Friday, November 19, 2010

"Ode to the Apple" *

*The title "Ode to the Apple" derives from Keith Barber's article in this week's Yes!Weekly. Beta Verde is featured and we are very thankful for the publicity! The article can be viewed here online.
Apple season is reaching a close but that has not kept us from indulging in a few of the countless varieties available just in our area. The apples from our tree at Beta Verde were long gone, but just two weeks ago, Century Farm Orchards began their month-long apple tree sale and plenty of apples were still available. Kinnairds Choice has so far topped the list for best apple sauce. With its superb tartness and natural sweetness, the apples required absolutely no additional sugar, lemon, spices once cooked down.

At one time 15,000 apple varieties of all colors, taste and size grew in the United States. Now there are 11 apples commonly seen in supermarkets. Many varieties were lost when their genetics were not preserved through grafting before the tree died or was cut down. Plenty continue to be rediscovered, identified and grafted to expand the market for these "uncommon apples".

Kinnairds Choice was a new apple for us this year and there continue to be more apples available because of passionate individuals and increased awareness. It's because of businesses like Century Farm Orchards in Reidsville, heirloom apple experts like Lee Calhoun who helped with Pinnacle's Horne Creek Living Historical Farm's 200 heirloom apple orchard, and awareness groups like AppleCorps, which is "saving uncommon apples" one apple identification at a time.

Beta Verde is making an effort to learn more about these unique apples through cooking, preserving and eating them one variety at a time. Homemade apple sauce has been a long-standing simple pleasure of ours and one that we look forward to every year. As we expand our repertoire of apple varieties, this tradition can only EXPONENTIALLY become more pleasurable!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Terra Madre- October 21-25

Buon viaggio, Margaret!

This year, Margaret, the blonder half of Beta Verde, has been selected as a Terra Madre delegate and will be in Torino this week representing our region. She packed light so that she can bring back knowledge and treats from all over the world.

Terra Madre is an international network of food communities that are committed to global sustainability in food. On a biannual basis, Slow Food hosts the Terra Madre conference in Torino, Italy to share innovative solutions and time-honored traditions for keeping small-scale agriculture and sustainable food production alive and well. Thousands of producers, chefs, educators and musicians gather for four days to meet, eat and put their minds together.

We can't wait to hear more about it when she returns! Although it'll be even better if she brings us a little bit of this!

To learn more about Terra Madre and see the program, check out this link.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jammin' Good Time

Beta Verde is out and about!
We had a ‘jammin’ good time at the Krankie’s Farmers Market. We enjoyed being with so many of the producers we admire as well as getting much needed commentary on our pickles and jams. Thanks to all who stopped by, tasted and went home with BV jars!
Also, Beta Verde loved being part of BookMarks last weekend. We had the pleasure of being the ‘author attendants’ for acclaimed Jewish cookbook writer and frequent New York Times contributor, Joan Nathan ( and Aviva Goldfarb who created the Six O’Clock Scramble ( We learned some new tricks of the trade from Joan and Aviva’s presentations AND got to watch food guru Fred Thompson on the grill with some salmon and pork. Fred is an author as well as the publisher for Edible Piedmont magazine (
New jams are on the shelf! Walters Farm has shared their heirloom tree fruit bounty with us and we are happy to showcase Seckel Pear Jam, Mirabelle Plum Jam, Red Currant Preserves, Peach Preserves and Grilled Fig Preserves.

Purchasing may be made directly so please e-mail with your interest, although there is a good possibility of a downtown selling spot soon.
Is this your first time on the blog? If so, do send us an e-mail to add you to our list-serv! From there, you will be first to find out about any events or purchasing opportunities that Beta Verde has.

Monday, August 23, 2010


BETA VERDE Goes to Market!

We will be at the Krankies Farmers Market tomorrow, August 24th at 10:00am, with our blow your mind pickles featuring the BOOTHBY BLONDE cuke and our sweet summer fruit jams.

Come visit, come taste, come early!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Seed Ball Results!

The majority of the seed balls we made last September were for a fundraiser for the Edible Schoolyard at the Children's Museum in Greensboro, but we had enough left over to fill this back field chock full of red clover. Thanks to Lynn Book's Fall semester Wake Forest students for throwing them into the area, releasing exam stress and promised of results. Here they are!

Red Clover Field in the spring

What is a seed ball? A seed ball is a composition of seeds, compost, clay and water that is rolled into small balls and dried. An ancient tradition, seed balls were reintroduced by Japanese author Masanobu Fukuoka in the 1970s in his philosophical, universally relevant book on natural farming, The One-Straw Revolution.

Seedball packaging for Fundraiser

Seed bombing is also common in Africa to cover crop an arid area and in urban areas with Guerilla Gardening where populating and beautifying empty lots and off-limit areas with wildflowers is most common. The balls are thrown into a field, over a fence, or over your shoulder and left for the weather conditions to break the seed ball down, resulting in a low or no maintenance, sturdier, well-rooted plant.

Red Clover Seed Balls Courtesy of Eric Jackson and Salem Neff

Friday, April 9, 2010

Fun with Fungi!...Mushroom Madness...Shitake Wacky!

Over the past few months at BV, I've heard vague references to "when we start growing our mushrooms!" Of course I asked a few questions, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that the mushroom mystery was resolved.

Margaret and Salem took a class from Randy Bettini of Bettini Farms in Brown Summit ( check out the Bettini oyster mushroom) a few months ago, ordered their spawn and wax and a search for fresh poplar and oak logs began, not too skinny, not too fat...

Our friend Eddie Matthews scored the logs, delivering them on a cold morning to Beta Verde. The next week, I arrived back at Beta Verde to find the logs in a very different state.

Margaret and Salem had already dipped the ends in warm cheese wax (I hope no one was planning to use that crock pot again!), sealing any all open cuts on the logs. The next two steps were drilling and stuffing. Under Salem's guidance, I learned how to drill the holes in the logs, using the power drill (and wearing safety goggles, of course) with a special drill bit that only drilled an inch or two deep into the wood. We then filled each hole with a mushroom spore/saw dust mixture ( There are many varieties of shitake mushroom spawn - BV chose Chocoluv and WW70). The holes were then sealed with wax.

Once the wax dried, we stacked the inoculated logs like Lincoln Logs and left them to grow! Though the mushrooms won't be ready until the fall, Margaret and Salem will be checking in on them throughout the summer and hoping for a successful inaugural mushroom crop at Beta Verde!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Compost Is...

"It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions... It gives such divine materials to man, and accepts such leavings from them at last."
-Walt Whitman "This Compost", Leaves of Grass.

Sarah the intern here... back again! When Salem asked me to look into composting methods, I had no idea the complex world I was about to enter. Worm bins, pails, piles, tumblers, trenches...? I Googled around and found some helpful sites that explained the various processes and the advantages and disadvantages of each (the most valuable site I found was Composter Connection, in case you're interested).

When I headed to the library, I picked up a small book covered in brown cardboard. Simply titled, "Compost," this book by Carolyn Goldsmith tells the story of the composting process from start to finish complete with detailed directions AND cartoon illustrations (it felt like I was reading Shel Silverstein for the first 20 pages). Though initially it seemed like a book for 8 year olds, this 1970s British booklet taught me Compost for Dummies...First, I read how to set up a compost pile - using layers of green matter, manure, earth, garbage, and vegetables. Then, compost needs to "cook" for an extended period of time (though there are other methods to speed up this process). Last, I learned what compost is like when it is "ready" - medium loose crumbly texture, moisture similar to a squeezed out sponge, and smells "earthlike" (which I don't imagine to smell good). In the image above, you can see how fun yet effective Goldsmith's illustrations are.

Salem and Margaret are about 10 steps ahead of me in terms of knowledge for how to create good compost, and they've certainly seen the positive effects in their beds. Currently, they have a large compost bin in addition to a greens, leaves and weeds pile. Worm compost is the newest endeavor at Beta Verde, where a medium-sized Tupperware bin holds organic matter with lots of worms squirming through it to create rich compost from worm castings.

I'll leave you with a little known fact I've gathered during my time at Beta Verde... People actually GIVE away manure on Craig's List... and who knew that free manure would be such an exciting find! I never considered manure to have a real market, but now it all makes sense!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Recap and Rejuvenate!

Meet Sarah! Sarah Chase has come on board as our spring intern to help us with our marketing and communication. Sarah has quickly become Beta Verde's 'whip it ' girl ( oh yes, a little 70's music..) , pushing us with her Virginia charm to look at what we are doing and where we want to go. Enjoy Sarah's writings as she 'recaps' our busy fall with some blog entries while we plot and plant!

"I’m so excited to be the newest addition to the Beta Verde team! As a senior at Wake Forest, I am helping out with a marketing campaign in order to complete the internship component of my Entrepreneurship minor. My Creativity and Innovation class visited Beta Verde last semester, and I was hooked! Margaret and Salem are doing great things, and I think more people should know about it.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, I have been at Wake since the fall of 2006. With a Communication major and Entrepreneurship minor, I have been lucky enough to intern with marketing and advertising firms over the past three summers. Hopefully my (somewhat limited) knowledge of marketing, PR, and advertising can come together to create a successful marketing plan for Beta Verde! In addition, I’ll be out at some of the Beta Verde events and doing some background research to help Margaret and Salem expand."

Margaret and Salem have kept busy, so they haven’t had time to tell you all the great things going on at Beta Verde – that’s where I’ll come in! I’ll be keeping you up-to-date on the Beta Verde blog over the next few months, so stay tuned! Since I came on board in January, I've seen tremendous progress as Margaret and Salem plan for the coming months. But before we get into that, here are a few highlights from the fall:

The theme in at Beta Verde was definitely GREENS! Arugula, collards, Swiss chard, Dutch salad, cress and spinach—mixed salad, anyone? But it wasn’t just the farming that kept Margaret and Salem on their toes

Beta Verde had been booming with activity! One dewy fall morning, my creativity and innovation class had the chance to tour the property and hear from Margaret and Salem while enjoying some fresh bread and Beta Verde preserves. Professor Lynn Book encouraged us to get involved, which is how I landed here as the Beta Verde Intern. By the way, her House Concert at Beta Verde back in June drew a great crowd!

The Edible Schoolyard at Greensboro Children’s Museum looked to Margaret and Salem as the go-to menu gurus for their fundraising event featuring Alice Waters (check out the picture below!). Making sure to use the freshest ingredients, Beta Verde contributed a few special appetizers, and helped select some of their favorite local farmers to contribute to the successful event!

Word has gotten out- Beta Verde special events are fun and delicious! Late summer potlucks kicked off a series of food fun including a fundraiser for PEA (Piedmont Environmental Alliance) an engagement party and some wild and wooly wine distributers… it’s a good thing these ladies have endless energy.

Constantly on-the-go, Margaret and Salem travelled outside the Beta Verde property to network with other Slow Fooders and organic farmers at several conferences. Check back for Salem’s recap of her visit to the Young Farmer’s Conference and the Young Farmer’s Roundup at Krakies that followed! As Slow Food-Piedmont’s president, Margaret traveled to Atlanta to exchange ideas at Slow Food’s Southern Region Leaders Meeting in March (Slow Food founder (and celebrity!) Carlo Petrini even made an appearance!) Networking with other local farmers and food enthusiasts always brings new ideas and inspiration! Be on the lookout for food on wheels ....

Fast forward to the winter months, I got to see the recap/reflect process in action as Margaret and Salem planned to gear up for spring. Working on a new business plan, we’re putting steps in place to move Beta Verde forward! Mushroom logs, a seed house, and raised beds are just a few of the new additions to the Beta Verde “compound.”

Somehow between the planning, travelling, and endless snowfalls, Margaret and Salem were able to harvest beets, carrots and a variety of pak choi. Cold and wet weather postponed a Slow Food Piedmont event at Beta Verde – check back for revised plans!

As the weather warms up, stay tuned for news! In the spirit for spring, new things are popping up all over the place as Beta Verde moves into year 3, season 9.