Last week Jay was out in one of our non-crop areas and found dodder! Dodder is one of the few truly parasitic plants found in North America. It looks like golden hair growing on top of the crop. Given enough time it can completely engulf an entire area. Here is a photo from Wikipedia of dodder covering an entire tree.

dodder wikipedia

Dodder initially grows from seeds. Once it establishes itself on the host plant the dodder loses it’s connection from the ground and grows entirely on the host plant. The dodder inserts a small appendage called a haustoria directly into the host plant to extract water and nutrition so it has no need to be connected to the ground. Most dodder is not even green meaning that it doesn’t have much chlorophyll. It doesn’t need the chlorophyll because it is not creating energy from water and sunlight, it is sucking it out of the host!

One of the biggest problems with dodder is that is extremely hard to get rid of, especially for organic growers. You can’t just pull out the dodder and burn it or compost it because even the tiniest piece of dodder that is attached to a living plant will grow again. It has to be completely eradicated. Non-organic growers can try to control dodder by using pre-emergence herbicides to prevent the dodder seeds from coming up. If the dodder is already growing on a host crop many growers will use a burn-down herbicide such as glyphosate to kill the host. Without the host plant to extract nutrition from, the dodder will die. Another strategy for controlling dodder is to alternate crops to a non-host. Dodder grows much better on dicot plants and doesn’t really grow very well on grasses (monocots). So, in theory a grower could put a field into grass, wheat, or corn production in an effort to control dodder.

The dodder we found was very small and just getting started. We were lucky! It was also growing in a non-crop area so we didn’t have to worry about destroying a valuable crop. We decided the best thing to do was to simply burn the infested area. It destroyed not only the host plant but also the existing dodder.

dodder burn

We will be keeping a close look out for this invasive parasitic plant. I will not be surprised to see it pop up again. I was chatting with a farmer friend at the market a few weeks ago and he was finding it in his cropping area. There was no option for him other than to destroy the crop. If you find it on your property or farm, get rid of it. Do it quickly! Don’t let this terrible parasite get started.

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Basic Cooking Skills are Key to Health and Nutrition

Basic Cooking Skills are Key to Health and Nutrition

In June, Bells Best Berries hosted a cooking class for our CSA members. I have found that many people want to eat healthy, so they join a CSA. However, when they start getting their veggie bags, they quickly realize they don’t know what to do with many of the beautiful veggies in there, despite their good intentions. Many Americans have a comfortable veggie repertoire of only about 5 items: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, and broccoli. If you are in a CSA, you will get these common veggies, but you also will get many others, such as cauliflower, pattypan squash, eggplant, beans and peas, edible flowers, many types of greens, and herbs. These are all nutritious foods that taste great! Most people just need a little help learning how to prepare them. That is why we host a veggie cooking class every year.

The problem goes much deeper than just not knowing what to do with a few veggies in a CSA bag. Cooking at home seems to be becoming a lost art. Many kids reach adulthood and simply don’t know how to cook. So as a result, they end up living off of fast food and boxed or processed food. These items tend to be high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, GMO products, carbs, chemical non-food items, and perhaps shouldn’t even be called “food” at all. They do not nourish.

Learning a few basic cooking skills truly can be the difference between health and degenerative diseases. My eating philosophy is “just eat real food”. I believe eating fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy fats and grass fed milks, cheeses, and meats are key to good health. Those things aren’t available in most processed food or fast foods. Food prepared at home is made from fresh ingredients and is more likely to include vegetables, and not include additives. This is the key too good nutrition and health.

Give it a try! Slice and dice a few things. You will be surprised how easy it is, once you get started. There are recipes here that can help. Moms and dads, let your kids in the kitchen to be a part of the process. The long term health of your children and grandchildren depends on it.

Eat Your Veggies,

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Root Veggie Roast

Our CSA members will find they get root vegetables in the fall, winter, spring, and even early summer. It is a great idea to learn to love them if you want to be a good “locavore”, because they are the mainstay for multiple seasons in the Carolinas. I have found that almost everyone loves these types of veggies when they are roasted. Here is a basic recipe for a mixed root vegetable roast. You can adapt it to simply roast turnips, beets, carrots, or sweet potatoes as a standalone vegetable as well.



  1. A big pile of washed and chopped root vegetables. I normally can’t be bothered to peel them, but you can if you want. Chop them into similar sizes so they all take the same amount of time to cook. (You need to have only enough to spread them out on the baking sheet in a single layer. If they aren’t in a single layer, they can get soggy or steamed instead of roasted. If you have too many to roast on one baking sheet, use two sheets or do two rounds of roasting.)
  2. Garlic
  3. Rosemary or other fresh herbs
  4. Olive oil
  5. Sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Spread the chopped veggies on a big cookie sheet
  3. Toss them with plenty of olive oil, the chopped garlic, and chopped rosemary. I use my hands for the tossing, to be sure everything is evenly coated.
  4. Spread the veggies out in a single layer.
  5. Add some sea salt.
  6. Roast in the middle rack of the oven about 30 minutes or until the veggies are just beginning to brown.


Voila! They are done. This is really easy and almost everyone loves it. It makes a great side dish. You can also warm the leftovers and cook a couple of runny eggs to go on top to for breakfast. Make it your own by choosing your favorite root veggie mix, change up the herbs, or try it with fragrant coconut oil. Yum Yum Yum! Good nutrition tastes amazing.

Eat your root veggies,

Photo Credit Roots Good Local Food.

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Lemon Blueberry Tart

Every year I make this tart for our blueberry picking day for children. It is really easy to make and really doesn’t have much sugar at all in it. I bet one of my genius foodie friends could even think of a way to make it sugar and grain free. I’m not that good so I had to go with the basic recipe. Kids and grownups all love this. It is foolproof!



• 1 traditional or graham cracker pie crust. You can really use almost anything for the crust. I have used both sugar cookie and snickerdoodle dough and they both work great!
• 1 8-oz container of mascarpone cheese (or 1 8-oz block of cream cheese softened)
• 5 tablespoons of lemon curd (this is in the jam and jelly section of the grocery store)
• 2 cups of fresh blueberries


Press you piecrust or cookie dough in the bottom of a tart or pie pan, prick with a fork and prebake until light brown. Refrigerate until cool. In a small bowl stir together cheese and 3 tablespoons of lemon curd until smooth. If mixture is too thick to spread add a touch of milk. Spread mixture in the bottom of cooled tart shell or graham cracker crust. In a medium sized bowl, gently stir blueberries and remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon curd until thoroughly combined. Spoon blueberries evenly over cheese layer. Cover and chill. Cut into wedges and serve.

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Blueberry Picking Day for Children

Josh - Blueberry Picking Day for Children

One of my favorite farm events is the “Blueberry Picking Day” for children. On this day we invite all our CSA members to bring the kids and let the kids pick all they want. The children love to pick and eat and pick and eat. I think it goes much deeper than simply picking and eating. Getting kids outside and connected to nature may be key to their mental wellbeing.

I just ordered a book from Amazon titled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv, and can hardly wait to dig into it. Judging by the description, the book directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and depression.

Mckenzie - Blueberry Picking Day for Children

Our Blueberry Day provides parents with a place where kids can unplug their wired lives and with very few limitations, run around and play! There were dozens of kids climbing through the bushes, picking blueberries, dumping out the berries, feeding berries to the dog, digging for worms in the compost around the bushes, and chasing each other around. One especially adorable little boy who was barely able to walk, managed to rumble over to the tomatoes nearby and had a great time just making his way through the tomato trellising. Another little girl was determined to pick enough for her mom to make a pie. She was on a mission and nothing was going to stop her. Another little toddler was the blueberry thief. He toddled around trying to grab blueberries from everyone else’s buckets. The only electronic devices were a few cameras that proud moms were using. This type of free play and exploration is so good for children. Strangely, none of the kids cried, no one misbehaved, and I didn’t hear any moms or dads correcting behavior. They all were so happy! Nature is amazing. The kids were adorable.

Grayson - Blueberry Picking Day for Children

There is a lot to be said for kids being connected to farms. Not only is it important for children to have a basic understanding of where food comes from, besides grocery stores, it is also important that children be able to taste and understand how delicious real fresh food is. Blueberries eaten right off the bush don’t taste anything like the berries most kids get from the grocery store, that might be several weeks old. Valuing fresh seasonal produce is a lesson all kids need. I remember looking forward to the time of year when peaches were ripe, or blackberries, or apples, or even tomatoes. I looked forward to it every year, and my family made a big deal out of it. We went to pick peaches and blackberries, and my mom made amazing cobblers. This only happened when the fruit was ripe and perfect, so we never had cobblers at other times of the year. We also looked forward to the first perfect tomatoes. We rejoiced with tomato sandwiches, and salads with big chunks of red beauty on top. When tomatoes were out of season, the tomato sandwiches stopped. I hope all kids look back on their childhood and remember eating blueberries till warm from the sun. You can bet when they grow up, they will be on the hunt at the farmers’ market for the seasonal best.

Jay’s writings about Blueberry Picking Day.

We arose at our normal four AM. Our daily routine begins with our silent coffee ritual. The first thirty minutes out of bed are spent in silence, in the den, drinking coffee. Those thirty minutes are ethereal. In all reality we have not slept to restore all energy reserves. We have slept to the point of function. We commune in silence and let caffeine provide our stores of energy. We have even upped the ante now, with a recipe Robin found online, bullet proof coffee. Coffee blended with coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and cocoa. Who needs thirty more minutes in bed!

After our morning ritual, we depart the house for the pack shed. Once all the produce is packed and ready to go to the market, I venture back to the house to take a shower and dress in preparation for my day at the market.

In contrast to most Saturdays, Robin will not be going with me to work the market. She will be staying at home and hosting our Blueberry Picking Day. This is the day when our CSA members can bring their young children out to the farm and turn them loose. Loose to have a big adventure and eat wild blueberries. As opposed to the tame food retrieved from a grocery store. They can run pick to their hearts’ content, or the mimosas run out, through the wild jungle of blueberry bushes, picking and eating wild food.

Off I go to market, and it goes well. Not a top volume day, but it seems so because I am manning the booth alone. Robin and I enjoy chatting with our customers; because I am working alone, I am not afforded the opportunity today. The market starts to slow and I begin the process of packing the truck. I will deliver bags of produce to CSA members, and then home, so we can depart for a week at the beach.

I finally arrive home. We race through final preparations. Chickens, last minute items, bike rack, and finally we are rolling down the driveway. On a normal workday, our day would be coming to a close. At the end of this day, our vacation is finally beginning. Four hours of driving. Not one interstate. In our current lifestyle, eating “on the road” is difficult at best. Eating on the road, off the interstate, in back country SC, is unbelievably hard. I won’t even say what we did.

We arrive about eight PM. As with all beach houses we have rented, this one includes built in aerobics. Steps enough to include in your workout log, once you are finished unloading. Unloading complete, we move about the house settling in and determining where all important items are, small things like Wi-Fi codes, toilet paper, hot water and sheets. Upon inspection, no sheets. It is now after nine pm. For a day that started early, ran hard all day and now, on vacation, we are ready to collapse. On vacation, we want comfort. We decide at that late hour to venture forth to procure sheets. Sleep is important. We drive north on seventeen into Pawley’s Island. No stores in Pawley’s Island sell sheets. Further north in Litchfield beach, no stores with sheets. Robin has one last thought on the way back to our place: there was a Walgreens. Off to Walgreens we go. Up and down each aisle, no sheets. Robin asks one of the employees where we could get some sheets. Aha! There is a twenty four hour Wal-Mart in Georgetown! Only eight miles in the other direction. We are going to Georgetown. We will sleep on sheets tonight. At this point, even if it is only for a couple of hours. Eight dark miles to Georgetown. Into a Wal-Mart, our favorite thing to do, and lay hands on brand new sheets. We now have the Holy Grail; we have found what we were looking for. Back to our place. We both relish putting those sheets on the bed. I believe we were both asleep before midnight.

Beach House - Blueberry Picking Day for Children

And this is a small glimpse into the reality of farm life in 2014. From Blueberries to beaches.

Eat Your Veggies,
Robin (and Jay)

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Red Curry Swiss Chard

baby swiss chard

Swiss chard is just beautiful in early June! It comes in a multitude of colors and is full of powerful vitamins and phytonutrients. Here is a simple but exotic way to prepare it.


  1. One large bundle of chard
  2. One onion roughly cut up
  3. Coconut oil
  4. Chunk of fresh ginger
  5. One can of coconut milk
  6. One jar of Thai red curry paste
  7. Any type of meat or other vegetables you like.


  1. Wash and spin dry the chard leaves.
  2. Remove the chard leaves from the midrib, saving both.
  3. Rough chop the midribs and leaves (keep them separate)
  4. Sautee the onions and chard midribs in coconut oil until barely soft
  5. Grate some fresh ginger on top
  6. Add the chopped leaves and cook until wilted
  7. Add half a can of thick coconut milk.
  8. Add a spoon full of Thai red curry paste.
  9. Cook until hot and well mixed.

You can also add any other vegetables or pieces of meat that you like. If you eat grains, this is great served over brown rice. Try it with chopped peanuts or cashews on top. Spice it up with some hot chilis and a squeeze of lime!


Eat your veggies!

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Stuffed Squash Boats

Stuffed Squash Boats

June is the month when the first of the summer vegetables begin showing up at the market and in CSA boxes. Squash is a vegetable people seem to either love or hate. For a diehard seasonal vegetable eater, it is good to learn to love squash. Squash themselves don’t have a strong flavor, so preparing them in a way that adds delicious spices and flavor is key. Try this easy squash boat recipe. It is simple to adapt to whatever ingredients you have on hand.


  1. Several medium sized squash (patty pan, zucchini or yellow summer squash)
  2. Sausage of your choice. I use an Italian sausage from grass fed hogs and made by my local butcher.
  3. Onion
  4. Tomato
  5. Herbs. I used fresh oregano
  6. Salt
  7. Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Cut your squash in half and scoop out the guts so they are ready to stuff.
  3. Brown the sausage and onions. Add some diced tomato, herbs, and salt and cook a little bit longer.
  4. Put the sausage mixture in the scooped out sausage boats.
  5. Add parmesan cheese to the top of each boat.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is just beginning to brown.

You can vary this any way you want. Change the herbs. Add peppers. Add garlic. Add chili powder and use cheddar cheese. Get creative. Serve with a green salad. These can be made ahead of time. They make a great reheated lunch.

Eat Your Veggies,

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Breakfast Greens with Hot Bacon Vinaigrette


Did you know that many health experts recommend 7-9 servings of vegetables per day? That is a lot of vegetables, if you consider most people think they are doing well to eat three or four! To even get close to that number you will need to eat at least two servings of vegetables at every meal, including breakfast. I have been doing this for several years, and at this point, miss the breakfast greens only when I am traveling and unable to find them. Here is one of my favorite recipes for breakfast greens. This is at least two veggie servings, possibly three depending on how many greens you pile on your plate. It serves two.


  1. 8-10 slices of chemical free bacon from pasture raised hogs
  2. 4 eggs from pasture raised hens
  3. Butter from grass fed cows for frying eggs
  4. 1 big bunch or head of your favorite fresh lettuce (or other greens) washed and spun dry
  5. Dijon mustard
  6. Vinegar (wine vinegar works well)
  7. Olive oil
  8. Shallot or onion
  9. Salt and pepper


  1. Cut your lettuce/greens up and put a huge mound on two plates. I love to use a sturdy lettuce such as frisee but you can use any kind you like.
  2. Start frying the bacon.
  3. While the bacon is cooking, fry four sunny side up eggs in a separate pan with butter.
  4. Place the two sunny side up eggs on top of each mound of lettuce.
  5. When the bacon is done, remove it from the pan.
  6. Add chopped shallots or onion to the hot bacon fat (left in pan after bacon is removed) and cook until translucent and fragrant.
  7. Add about 2 tablespoons of your favorite vinegar to the hot pan and turn off the heat. I love wine vinegar for this. Use a spatula to scrape up all the cooked bacon pieces from the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add a squirt of Dijon mustard
  9. Add about 1/4 cup of olive oil
  10. Add salt to your taste
  11. Pour this hot vinaigrette on top of each plate of greens and eggs. Don’t scrimp on the amount.
  12. Crumble half the bacon on top of each plate
  13. Add a bit of fresh ground pepper to each

You are going to love this! Feel free to change around the ingredients any way you like. Instead of lettuce, try this with fresh young kale. Add garlic. Add hot sauce. Add herbs to the vinaigrette. Get creative and make this your own.

Eat your veggies.

Photo Credit Dana Ramsey, @organiceater

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Farm to Fork Dinner

Farm to Fork Dinner


Every year we host a beautiful dinner on the farm, featuring our own seasonal produce and chicken from another local farm. Although I am a confirmed recluse, I make a concerted effort to overcome my antisocial tendencies and host this very social event. We create these events because our CSA members and market customers hunger to know where their food comes from (pun quite intended). They want to be able to explore the farm, breathe in the country air and feel the connection to what’s happening here. Many people have very little connection to where their food comes from and appreciate being able to see the fields of veggies, stroll through the blueberries while picking and munching, dig through the raspberries for the perfect berry, and stand amazed at how odd chickens really are. It sounds like every day work to me, but it is a real treat to plenty of people. I sincerely appreciate the commitment each of the guests has to local food and great nutrition. We are blessed they are a part of our farming community.

Chef Craig Barbour with Roots Good Local Food has prepared the meal for the past four dinners. He always does an amazing job with a creative menu that truly highlights the bounty of the season, as well as thoughtful preparation and beautiful presentation. He even brings his own bartender and servers. They all show up, hand me a glass of wine and take over the world. All I have to do is smile and enjoy friends and good food. Now that is how a catered event should go! Check out the menu from our June 2014 dinner.

Lactuca Brassica
A true garden salad of crisp frisee, tender cress, baby trout lettuce, lacinado kale, and ripbor kale, garnished with fragrant fennel, pickled peppers, fresh tomatoes, crispy leeks and dressed with roasted garlic and sorrel vinaigrette

Free-Range-Open-Flame-ChickenFree Range Open Flame Chicken
Grilled Free Range Local Chicken with roasted chicken demi, herb mélange, and golden velvet parsnip and Ukrainian turnip puree, and extra virgin sweet pea oil

A classic dish with a Roots twist.  Yellow squash, zucchini and tomatoes sliced paper thin and layered in a cast iron dish.  Baked with white wine and aromatics until tender and topped with a caramelized onion and roasted tomato sauce, garnished with a touch of local hard cheese, fresh basil, sage, rosemary, and thyme

Ice Cream Sandwich
Bells Best Blueberry Ice Cream in between 2 Lemon Mint Sugar Cookies

I can honestly tell you that everything he prepared was perfect. I was sipping the glass of wine that Kenny, the bartender, provided as I watched Craig set up. He fired up a huge fire in the wood grill. I noticed he had an enormous pile of herbs on the block by the grill. I think he threw them on the fire as he was grilling the chicken. The taste was exquisite. I loved the salad, even though I was a little worried when Craig asked for these greens. It was mid-June and plenty hot (not the best time for greens). I thought the greens would be too strong or maybe even bitter. I think he worked some kind of magic on them, because the salad was superb. Out of all the amazing items on the menu, my favorite was the blueberry ice cream with lemon cookies. Maybe it was because I never eat sugar, and it put me over the top. But, more likely, it was because it truly was delicious.


Our farm to fork dinner is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of the farm, great company and amazing food. If you didn`t make it this year, sign up early next year. It always sells out. We look forward to seeing you there!

Eat your veggies,

Photo Credit Dana Ramsey, @organiceater

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Why I Eat Local

I make a concerted effort to keep my food purchases local. I buy my grassfed meat from a local butcher who gets his beef, chicken, and pork from local farmers. I either grow or buy fruits, vegetables and eggs from farmers at the local farmers market. I buy real cream for my coffee and cheeses at the farmers market, from a vendor who sells products from a local dairy. About the only foods I don’t buy local are coffee, oils, avocados, dried beans and wine. Here’s why….

The most important reason I buy local is that all these fresh local products absolutely taste better! You can’t compare a fresh picked tomato to a cardboard grocery store tomato. You can’t compare the taste of fresh eggs from happy hens raised on the pasture to any other type of eggs. Fresh cream and cheeses are amazing. There are so many absolutely beautiful cheeses that are unbeatable. If you care about the quality of your ingredients, then buying local is the way to go.

I also care about how the products I eat and feed my family are produced. I want to have a relationship with the farmer who grows or sells the food, so I can ask how it was raised or created. I want meat products to come from animals that are raised humanely in their natural environment. I want vegetables that are grown without pesticides, even if they have a few holes and are not perfect. I want milk products that are from grass fed cows and goats. This is important to me, not only from an ethical perspective, but also because food produced this way is healthier. There is no way to speak to the person growing the food for sale in the grocery store. I make the assumption most of it is processed or raised in a way I probably won’t agree with.

One of the best reasons to “buy local” is that it is healthy and nutrient dense. Fruits and vegetables raised by local farmers are the least likely to have pesticides on them. They are also the freshest (very little distribution/travel time involved), and still contain most of the nutrients they had when they were picked just a day or two before I buy them. I can also find many yummy and healthy colorful vegetables that are loaded with phytonutrients, and simply not available in grocery stores, such as rainbow colored carrots, green and orange cauliflower or purple broccoli. Not only that, meats and milk from animals raised on the pasture have a better fat profile than those from confined animals, and are higher in omega 3′s. All in all, I believe eating local real food is a much healthier choice than anything I can buy in the grocery store, regardless of how it is labeled.

I also choose to keep my food purchases local because I want to support my community, and specifically, local farmers. We need to keep local growers employed and farming, or else our entire food system will become industrialized. I know buying grassfed meat from my local grower is more expensive and that beautiful local cheese is not cheap. It is worth it to me to do my part to keep this key element of our food system alive and well. I spend a little more money on something local and amazing, and eat a smaller portion. Better a small steak from grassfed beef and a huge pile of veggies, than a huge steak from somewhere and someone I don’t know.


Keep the local farmers farming! They are a key part of our community, good food, great taste, health, and well being.

Eat your local veggies!

photo credit @organiceater

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