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Maryland Cooks Up Local Food

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, state Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown show off new T-shirts in support of Buy Local Week, which starts on Saturday. (Jane Black -- The Washington Post)

There were the requisite red and white tablecloths; there was the smell of smoke coming off the grill and oppressive heat. But there were also a few extras at this July picnic: 16 teams of chefs and farmers, prominent composting and recycling bins, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The occasion was the second annual Buy Local Cookout at the first family’s home in Annapolis. The event kicks off Maryland’s Buy Local Week, which challenges state residents to incorporate at least one locally grown, produced or harvested product into their meals each day.

“This has become one of the most popular events that happens at Government House,” O’Malley told the crowd of nearly 300 as they furiously fanned themselves with yellow plastic “Maryland’s Best” fans. “We understand the more produce we can buy locally the better that is for the plate, the better that is for your health, the better that is for the planet.”

Sarah O'Herron of Black Ankle Vineyards and cheesemaker Tracy Kirkman of Cherry Glen Farm serve local wine paired with goat-cheese-and-pine-nut-stuffed grape leaves. (Jane Black -- The Washington Post)

For this year’s picnic, O’Malley invited teams of a chef and one or more farmer or waterman to submit recipes featuring local ingredients. More than 60 recipes were submitted. The winning 16 were invited to show off their creations on O’Malley’s front lawn.

There was, not surprisingly, lots of crab: crab salad wrapped in zucchini and served with corn relish; crab with blueberry, lemon-cucumber and snap pea salad; and a crab roll with watermelon salad. But chefs also showcased other summer ingredients and geographic areas beyond the Eastern shore. Elizabeth Gallery of Stone Soup Bistro in Shepherdstown (right over the Maryland border in West Virginia) teamed up with Julie Stinar of Evensong Farm to make Antietam chicken and slippery dumplings, a dish influenced by Appalachia.

Jeanne Deitz-Band grilled spicy goat meat and goat sausage sliders topped with local goat cheese from Caprikorn Farms. Sarah O’Herron, who runs Black Ankle Vineyards in Carroll County, brought not only wine but grape leaves from her vineyard. Her sister, Margy O'Herron, stuffed them with local goat cheese, pine nuts and rosemary. (Chef Susan Callahan was also there with her inspired root beer float dessert that Bonnie wrote about yesterday here at AWCE. Check out the recipe here.)

Over the past few years, the local food movement has gone mainstream. There are now more than 90 farmers markets in Maryland. And like Michelle Obama, Maryland first lady Katie O'Malley planted a garden at Government House in April. The state cookout is further proof that states and federal officials see the benefits of supporting small farmers. (Last year, Purdue had a tent at the cookout, Evensong’s Stinar told me. This year, only independent producers were represented.)

“There’s a deeper realization partly driven by an ever-deeper and broader understanding of the nature of climate change,” O’Malley told me. “That’s why we do these. It’s not just for the one week. It’s to get people to incorporate it into their routine. We’d like to get our schools and other big entities, perhaps even our prisons, to do this too.”

Maryland’s Buy Local Week runs from Saturday to July 26. To find local products, locate a farmers market and to learn more about the challenge, visit Maryland’s Best. Sources of local seafood can be found at You can find recipes in the (PDF alert) 2009 Maryland Buy Local Cookbook.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  July 17, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Sustainable Food  | Tags: Jane Black, Maryland, local food  
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The referred to "crab salad wrapped in zucchini and served with corn relish" is incorrect. The crab was wrapped in cucumber.

Posted by: keith22 | July 18, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

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