Ever wanted to cook with a blue potato, a green eggplant or a purple tomato?
Those rare veggies are not something out of a child’s imagination. These off-beat eats are actual varieties that can be grown right at home here in the Black Hills, according to Master Gardeners Tammy and Melvin Glover.
The Rapid City couple spent an hour Thursday afternoon passing along gardening and cooking tips to a crowd of about 15 at the Central States Fair.
The experience of growing your own produce can’t be beat, said Melvin. He calls it a relaxing and restorative experience.
“You get out on the dirt, plants don’t get after you," he said. "They don’t talk back. It’s a good feeling.”
His wife Tammy said they have been lecturing crowds for four or five years, encouraging folks to embrace growing their own food when they can and to shop at local farmers markets.
It’s a growing national trend others are also embracing. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 8,144 farmers markets registered across the country this year, up 3.6 percent from just two years ago.
“They all had gardens back in the old days, a lot of people gardened at home. We are trying to get people going again,” Melvin said.
Tammy said Melvin’s mother turned them on to cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market when they were first married in Massachusetts.
The taste of food grown locally is far superior to store-bought food, something that lingered in fond memory for her despite the challenge of a growing season cut short in South Dakota by unpredictable winters.
“It was such a revelation to me. I loved it,” Tammy said.
Clearly the type of cooks who wear out their favorite cookbooks from overuse, they traded kitchen secrets with the novice gardeners in the crowd on how best to use the veggies in soups, stir-fries, kale chips, and other dishes like ratatouille, a classic French stewed vegetable dish with chopped eggplant, tomatoes and onions.
As the unmistakable fresh aroma of garden vegetables permeated the horticulture center, Melvin passed around samplings of Kale and edamame as Tammy showed rattlesnake green beans to the crowd.
“As you can tell, we like to eat,” he said.
Some of the biggest hits were the Carolina gold, chocolate and cherry and old heirloom tomatoes. Despite the different colors, the taste was subtle and sweeter for all.
“If you close your eyes, you can’t tell the difference,” he said.
“It’s heavenly,” said Katherine Biltoft, 76, who said she was on her third helping of ratatouille after the presentation. “You hear about these vegetables on cooking shows, but it sounds too forbidding. But if someone explains it to you, it’s very doable.”