Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Festivals introduce products to get excited about

It’s festival season here in Kentucky so I spent Saturday at our annual herb festival here in town and Sunday at the Mountain Mushroom Festival in Irvine, Kentucky. At both festivals I found local foods and other products that I was excited to bring home.

For years, I’ve been experimenting with various natural forms of sugar to use as sweeteners. When I met the folks from Healthy Hills Farm in Salvisa, I was thrilled to learn you can actually tap trees for maple syrup just two counties away from where I live. I purchased maple syrup and honey from them for my sweetener experimentation.

I’ve also been searching for truly healthy body products to use. I find one here and there that I like, but then I truly study the ingredients and find they aren’t as pure and natural as I had hoped. That isn’t the case with Sassa Bella. I had a wonderful conversation with owner Erin, a former engineer who has done extensive research to provide the safest products. I hope to have a more in-depth conversation with her that I plan to share, after I use her products for awhile.

Of course it wouldn’t have been an herb festival experience without a good conversation with Glenda from McQerry’s Flatwoods Farm Herbs-N-Heirlooms in Paint Lick. She has a greenhouse packed with herbs every spring and this year she had several I couldn’t resist: scented Geranium (to chase bugs from the garden), lemongrass, Vietnamese coriander, rue and pennyroyal. I also purchased Mountain Mint from the folks at Terrapin Hill Farm. Rubbing its leaves on the skin is also supposed to chase away mosquitoes. I’ll let you know what I learn further about these herbs throughout the summer.

I continued the festival adventures on Sunday as my husband and I drove for about an hour into the mountains to the mushroom festival. We arrived just in time for a mushroom cooking demonstration. The fried Morels didn’t have much flavor, but when we found Shitakes for sale (grown on a log), we bought a pound. We sautéed those last night with caramelized onions. What a wonderful treat that was!

We also met Mark from Miller's Grist Mill in Crittenden, Kentucky. He recommended the popcorn meal for cornbread and the popcorn grits. I prepared the popcorn grits for breakfast today. They were definitely the most flavorful grits I’ve ever eaten and all I added was a small bit of butter and very little salt.

The adventures will continue as I tend the herbs, cook with the foods and try the body products. I hope you’ll get out and explore your own area festivals for treats that make each one truly unique.

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