Extension Partners Work Together to Cook Up a Delicious Event
While a bountiful garden is a joy, the Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Caldwell County recognize that at times, it can be challenging to know what to do with all those squash and peppers! Luckily, the Cooking with Bounty II event came to the rescue offering cooking tips, tastings, and recipes. Hosted at the Unity Park and Community Gardens in Lenoir, Master Gardener volunteers demonstrated how to prepare delicious and nutritious dishes from fresh produce whether grown at home or purchased from a farmer’s market or grocery store.
Master Gardener volunteers maintain several beds at the Unity Park and Community Gardens in Lenoir that illustrate efficient methods of growing vegetables and showcase just how long the harvest can last here in North Carolina. Their 2018 video series on square foot gardening provides a wonderful tutorial for those wanting to start growing their own food.
As the Master Gardener volunteers interact with other gardeners and visitors to the Unity Park and Community Gardens, they hear several common questions including, “What do I do with all these vegetables that I have grown or purchased from a farmer’s market or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm?” and “Do you have any recipes for this vegetable?” and “And how do I store or preserve this vegetable?”
So in 2019, Master Gardener volunteers decided to invite folks to the garden for an outdoor cooking demonstration and recipe tasting. The first event, held in July, featured summer vegetables. It was so well-received that they decided to plan another event for September, dubbed Cooking with Bounty II, which would feature fall vegetables including winter squash, sweet potatoes, peppers, and greens. And this time around, they decided to create a booklet for attendees to take home. The Cooking with Bounty II booklet compiled growing tips, nutrition information, recipes, and storage methods for each vegetable.
A key part of the event’s success and the value of the booklet stemmed from a partnership. Master Gardener volunteers teamed up with Margie Mansure, an N.C. Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent in Caldwell County. By working together with Mansure, volunteers from the Master Gardener program were able to safely host an event that served food to the public. “Margie brought the expertise in food preparation safety that we needed”, recalls Master Gardener volunteer Ellen Roberts.
Perhaps the highlight of the event was the aroma of roasted vegetables that filled the air. Unity Park and Master Gardener volunteer David Horn creatively rigged a trailer with his barbeque grill from home. On board this mobile kitchen, he combined the vegetables into the most popular demonstration of the day, grilled vegetable quesadillas. This recipe showcased all the featured vegetables and demonstrated that ingredients could be varied based on availability or personal preferences.
The event introduced more residents in Caldwell County to the Unity Park and Community Gardens and the Extension Master Gardener program. In fact, three of the attendees enrolled in the 2020 Extension Master Gardener training class. The event also reached several attendees who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This federal food assistance program provides low-income families with the food they need for a nutritionally adequate diet.
To recognize this creative work, the Extension Master Gardener program in Caldwell County has been awarded NC State Extension’s 2020 Search for Excellence Award in the innovative project category. This award recognizes outstanding Extension Master Gardener volunteer educational group projects that result in significant learning. Congratulations to Master Gardener volunteers Ellen Roberts, Lynda Campbell, David Horn, Marsha Holden, Madelyn Wilen, and John Wilen. Special thanks to Margie Mansure, N.C. Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent in Caldwell County and Virginia Lopez, former nutrition educator, NC State University-SNAP-Ed Steps to Health Program, Burke County.
For a taste of the Cooking With Bounty II booklet, give these recipes a try!
To learn more about the Extension Master Gardener program in Caldwell County, contact Sarah Christas, N.C. Cooperative Extension Horticulture Agent, 828-757-1254.
About the North Carolina Extension Master Gardener Program
NC State Extension Master Gardener volunteers connect people to horticulture through science-based education and outreach that empowers North Carolinians to cultivate healthy plants, landscapes, ecosystems, and communities. To learn more about the NC State Extension Master Gardener program in your community, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension Center.