Peregrine Farm News Vol. 18 #11, 3/19/21

What’s been going on!

Well we were lucky with yesterday’s line of storms that slipped by us north and south and all we got was a short shot of rain.  Such is spring as we watch one front after another cross the state with the storms moving from the southwest to the northeast and we hope that they will split and go around us, which they frequently do.  The old timers say it is because of the Cane Creek Mountains, which fill most of southwest Alamance County, maybe they are high enough to divert the thunderstorms.  For whatever reason we are always grateful when they miss us.

I had an enjoyable Zoom event last Sunday as I spent the evening with a large group of Jamaican farmers discussing tomatoes and other things farming.  You may remember I spent two weeks nearly seven years ago working with the Jamaica Sustainable Farm Enterprise Project.  I was the first volunteer to go down and assess the situation and work with their initial group of farms.  It was an interesting time and I came away hopeful for their success.  They have continued to move forward against big odds and are being very successful in building a core group and getting produce into markets there.  It was great to catch up.

As painful as it will seem, don’t forget that the Carrboro Farmers’ Market goes to it’s summer hours starting tomorrow!  7:00 until noon, be there with us to greet the first day of Spring!

Picture of the week


Typical upland farm in Jamaica

What’s going to be at Market?

Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol.16 #24, 9/19/19 The Northern Rockies Loop

What’s been going on! 

What a tremendous trip the Great Northern Rockies Loop turned out to be! Beyond all the natural wonders of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming many of you know that Betsy and I went to college at Utah State in northern Utah and have a real place in our hearts for the landscapes of the Inter-mountain West.  It had been nearly 20 years since we were last there and this would be only the second time in 40 years since we graduated.

Flying in and out of Salt Lake City, I flew in a week earlier and with a friend spent six days backpacking in the Wind River Range with perfect weather, views and campsites like these.



We returned to the SLC airport for him to fly home and for me to pick up Betsy and head north.  First stop was Arco, ID and Craters of the Moon Nat. Mon.  Amazing lava flows and ecology.  Climbing through lava tubes was amazing.



On up through eastern Idaho marveling at the huge scale of the valleys and mountains and the irrigated agriculture.  A perfect evening in Hamilton, MT at the county fair and rodeo.


First thing the next morning we hit the two Saturday farmer’s markets in Missoula which I have been watching for some years now.  The original Missoula market is 47 years old, older than Carrboro, and has struggled some in the last few years


with competition from a newer and less restricted market only six blocks away.  We talked at length with the manager and vendors.  Both were good markets but there are lessons to be learned here about market management and rule making.


Days 4 and 5 we moved on up to Glacier Nat. Park.  Unfortunately due to the timing of other parts of the trip we landed in the park on Labor Day weekend- It was packed!  Lake MacDonald and the historic lodge were still beautiful


We escaped the crowds some by staying 14 miles away from pavement and the Canadian Border in an off-the-grid historic establishment.


The 6th day we were up before light to make the scenic drive over the continental divide on the Going to the Sun road and to beat the crowds to the top.  Beautiful day hike and a real view of what the park is all about.



We headed east to Great Falls stopping at the museum of the Plains Indian and later the Charles Russell museum to see his beautiful western art.  The next morning we spent hours at the incredibly well done Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center located on the stretch of the Missouri River where the five Great Falls forced them to portage 18 miles to get around them.


On south paralleling the Missouri River through more wide valleys of massive farms growing wheat, oats and other grains and making mountains of hay, to Bozeman where we spent time at the museum of the Rockies with many exhibits but most notably one of the best dinosaur displays anywhere.



The 8th day we avoided the easy two hour drive to Billings by going north and then east driving down the long and beautiful Musselshell River valley with more huge agricultural operations surrounded by mountains.



BIG wheat harvest going on

The following morning was devoted to the Little Bighorn Nat. Mon. a place I had always wanted to see.  Located in the heart of the Crow Indian reservation it is a somber place where the tribes had their last great attempt to keep their lands and way of life


Stretching over 4 miles of ridgeline, the over confident and overwhelmed Calvary did not realize they were up against 7000 Indians with 2000 warriors.  This is Custer’s Last Stand hill overlooking the Little Bighorn River and the site of the Indian encampment, the white markers are for the fallen soldiers.


In 1991 they appropriately changed the name from Custer Battlefield to Little Bighorn NM and built a beautiful circular Vietnam Wall like monument down the slope from Last Stand hill to commemorate the Indians involved in the battle.


It’s view out over the Crow reservation.


Day 10 was a huge day starting with one of the most beautiful drives in the US along the Beartooth highway up 6000’ to nearly 11,000 feet and over the plateau



To the NE corner of Yellowstone NP where we were treated to the huge Lamar Valley and lots of buffalo and some antelope.  On the lookout for moose, elk and bears we would only catch glimpses of elk and bear later on.


Of course we braved the crowds and were able to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.


The second to the last day the weather was turning on us after weeks of clear blue skies.  We took in many of the geothermal wonders of the park including Old Faithful




and the historic Inn before heading south to the Grand Tetons.


By the time we hit Jackson Hole the rain was falling so there were no views of the mountains, oh well, we have been there many times before and will just have to remember the view.


The 12th day we drove familiar roads back to Salt Lake around Bear Lake and over the Bear Lake summit


Down Logan canyon to spend some time driving around campus and town including finding most of the houses we lived in before making the last of 2500 miles to the airport.


Great trip, I would recommend it to anyone, just time it a few weeks later to avoid the still large crowds in the National Parks just after Labor Day, fall in the west is a beautiful time to be there.

What’s going to be at Market?

We will be!  We are returning for one week only to roast peppers!  We will have a small selection of our own peppers and will be glad to roast peppers you buy from any of the other farmers at market.

We will have Red Bells and Red and Yellow Corno di Toro’s in sweet peppers.  Red and Green Poblanos and Anaheims and Serranos in hot peppers.  You never know what else we might drum up too.

Hope to see you all at the market!

Alex and Betsy

If you know folks who you think would be interested in news of the farm then please feel free to forward this to them and encourage them to sign up at the website.

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #33, 11/1/18 the Italy edition

What’s been going on!

 Whew!  We are back and it has taken most of the week to recover from the return travel.  Another great trip to Italy where we had the best weather of any of our times there.  We started with five nights southeast of Turin in the Barolo wine country where we visited several large markets


and ate some fantastic meals all with variations on the Piedmontse style of cooking which typically includes lots of raw beef, very fine pastas, hazelnuts and of course peppers.


We then moved east to Emilia-Romanga for three nights where we saw several more markets and a few museums and had great meals in Modena, Parma and in the countryside.  There the food is centered on hams, prosciutto and parmesan cheese along with excellent pastas.


After dropping the Barkers at the airport Betsy and I went back down to Turin to visit with our farm friends who we have not seen in five years.  They of course gathered the whole clan for a typical dinner with 17 people.  Exhausted from so much good eating we made our way back home.


Jennie of course did a great job of running the farm while we were gone including the final pick of the pepper field and the taking down of all of the pepper support and removal of the plants.  There was a frost while we were gone, not cold enough to really kill warm season plants but definitely low enough to mark the end of their production.

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #32, 10/10/18

What’s been going on! 

A lot going on the next few weeks.  First we are ready for the next tropical storm rains coming today and tomorrow.  Greens are being picked this morning to spare them the bruising from heavy rain and splashing soil, peppers can wait until Friday.  The little tunnels are closed down just in case we get higher wind gusts than expected.  The good news is that this storm is moving fast and by Friday afternoon the sun will be out and I am seeing 49 degrees as the low for Friday night!  Definitely the silver lining.

Saturday will be the unveiling of the Carrboro Farmers’ Markets mini-museum celebrating the 40th season.  We had hoped to have it up a few weeks ago but hurricane Florence side tracked us a bit.  We are very excited about the timeline and all the pictures and documents that go along with it.  Our biggest market supporter Kelly Clark of Laser Image Printing and Marketing has worked very closely with us on all of it and it will be fantastic.  The Gazebo at market will be turned into the timeline museum this Saturday, make sure that you check it out and it will be a beautiful fall day!

No newsletter for the next two weeks as Betsy and I will be in Italy with our friends the Barkers.  Never enough research can be done on Italian crops and food.  Betsy says we will be on the red wine and prosciutto cleanse.  This time we are going back to the Piedmont and then over to Emilia-Romagna.  There is a farmers’ market every day to be explored along with seed stores.  I hope that we can make it to the Tomato Museum near Parma.  We will finish with a visit with our Italian farm family near Turin.  So look for Jennie and the crew on Saturdays and if you need anything don’t hesitate to send an email as all three of us will see it.  I will post pictures on Facebook and Instagram too.

Picture of the Week P1040429

The little tunnels all closed up for the impending storm

 What’s going to be at the market?  Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #31, 11/21/14

What’s been going on!

Back from Jamaica, alive and well.  Sixteen days is a long time to be gone and Betsy and Jennie did a great job in keeping everything rolling and protecting all the crops from the unusually cold weather, 14 degrees two days ago, way too cold for this early in the season.

Jamaica was beautiful and interesting.  Enlightening, uplifting and depressing all at the same time.  It is certainly a place of deep contrasts between the touristy north shore and the poverty of the south shore, particularly the far eastern parish of St. Thomas where I was.  A good place to be working with small farmers to help move them both towards organic farming practices but also direct marketing of their products so they can make the most income possible from their efforts and help reduce the amount of food imported into the country.

The farmers were friendly, open, eager, hardworking and looking for a break in what has been a long line of difficulties including hurricanes, drought, diseases and unscrupulous exporters.  The Jamaica Sustainable Farm Enterprise project is a three and a half year effort that will bring in 70 volunteers with both farming and marketing expertise to work with 150 farmers from all across the island but particularly in the eastern end of the country.  I just happened to be the first volunteer to work with the first ten farmers, their fledgling farmers’ market in Kingston and look at the whole project from a 30,000 foot level.

More stories later but more immediately we have this big food holiday coming up.  Two markets in four days for you to get everything you need for the big meal.  Of course tomorrow 9:00 to noon and then Tuesday afternoon, the special pre-Thanksgiving market 3:00-6:00.  The weather looks perfect for both.  If you want to have us save something special for you in advance, for either market, please let us know as early as possible so we can set it aside.

 Picture of the Week


Showing farmers in the Plantain Garden River plains how to use a walk behind tractor


What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Food explorations with the Barkers III, Umbria

Following in the tradition of our two previous trips with Ben and Karen Barker (Terra Madre and Piedmonte, Italy 2006 and Northern Spain 2010) we again plunged into another food filled study, this time of Umbria.  Why Umbria?  Well it is very similar to Tuscany in scenery, food and wine but with fewer tourists.  The food traditions are maybe more simple and a direct result of what is in season, we would find out.

A slightly different approach this time as we would stay in one central location and travel out by day.  We wanted to have a place in a small hill town that we could return to in the evenings after the days adventures and big lunch.  If we wanted we could fix some simple evening food from ingredients we might find in the markets or walk the town and find something but not have to drive in the dark.  We found a nice apartment in the beautiful hill town of Spello on the slopes of Mt. Subasio which are covered with olive groves, it turned out to be exactly what we wanted.

The hills are carpeted with olive trees

The hills are carpeted with olive trees

We flew into Rome and in just over two hours we were in the heart of Umbria at our first lunch in the small town of Bevagna.

happy to out of an airplane

happy to be out of an airplane

a singular dish with farro

a singular dish with farro

It was a perfect start, sitting outside on a sunny afternoon, with several great dishes including a farro dish with pistachios, several traditional pasta dishes and a desert so good that Karen was determined to figure out how to reproduce it at home.




here come the humgry Americans

here come the hungry Americans

We rolled the last few miles over to Spello and checked into our apartment and then made our first foray around town.  First to the macellaria to procure some salumi for the house and then to the enoteca to make sure there was wine in the house.  The Enoteca Properzio, run by the Angelini family, turned out to be almost a nightly visit as we tasted our way through the Umbrian wines that Ben wanted to try from research he had done at home.

Irene and Roberto Angelini with Ben

Irene and Roberto Angelini with Ben

The next day, well recovered from jet lag we mostly spent the day wandering around town

steep hill town alley

steep hill town alley

but did drive a few miles out to the valley town of Canarra for lunch at a small husband and wife run osteria, Perbacco.  Canarra is known for its production of red onions and the menu featured them in many dishes.

pasta with red onions and anchovies, a Betsy special

pasta with red onions and anchovies, a Betsy special

Monday was the first of our markets to check out in the town of Marsciano, supposedly one of the biggest markets in Umbria it was mostly clothes and household items and not much food.  We did start the practice of having a porchetta sandwich at each market we went to, think of it as the morning sausage biscuit but much better.  Porchetta is an Umbrian specialty of a whole, herbed, roasted pig which is sliced onto thick rolls and there are porchetta trucks everywhere.


We did buy a few seeds to try and I was glad to see that our broccoli raab looked every bit as good as the stuff on display there did.


A word about markets in Italy.  There is usually a weekly market in every small town, bigger towns may have a twice a week market.  Most of the vendors have these special market vehicles with sides that open up and they move from town to town loading and unloading each day (unfortunately the produce also reflects this).  Most of the produce is from Italy and labeled where it is from but there are very few local farmers.  Over the years we have been seeing fewer and fewer local growers at these markets.  Increasingly we are seeing special once or twice a month markets for local producers only, usually on Saturdays.  We think that they are feeling the pressures of these bigger mobile market vendors and food more easily available from all over the European Union.

We moved on up the valley to Deruta, one of great pottery producing towns, especially for the brightly colored and intricate Majolica ware.  This was a ceramic guitar made for Carlos Santana and the tiles were fantastic.

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We ended up at the oldest producer, the Grazia family has been making pottery since the 1500’s and we got a personal tour by Ubaldo Grazia, the current head of the family.


Here in his office and museum.


We saw all areas of their production including their new kiln with the first firing of custom beer bottles for a local craft brewery.  Ubaldo was very excited about this new product.










A fair lunch in Torgiano but the food and wine highlight of the day was a long relaxed evening down in the cellar of Enoteca Properzio.  A slow rainy Monday evening allowed much personal attention from Irene, Lucca and Roberto the patriarch.  Betsy was in her best Italian speaking form and once they found out we were chefs and farmers the plates of bruschetta, pecorino cheeses and prosciutto started coming along with “special” wines to be tasted.  It was a memorable night.


Tuesday dawned clear as a bell, ideal for our drive up into the Mount Sibillini National Park.  On the way through the mountains there were lots of freshly dug potatoes being sold on the roadside  and we also passed several big trout farms.  The lunch goal was the tiny hilltop town of Castelluccio perched on a small rise in the middle of the Piano Grande


a huge valley where they raise incredibly tiny lentils.  This is a panarama of just half of the valley you can see the lentil fields below, you can click on it to make it really large.

castellucio pano1

Lentils, trout and sausages were mandatory.


After lunch we dropped back out of the mountains to the town of Norcia, the real goal for the day.  Norcia is maybe the most famous town in Italy for it’s cured pork products and we loaded up with things to eat back in Spello and to bring back home.

does this man look like someone nicknamed Pig Padre?

does this man look like someone nicknamed Pig Padre?

A bewildering selection to choose from

A bewildering selection to choose from

Norcia is also the home of twin saints Benedict and his sister Scholastica.


Back home in Spello, we spent the end of a beautiful day out on the private patio overlooking the valley with large plates of all the charcuterie, cheese and fruits we had purchased.


Wednesday we started with the small market in Spello (and a porchetta sandwich), the highlight being the fresh fish truck and some of the very first olives of the season.

Ben drawn to the porchetta truck

Ben drawn to the porchetta truck


Ben spotted the October beans along with the new olives and artichokes

Ben spotted the October beans along with the new olives and artichokes

Our friend Jim Stock of the Haw River Wine Man had made connections for us to do a winery tour at Tabarrini vineyards.

???????????????????????????????Good wine and discussion and then onto lunch in Montefalco at L’Alchemista.  The featured item here was the black celery grown in the area.  Not really black but a really dark green because they hill the base up high which forces the plants to make extra chlorophyll in the leaves.  We also had the some of the first olive oil pressed this season, incredibly green and flavorful.

Black celery stuffed with sausage

Black celery stuffed with sausage

Thursday was another rainy day but we were off to Orvieto, built up on top of a volcanic ash hill it is known both for it’s huge and beautiful duomo and it’s underground caves carved out of the volcanic material.  Originally made by the Etruscans there is a fascinating tour you can take down into them showing how they lived and worked underground especially when under siege, most intriguing were the pigeon nest holes which was a main food source for them, they outlasted the Romans for two years this way.


The duomo is striking for both its black and white horizontal stripes but also it’s very ornate front façade.



It was also market day and this is where we saw more local growers than anywhere else the most interesting items being the wild greens and herb mixes.

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the olive and dried bean guy

the olive, nut and dried bean guy


Friday was our last day together and we had several things we wanted to get done.  We had been told by several Italians that the best of all the olive oils were the first pressed from Spello and that they should begin pressing any day now.  We (Betsy) asked all around town about were the mill was, finally we were walked out to a patio that overlooked the valley and the mill was pointed out to us at the bottom of the hill and sure enough we could see they were working.  First thing this morning we drove down to the mill where we sampled the first oil of the season and then proceeded to buy more than a gallon each to take home.

olives being loaded into the press

olives being loaded into the press

beautiful green olive oil

beautiful green olive oil

look how green it is, delicious

look how green it is, delicious

That task done we headed north to Assisi to see the town and the bascilica of San Francisco (St. Francis).


Even in the shoulder season the town was full of tourists and pilgrims here to see the home of the saint and the namesake of the new Pope.  A beautiful town and day we spent the morning wandering through it.

did I say hill town?

did I say hill town?

All week we had talked about how good the first meal in Bevagna was and we decided we needed to go back and eat at Trattoria di Oscar again.  It turned out to be the best meal we had the whole trip.  This tiny restaurant (five tables inside) is run by the chef husband and his wife.  This day Filippo was actually the host and waited the tables as well as overseeing the kitchen.  The first day they gave us a hand written daily menu in a notebook that had the past menus in it was well, it was fun to look at what was recently offered, today he just recited it to us.


We were fortunate to get one of the five tables as they turned people away.  Once again when they learned that we were chefs and farmers the world opened in a different way.  We came to realize that we are not the standard American tourists and that our personal stories are interesting to them as well.  A great long meal with some new wines.  Good pastas, pigeon, quail and lardo wrapped pork and more.

Grilled quail

Grilled quail

pork wrapped pork

pork wrapped pork

walking through Bevagna

walking through Bevagna

We headed back to Spello for one last sunset and a final visit to the Enoteca before packing up.  It has been a great week.


We now joke that we will start an Italian food tour business.  Karen will research the restaurants and other sites to see, Ben will choose the wines and drive, Alex will co-research markets, other places to visit and navigate and most importantly Betsy will speak the language for us to open the secret doors.  I think we need to test drive the model a few more times before we take paying customers (wink).

Saturday we parted ways with the Barkers headed to Tuscany for a few days and we drove on up to Piedmonte to visit with our friends up there.  Three days and nights full of family meals and visits in the different homes with the usual great food and conversations.  The Piovannos have mostly cleaned up from the lightning strike fire that took out one of their barns this summer but still have to replace the tractors that were burned up.


this is what it looked like before

this is what it looked like before

Eventually we had to start the long trip home, after 22 hours we finally walked into our house, I think now the transit home is harder than the jet lag going over.

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #35, 11/1/13

What’s been going on!

We’re baaack! and still a bit mentally groggy from both travel and the amount of things waiting for us when we got home.  Jennie did a great job while we were gone, probably better than we would have done, it’s all the emails, phone messages and such that we are digging through.  We had a great time and will have a full report coming next week but wanted to get a newsletter out before market tomorrow to let you all know what was going on.

First three important updates: 1. Tomorrow is the first day of the Saturday Carrboro Farmers’ Markets Winter hours, 9:00-12:00 starting with the bell (no sales allowed before 9:00).  2. All the turkeys are now reserved.  3. We will be roasting peppers tomorrow, probably for the last time for the season.

When we got home we were glad to see the cover crops coming up well despite the dry conditions since we seeded them, hopefully we will get some rain today.  We also knew that we had the killing freeze last Friday night (25 degrees here at the farm) and the peppers are now black and dead.  We choose not to go through any kind of heroics to cover a quarter acre of plants as we think the returns are marginal this late in the year for the difficulty in involved.  Jennie did strip the plants of all available fruit and we now have a cooler full that we will have available for the next few weeks.  The rest of the crops look really robust but continue to slow down their growth with the shorter and cooler days.

We did make it to a number of markets around Umbria and I would have to say that while we saw a few interesting items they did not look as robust as we have seen before and never as beautiful as our own amazing Carrboro Market.  I am not the only one who thinks this.  We have a number of customers each year who have returned from a trip to Europe and come back saying that our market is every bit as diverse and the products better looking than what they saw there.  Reminds us of how fortunate we are here in central NC.  I will expand on this when I get the full post done but we did see a few new crops but unfortunately missed the black celery festival but did manage to eat some.

Picture of the Week


This was one of the better local producer displays we saw

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #34, 10/17/13

What’s been going on!

Success!  It took just about everything we had but we managed to get all the soil worked, cover crops seeded and flowers for next spring planted.  Just another piece of a strange weather year to work around including only a few hours of sunshine in a ten day period.  Soil didn’t work up as nice as I would have liked but good enough and ready for the winter and all of next year.  This is maybe the most important week/job of the year as it sets the farm up for the whole next season.  All the tomato and pepper beds for next year are set, the lettuce beds for early spring are up, and on and on.  Two acres all ready, 200 beds just waiting to be planted sometime before next June.  Whew!

If that hasn’t been enough there has been plenty of other meetings, classes and other things going on.  We did have a great cooking class at A Southern Season last night focusing on peppers.  Our now frequent co-presenter at these classes, Craig Lehoullier, more famous for tomatoes than peppers was again fun to work with as he is just about as crazy about peppers as he is tomatoes and comes from a home gardener perspective.  The Cooking School staff did a great job with all kinds of dishes including a delicious Chile Poblano relleno in nogado sauce.

So tomorrow Betsy and I get on a plane for Italy and are we ever ready!  Once again into a food filled exploration of Umbria with Ben and Karen Barker.  Nearly daily stops at the best farmers markets in the region to search for potential new crops, display techniques, seeds; and then afternoons spent eating the local food and seeing the historical sights to be followed by leisurely evenings “reviewing” the day’s activities.  A week with the Barkers and then our usual visit with our farm family near Torino which is always a treat.  We will come back with many stories, hopefully a few new ideas, until then Jennie is in charge and will be at market the next two Saturdays.

Picture of the Week


Another grey day but a farm ready for next season, doesn’t look like it now but this will be a field full of lettuce next spring!

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Spain, Food Exploration at its Best

After Terra Madre we flew to Barcelona to meet our good friends and customers Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill in Durham.  This is the second time we have traveled with them in Europe to discover new foods and food stuffs.  Yeah I know, sounds like a hard job but trust me this is as much about business as it is about travel.  We now have a well developed system.  Karen and Ben research the restaurants they want to eat at and we research the farmers’ markets and other kinds of markets in the area near the restaurants.

Typically we will visit a market in the morning looking at displays and for new products, then go and have a great lunch.  In the afternoons we will explore some more and then have another great meal in the evening.  When eating we all order different dishes and then share them around the table, smelling, tasting, dissecting and discussing what it is, how the chef prepared it, what the ingredients are and so on.

I know for us we are looking for new products (mostly vegetables) to grow or new ways for our customers to use things we already produce.  I am sure for the Barkers they are taking home fresh ideas for recipes and plate presentation as well as ingredients.

Ben and Karen had been to the areas we would travel in just last June so had a good idea of the lay of the country and the logistics.  We went to some places they had been to before but it was now a different season with different ingredients and dishes.  We also found plenty of new places to try too.

Betsy and I flew in Sunday afternoon and had a chance to regroup after the full experience in Italy.  8:00 Monday morning we met the Barkers at the airport, rental car and we are off across the north of Spain.  It is about a four hour drive to the Rioja region through an arid landscape that looks like west Texas with lots of wind turbine and solar farms.

I knew from research that we would be driving right by the epicenter of the famous Piquillo pepper, Lodosa.  Picked dead red (fully ripe) and usually wood fire roasted and then canned.  A medium small conical pepper with thick walls and no heat.  We landed in Lodosa at the extended Spanish lunch break and all stores, etc. were closed but there were lots of peppers hanging on the houses drying.

We stayed the night in the old, walled, hilltop town of La Guardia in the heart of the Rioja wine region and on the edge of the Basque country.  It was pretty cool out but we walked around the town for a few hours including a tour of the incredible church of Santa Maria de los Reyes with its polychrome portal.

Back to the hotel with a chance for Karen and Ben to rest up from the jet lag and then the first of our typically Spanish, late dinners.  The restaurants in Spain don’t even start serving until 8:30 or later.

A great meal with more typical Riojan dishes including two with peppers

chorizo sausage with quernica peppers

a plate of piquillo peppers

Tuesday we hit the small market in town early, picked up some piquillo peppers for seed

and then headed out around the wine country and toured the incredible wine museum.

A great lunch and then we drove on over the mountains to the Atlantic ocean and the city of San Sebastian.  On the way you go through a dry country side that reminded me of the wheat producing areas of eastern Washington state.

San Sebastian is on a beautiful bay and is the heart of the Basque country food culture.  We stayed here for three nights and each night did the pintxos crawl.

Pintxos (tapas in the rest of Spain) are small dishes that the bars there have developed into a ritual and competition, with each having their specialties.  So every evening we would try out 3-4 places and 3-4 dishes at each place.

more traditional, jamon and prawns

more modern, sweetbreads with red eye gravy

pickled pigs ears




























Each day we would travel the country side.  On Wednesday we actually drove over the border into France and to the town of Espelette.  Famous for its dried red pepper powder, we stumbled into the middle of its pepper festival.  Similar to the piquillo but with some heat.  They use it both dried and fresh.  Needless to say we brought some of those seeds back too.

espelette pepper field

drying peppers

Thursday we spent the morning in the good market in San Sebastian, which is actually under ground.  The seafood displays were incredible and Ben was teary eyed at the quality and selection and that he can’t get that kind of fish back in North Carolina.

We found several vendors selling the guindilla pepper we wanted to get seeds for.  This pepper is used in many of the pintxos and is like eating a green bean, meaty because it is packed with seeds.  We also saw several vendors selling “soup kits” an idea we have seen before in Italy.

soup kits


















Friday we drove back to Barcelona for the last three nights of the trip.  A big and beautiful city with lots to see but it was packed with people!  It was the Day of the Dead holiday weekend and maybe a big soccer game too.  People everywhere.  A very walkable city and we walked everywhere, which helped with the extra calories we were ingesting.

Saturday’s main objective was to spend the morning at the La Boqueria market, supposed to be the largest and best in Europe.

Truly amazing with every kind of food stuff you can think of, below is a number of shots in the market.

mushrooms are in season

eggs of every kind

apples and padron peppers












We finished the morning with “breakfast” of a roasted green pepper called cristal (kind of like an Anaheim without heat)

and a plate of fried eggs with baby squid.  In the picture you can see my watch next to the glass of red wine, 11:30 a.m., research is hell.

We did of course see a number of the great architectural sites, my favorites being the crazy Gaudi Sagrada Familia cathedral

and the incredible tiled and stained glass Palau de la Musica Catalana.
















On our walks we also went into several other really good markets and maybe the biggest florist Betsy has ever seen.

Sunday we walked all the way down to the far tip of the harbor in the Barceloneta and had a really great lunch which included this wonderful paella.

Halloween on the Mediterranean

Back on up the Rambla and its masses of people and street performers including this flower inspired guy.
















Monday came and it was time to return to the farm.  Nineteen days gone is a long time and we were ready to head home.  Great trip; food, sights, travel partners.  We ended up bringing back five new peppers to try and a new tomato.  You can look forward to tasting them next year!

Italy and Terra Madre

As many of you know we have been fortunate to have now attended all four of the Slow Food Terra Madre international conferences.  This gathering of world food communities, from now 162 nations, is an amazing spectacle of people, food and ideas.  Our first Terra Madre, in 2004, we were housed with a farm family just outside of the city of Torino and have since become good friends, we have been back to visit six times.

The Piovanno’s raise Piemontese veal under very specific guidelines, from raising the feed all the way through selling it in their own macellaria (butcher shop).  The macellaria is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday only and by Saturday evening they are ready for some rest.  Because we know this, we try to time our visits to arrive on Sunday afternoon after they have had a chance to relax.

Because the conference started on Thursday we arrived in Italy the Friday before so we could get over the jet lag and be prepared for the whirl wind of activity that accompanies a visit to the Piovannos and the extended Novara family.  The last several trips we have flown into Milan, rented a car, and explored some corner of northern Italy before we get to Torino.

This time we started in the far northwest corner, the Valle d’Aosta.  The Alps form its mountainous rim and the borders with France and Switzerland, including Monte Bianco (the highest mountain in western Europe at 15,771 feet), Monte Rosa and Monte Cervino (the Matterhorn).

A two to three hour drive from the Malpensa airport put us in the heart of the valley, the town of Aosta.  We decided to stay for two nights in Cogne, located in a higher valley, 16 miles further south.  An old mining town and now the northern gateway to the Gran Paradiso National Park.

The perfect place to recover from jet lag, see some great scenery and eat the first of many fabulous meals.

a killer charcuterie plate the perfect way to start

risotto with fontina cheese and bread

carbonade with roasted polenta

This was the view from our balcony as the cows came in from pasture in the evening.

The next day we had hoped would be clear and we could take the cable cars up onto the  side of Monte Bianco and it’s glaciers but it wasn’t so instead we toured the old Roman walled town of Aosta, the nearby ski station of Pila and the Fenis castle.

One of the old Roman arch entries to the town of Aosta

The Matterhorn is in the clouds

Fenis castle

Sunday we made our way to Torino for three days of visits with the family, followed by three more days of Terra Madre and family combined.  Monday we had planned to drive down to the Ligurian coast to San Remo, which is the cut flower capital of Italy, to pick up some special Poppy flower seeds which Betsy had been arranging from this side of the Atlantic.  It was unclear if we could contact the dealer so we bailed on that plan.

Instead we drove down through the Langhe hills and viewed the wine country, grapes in all directions.

We then made our way back to the farm via Carmagnola, which is famous for its peppers.  We stopped in at one roadside stand and they allowed us to walk out into their production houses.

It is the end of their season too and while the plants look tired, the peppers they were picking were beautiful.

Tuesday we got up early and went mushroom hunting with family and friends.  It is porcini season and we were up in the foothills in a solid beech forest.  Not a lot to be found but it was beautiful.

After the morning of walking the hills we toured the nearby Sacra di San Michele.  An amazing monastery perched on top of a rock outcropping that juts out into the valley that leads up to Bardonecchia and one of the Olympic ski areas.  This is one of my favorite sites we have seen in Italy, stunning.

The view up towards Bardonecchia

Wednesday was a slower day with a late afternoon visit to yet another of the castles, of the Savoy family, that surround Torino.  Our family is concerned that they are running out of castles to show us but I’m not worried.  Rivoli castle is high on the western side of the city with a grand view over it.  Now turned into a modern art museum it is still an imposing structure.

Essentially every evening we all gather at one location for a huge family meal.  “We” being up to fourteen, or more, various family members including uncles, cousins, mothers, brothers, friends, you name it.  In many ways these meals are the highlight of our trips both for the food and the conversation.  Betsy of course does much better than I do in conversation but this is really how we have come to love and better understand these people and their daily lives.  Usually it is at Kati and Michele’s farm but we have convened in other great family homes too.  This is one of the rare meals out, at their favorite local pizzeria.

Thursday and it is finally Terra Madre time.  The first day is mostly about checking in, getting your badges and the opening ceremonies.  It is also the first day of the Salone del Gusto.  The Salone is Slow Food’s huge specialty food show showcasing both the world wide Slow Food Presidia projects but also the specialty foods and regions of Italy.  Over 150,000 people attend over five days and it is crazy crowded.  This first day is the day to see as much as you can before the weekend hordes arrive.

We brought back this new small sauce tomato, a Presidia from Puglia, similar to the fabulous one we have been growing from Campania.  We will try and grow it next year and compare the two.

This is a gallery of shots from the Salone including the requisite prosciutto and cheese shots, a copper pot set up for a cheese making class, a new red celery, the world’s largest sides of bacon and an olive harvesting demonstration.












We managed to get about half way through before we had to take the 30 minute walk back to the opening ceremonies held at the Olympic Ice Hockey stadium.  A huge crowd with many speakers and a marching in of all the nations flags.

Friday and Saturday is a whirlwind at Terra Madre with workshops, the US delegation meeting, more forays into the Salone and other sights.  One of the things that happen is the impromptu world market that sets up in the Terra Madre hall, the people watching is mind boggling.
















Each afternoon we shuttled several groups out to see our friend’s farm and macellaria.  Their farm is just south of Turin in the town of Stupinigi, famous for the hunting castle of the Savoy’s which is literally what they see when they drive out their gate!

This is the inside of the courtyard of the farm complex and the Piemontese breed that they raise.

This is Kati with our friend Mimo, from Missouri, in the macellaria.

The closing ceremonies are held on Sunday evening but we had to miss them because we had to catch a plane to Barcelona for the second leg of this adventure.  It was a sad good bye to all on Saturday night after another great meal that included Sarah, Sabrina and Anna, the rest of our Carrboro Farmers’ Market delegation.