Just because summer is coming to an end, doesn’t mean the local produce has to. In fact, Hampton Roads still has lots of variety to offer all through the fall and much of the winter. And while September may bring to mind apples, pumpkins, and corn mazes, my favorite local September treat is grapes, particularly the scuppernong and muscadine varieties, which are larger than average wine and table grapes. Plump and round, these grapes are easy to pick, which is great since there are a few pick-your-own grape options right here!
Blackwater Vineyards off Blackwater Road near the Chesapeake/Virginia Beach line is a great option. According to their website (www.blackwatervineyards.com) they are open during picking season from 8 a.m. until dark, Tuesday through Sunday, but call ahead to make sure conditions are good for picking: 757-421-9161. If your mind is still on apples, not to worry. Check out Apple Berry Farm on West Landing Road in Virginia Beach. They have pick-your-own apples through September. Again, call ahead for availability and conditions: 757-426-7390.
September is also the time that our organization celebrates a successful growing season. We do this with our signature event, Farm to Fork. At this event our chefs and producer partners pair up and create a tasting-sized dish for our guests to sample. This year we will have over 15 chefs creating locally themed dishes along with vendors selling everything from cookbooks and jam to honey, goat cheese, and more. There will be live music and fun activities for the kids including a farm animal exhibit and local food crafts. Farm to Fork will be held Sunday, September 16, from 1-4 p.m. at the Virginia Tech Agricultural Research and Extension Center on Diamond Springs Road. Tickets can be purchased online at www.farmtoforkhr.com
Fall also welcomes back a local favorite: oysters. Although oysters are now available year-round, the traditional oyster season is “any month with an ‘r’ in it.” Try the oyster and Surry ham recipe below courtesy of the late Peter Coe, founder of Taste Unlimited. His knowledge of and love for the area’s seafood and produce is evident in his recipes, and this is no exception. Local oysters can be found at many local retailers including Uncle Chuck’s at the Virginia Beach Farmers Market, Welton’s Seafood Market in Ghent, Dodson and Daughter Old Town Seafood on the Eastern Shore, Shellfish Company on Shore Drive, and Lynnhaven Oyster Company in Virginia Beach.
Try a variety of local oysters including some from the Lynnhaven River and some from the Chesapeake Bay. If you’ve never done an oyster tasting, you’ll be amazed at the difference in taste between oyster varieties. But if you’d rather leave bivalves up to the professionals, then come out and see us at Farm to Fork. I promise there will be some dishes representing local oysters that you will not want to miss. Happy fall, everyone!
Pam’s Grape Hull Pie
4 cups black muscadine grapes
¾ cup of sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 unbaked pie shells (one for top)
Preheat oven to 450°F. Wash 4 cups of grapes. Separate skins and pulp in separate containers. Bring pulp to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Rub through strainer or colander to remove seeds. Combine the pulp, skins, sugar, lemon juice, orange rind, tapioca, and corn starch. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Fill pastry shell with grape mixture. Form lattice over top or use another shell with holes punched in. Bake the pie for 10 minutes at 450°F. Lower the heat to 35°F, and bake for about 20 minutes more.
Oyster Wrapped in Surry Ham
30 fresh oysters, shucked
30 slices (8 ounces) Surry ham (4 in. sq.), sliced paper thin (available at Taste Unlimited)
30 6-in. wooden skewers, presoaked in water for 30 minutes
Preheat a gas or wood grill. Wrap each oyster tightly in one slice of the Surry ham and secure each with a wooden skewer. Grill for 2 minutes per side and serve.
Recipe courtesy Taste Unlimited
Visit www.buylocalhamptonroads.org and www.facebook.com/buylocalhr for more information.
Rachel Burns is the director of Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads.
Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.