Piscataway Park located at the end of Bryan Point Road so that its natural resources can be enjoyed by the public for generations to come. The park offers five nature trails, a picnicking area, a living history museum with its heirloom gardens and heritage livestock, a popular fishing pier, and an organic farm featuring an on-farm market opening this June.

With all of these great opportunities to get out in to nature, we are excited about tomorrow specifically. June 7 is not only National Trails Day, but it is also the first of three free fishing days! If you are looking for a great place to blaze some trails there are a variety of scenic trails to stroll through. Or you can join in on the volunteer day, tomorrow to help maintain one of the site’s nature trails. There are over 3 miles of trails and you can loop through them all in a reasonable and enjoyable amount of time.

trailThe Pumpkin Ash Trail follows the Potomac River from near the Visitor Center to the Ecosystem Farm, passing through a forest and a tidal wetland and providing excellent views of Mount Vernon.

The Blackberry Trail connects with the Pumpkin Ash Trail near the Ecosystem Farm and ends in a small hayfield near visitor parking, meandering through a floodplain forest.

The Riverview Trail follows the Potomac River from near the Visitor Center, providing some views of Mount Vernon along the way

The Persimmon Trail begins in the barnyard and circles the Conservation Pond.

The Bluebird Trail runs along the edge of the Native Tree Arboretum and around scattered chestnut groves down to the Potomac River.

The Pawpaw Trail begins at the Native Tree Arboretum and leads up the hillside through a mature forest.

These trails are all family friendly, not necessarily stroller friendly however, and dogs on a leash are welcome to join you. Trail guide maps are available in the Visitor Center which is open from 10 am until 4 pm.

TPicnicing at the parkhe Visitor Center also offers bait, weights and rigs if you’d want to enjoy a day of fishing on the Potomac (with a grand view of Mount Vernon.) No license or registration is required to fish on June 7, 14 and July 4.  Picnic tables are available around the site for you to enjoy a full day in the great outdoors at Piscataway Park. Ample parking is available, entrance to the park is free, and for your convenience there are clean restrooms located at the Visitor Center.

How do you plan to enjoy the great outdoors this June? We hope it’s with us at the farm!

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Hail the Asparagus! Honoring the Tasty Spring Veggie for National Asparagus Month

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They say time flies and here we are already in June! May was National Asparagus month and we feel that it’s a vegetable worth giving tribute even if it is a little past due…and there are many tasty and beneficial reasons why we should honor this multicolored, spear-shaped, shoot! The vegetable comes in green, purple and white varieties, however most prefer green. While it has its infamous trait for making your urine uniquely pungent, only 25% of people have the specific gene that makes them able to smell it. So eat your heart out in hopes that you are one of the lucky 75%. There are however multiple health benefits for those who aren’t so lucky that might make consuming asparagus worth the fragrance.

 

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  • Asparagus is a tasty vegetable that contains no fat or cholesterol and is only 4 calories per shoot.
  • It is extremely rich in Folate (a B complex vitamin) an extremely important vitamin for everyone but women especially!
  • According to the National Cancer Institute, asparagus contains more glutathione, an antioxidant that can help prevent certain cancers and diseases, than any other fruit or vegetable.
  • It is also high in asparagine which is an amino acid that functions as a diuretic and helps to remove salts from the body making it a great vegetable for people with edema, high blood pressure or other heart-related issues.
  • The same amino acids and minerals help protect the liver against toxins and can actually help breakdown alcohol in the system (easing that dreaded hangover the next morning).

These delectable greens have been prized vegetables since ancient times and the Romans would preserve them in the frozen Alps to keep year round. So whether you dislike Asparagus or have never tried them, it’s worth giving this shoot a shot. Especially considering all the diverse ways to cook with them, not to mention how fast and easy it is to cook. While delicious grilled, roasted, or sautéed there are endless ways to incorporate asparagus. Here are two recipes that could enhance your asparagus experience or simply get you started on your new favorite veggie!

Cream of Asparagus Soup with Crab

Ingredients:

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 large shallots

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons white wine

2 cups half and half (I use the low-fat kind)

1/2 – 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

salt and pepper

4 ounces lump crab

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the asparagus for about 1 minute. Remove from water and plunge into an ice-water bath. Set aside.

In a saucepan, cook the shallots and thyme in the butter over medium-low heat until soft (about 3-5 minutes). Add the wine and cook until it evaporates. Add the half and half to the pot and bring JUST to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the cooked asparagus. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup, adding broth if necessary to bring it to your desired consistency (reheat a bit if necessary before serving). Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a few tablespoons of crab to each bowl when serving.

Strawberry, Quinoa and Asparagus Salad

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cooked quinoa

2 cups fresh asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces

½ bulb fennel thinly sliced

8 cups arugula

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Directions:

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, oil, honey and balsamic vinegar together.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat.  Add the asparagus and depending on the thickness cook for 1-3 minutes.  Have a bowl of ice water set aside.  Drain the asparagus and add it immediately to the ice bath.  Set on a paper towel-lined plate.

In a large bowl combine the quinoa, asparagus, fennel, arugula and strawberries and lightly toss with the dressing.

Whatever way you choose to honor this little, spearheaded green, happy eating my fellow asparagus lovers!

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