SALT LAKE CITY, UT – SEPTEMBER 3: View of a Michigan Wolverines football helmet before their game against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on September 3, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)Apparently wide receiver Devin Funchess is not the only recent Michigan football player who can throw down. After seeing Funchess’ impressive dunk on Instagram on Sunday, quarterback Devin Gardner decided to make one of his own.Gardner’s dunks are definitely impressive, especially for someone who focuses on another sport, but we’ll have to award this impromptu Wolverine dunk contest to Funchess. That vertical leaping ability is sure to impress NFL scouts in the coming weeks during the combine and other draft preparation events.
Twitter/@derekjstevensCollege basketball fans will tell you to never bet against Tom Izzo in March. One Las Vegas casino owner, Derek Stevens, placed a $20,000 bet on Michigan State to win the title back after the team’s 79-78 overtime loss to Notre Dame on December 3. The 5-3 Spartans were at 50-1 to win it all at the time, giving Stevens a potential payout of $1 million.I’ll be @theDlasvegas #LONGBAR to #SpartyOn THX @GoldenNuggetLV & @Gollumlv for giving me the shot @darrenrovell pic.twitter.com/GjK1ueQfin— Derek Stevens (@DerekJStevens) March 31, 2015In an article by ESPN’s Darren Rovell, sportsbook director Tony Miller admits that this is a big risk for the casino.…Miller accepted Stevens’ $20,000 bet, never thinking he’d be sweating the possibility that the Spartans could pull it off. “In my nine years at this sportsbook, I never accepted a bet that could result in us paying $1 million,” Miller said. “The most I’ve ever seen won here was a $100,000 parlay.”…Miller and Stevens have become good friends over the years, which makes the fact that the Spartans have two games to win it all a bit awkward.“This would be a massive loss for us,” Miller said. “I see days where we lose $10,000 to $30,000, but nothing close to $1 million.”Michigan State is a five point underdog against Duke on Saturday, and would play either Kentucky or Wisconsin for the title on Monday night. Stevens still has a long way to go to cash in, but it is definitely impressive that his bet is still alive.[ESPN]
by Kaitlyn Goalenphotographs by Nick PironioFor most Southern cooks, field peas are as familiar and enduring a staple as their summertime harvest-mates, tomatoes. This year, however, an heirloom varietal of pea, thought to have vanished, will be grown within Raleigh city limits. And it all started with a dead woman’s fridge.Two years ago, Raleigh-based farmer Sean Barker traveled back to his native town in Mississippi to visit family. Amid catch-ups with relatives and reminiscing about old friends, Barker and his uncle struck up a conversation about Mama Hill, Barker’s grandmother who had passed away in 1999.Mama Hill had been an A-class gardener and a Southern cook of the highest order. In fact, Barker credits her for giving him the “agricultural bug” that grew into his profession. As he and his uncle sat on the porch, Barker recalled some of the crops he ate from Mama Hill’s garden as a child: okra, oversize summer squash, and a particularly delicious calico field pea unlike any he’d had before or since.Barker’s uncle paused. “You know,” he said, “when we were cleaning out the house after Mama Hill died, I moved her refrigerator to my house but never really went through it; I just plugged it into the wall in my garage and sort of forgot about it.”It prompted an immediate visit to the matriarch’s fridge, and an amazing discovery inside: Sitting on a shelf was a grocery bag full of seeds Mama Hill had saved. There were rice peas and lady peas, and a third bag of peas with a scrap of paper tucked into it: In Mama Hill’s script it read: “polecat pea, 1984.”To a farmer, this was the equivalent of winning the lottery. Here were the calico peas of Barker’s youth, forgotten until now. After his mother successfully grew a test crop last season, Barker decided to plant a plot of the heirloom at Raleigh City Farm, where he and his business partner, Corbett Marshall, grow produce under the name Kailyard Farm.If all goes according to plan, Mama Hill’s polecat peas will likely be harvested this month, along with about 20 other varietals Barker planted this season. Kailyard Farm sells its produce, including field peas, at the Raleigh City Farmer’s Market (Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. at City Market).Grab some, if you can, and rekindle your romance with one of the South’s shining summer stars. Clockwise starting from the red seeds, Harico Rouge, Calico Crowder, Lady Pea, and Vietnamese Black.Field Peas with Cornbread and Tomato VinaigretteWhen I asked Barker how Mama Hill cooked her peas, he told me that she had a few tricks, including adding just a touch of sugar. In an ode to that maneuver, this recipe pairs the peas with a barely sweet tomato vinaigrette and cornbread crumbles. Like panzanella, the classic Italian tomato-and-bread salad, this dish works best with day-old cornbread.Serves 4-62 slices smoky bacon, cut into ½-inch thick pieces½ cup diced onion1 clove garlic, smashed2 cups fresh field peasKosher salt and freshly ground black pepper2 beefsteak tomatoes, cored and sliced in half1 tablespoon sherry vinegar1 teaspoon fresh minced tarragon1 teaspoon fresh minced parsley½ cup extra-virgin olive oil6 ounces chevre, crumbled4 cups cornbread, broken up into 2- to 3-inch piecesIn a saucepan over medium heat, add the bacon. Cook until it begins to brown a bit and release fat, about five minutes. Add the onion, garlic and field peas and stir to coat. Add water until the field peas are covered by an inch. Bring to a simmer and cook until the peas are tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the peas, discarding the cooking liquid and the garlic clove. Transfer the peas to a bowl and season with salt to taste.Over a large bowl, use a box grater to grate the flesh of the tomatoes (discard the tomato skin). Whisk in the vinegar, tarragon and parsley. Whisk in the oil in a slow steady stream until the mixture is fully emulsified. Add the field peas, corn bread and chevre, and toss to coat. Transfer to a platter and serve.
by Kaitlyn Goalenphotographs by Jillian ClarkFolks, we’ve turned pumpkins into the Miley Cyrus of autumn eating. Once upon a time, pumpkins were cherished totems of the season, embraced with fervor by children in costumes. And while vestiges of that innocence still exist, popping up each Halloween like a Hannah Montana rerun, it’s been all but swallowed up by a new image: “pumpkin spice.” Like Miley’s wagging tongue, pumpkin spice follows us from latte to doughnut to beer. The flavor is ubiquitous and over-the-top, and tastes nothing like the ingredient for which it’s named. And that’s the shame of it, because actual pumpkins and their winter squash ilk (all part of the Cucurbitaceae family), should be the centerpiece of your cooking this month. No need to wait until Thanksgiving: make a pumpkin pie this weekend (and give it a twist by using coconut milk instead of the stalwart evaporated milk, or by throwing sorghum into the filling instead of granulated sugar). Swap out the butternut squash in your favorite soup recipe for an heirloom like red kuri squash or Jarrahdale pumpkin.Or do as I do: Let the natural vessel-like nature of pumpkins and squash work to your advantage by stuffing them full of your favorite things and roasting them whole. I like to mix stale bread with whatever is left in my fridge (the ends of a cheese plate, for example, or the last of a package of bacon), stuff the mixture into a pumpkin (or, for individual portions, acorn squash), top the mixture with cream, and bake until the squash is tender and practically melting into a cheesy, molten center.My comparison ends here: Miley, under all the pageantry and gyrating, has a killer voice. Pumpkin spice, likewise, harkens back to a vegetable worth honoring. Let’s get back to the source.Stuffed Acorn SquashServes 4This recipe is very much a template that can be customized to your taste. Swap the cheese (blue cheese would be delicious), swap spinach for kale, or bacon for sausage. You could even swap the bread for partially cooked rice; it’ll resemble a gorgeous risotto after being roasted.2 small pumpkins or 4 acorn squashSea salt and freshly ground black pepper2 tablespoons olive oil1 shallot, minced4 garlic cloves, minced8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced3 sprigs fresh thyme2 cups cubed day-old bread (such as sourdough or country loaf)1 ounce sharp cheddar, cut into small cubes1 ounce Gruyere, cut into small cubes1 ounce Fontina, cut into small cubes3 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces and cooked until crispy (optional)1 cup spinach leaves, torn into bite-size pieces (optional)½ cup heavy creamPreheat the oven to 350°.Using a sharp knife, make a circular cut around the stems of each acorn squash (as if you were carving the top of a jack-o’-lantern). Remove the tops, and use a spoon to hollow out the squash, discarding the seeds and stringy fibers. Season the insides of the squash with salt and pepper, and set the squash inside a 13-by-9-inch rimmed baking pan.In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. When it shimmers, add the shallot and garlic. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes, and add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have shrunk in size and are cooked through, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.In a large bowl, combine the bread, cheese, bacon (if using), spinach (if using), and reserved mushrooms. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon the bread mixture into the squash cavities, pressing down gently to pack. Divide the cream between the four squash, pouring it slowly into the cavity, then replace the squash tops.Bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours, until the squash is tender when pierced with a knife. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
In addition to antique glass, Louise uses different metallic parts: coasters from a chair, irons from a fireplace, old chandelier bases. She buys her pieces from all over – eBay, auctions, antique malls. Sometimes clients give her a piece that they would like refurbished. Raleigh interior decorator Susan Tollefsen had a client with an old family chandelier that was pretty but tired. With Louise’s finesse, it became a new, more interesting chandelier, but lost none of its history.Gaskill has never marketed herself and relies solely on word-of-mouth advertising. She sells only to designers and to a few retail shops in Raleigh, including La Maison in North Hills. Her client roster covers the entire country – from Chicago to Florida, Charleston to Raleigh – and she plans to showcase her 70 new lighting designs to decorators at the High Point Market October 17-22.“Louise designs unique fixtures that can combine lots of different time periods together between the traditional, transitional, and modern,” says Tula Summerford of Raleigh’s Design by Tula. “Her pieces work for any style house.”Where to Find Louise Gaskill’s Work:Louise Gaskill By appointment only:2023 Progress Court, RaleighLouisegaskill.comSusan Tollefsen Interiors2025 Progress Court, RaleighSusantinteriors.comLa Maison4209 Lassiter Mill Rd., Suite 132 RaleighLamaisonraleigh.comDesign by TulaDesignbytula.com by Katherine Connorphotographs by Catherine NguyenAsk Raleigh’s Louise Gaskill the secret to her artistry in lighting design, and you won’t get far. “Oh, I don’t know how I do it, I just sort of taught myself and I learn as I go,” she says humbly, with a smile. It’s hard to believe that such a masterful creator – her handmade, one-of-a-kind fixtures are sought after by interior designers and clients all over the country – could deny her skill, but that’s another of Gaskill’s gifts: making it all seem simple.To call her a lighting designer is to tell half the story. She’s also an alchemist, creating of-the-moment lamps, sconces, and chandeliers out of antique glass, seashells, found fragments, and metal fixtures. When she talks about her designs, her silver-blue eyes radiate.Louise Gaskill in her studio, filled with her collection of vintage glass, metal components, and found fragments.“I cannot say enough good things about Louise,” says prominent Chicago interior designer Julia Buckingham. “We have the same design aesthetic, which I describe as vintage antique with a modern vibe. She’s highly creative with her vision and yet she makes it seem so simple, so effortless.”Originally from New Bern, Gaskill graduated from Meredith with a history degree and launched a career in software sales in Raleigh. She fell into lamp design after creating a few pieces for herself, then kept it up as a hobby.She says her love of history has always fueled her work. “Perhaps that’s something that ties all of this together: the history and the stories of the glass and the different pieces of lamps. I love the story behind old pieces,” she says. There were no artists in her family, no crafts passed down through the generations. Instead she taught herself to design new fixtures by deconstructing lamps she wanted to work with, then reconstructing them and learning as she went.At one point, Gaskill considered creating larger pieces of furniture, but sage advice from her husband,Robert Sheldon, convinced her to stick with lighting: “Don’t ever buy anything that you can’t pick up yourself,” he said. Though her pieces remained manageable, her workshop quickly overtook the garage and storage shed where her husband once tinkered with cars. After 14 years, she still picks up every piece herself. And in the process, Gaskill has become a revered artist within a niche industry – a niche industry with big competitors.“That really is probably the hardest part of this whole enterprise, that I’m all by myself in this field, and I’m competing against large corporate companies with big budgets and mass forms of production. My pieces are works of art and can take up to one to two weeks to complete, but this is an heirloom and something that will stay in your family for generations to come.”A piece of Murano glass is the starting point and inspiration for a new chandelier.The fun partIt all starts with the hunt, and that’s “the fun part.” Gaskill says there’s nothing better than finding a great piece of antique glass – some come from other lamps, fixtures, or vases. Glass dictates the piece: Every lamp, chandelier, or sconce has some piece of glass in it. It’s her inspiration and her signature touch.Her workshop is filled with it: cobalt blue cylinders, bulbous German bases, Italian teardrops. And there’s more: a pile of gold kitchen sifters found at an antique fair will eventually make their way into the base of a lamp. A wall is filled with various pendants and knickknacks that will make a piece uniquely hers.Gaskill starts with the frame, or the base of a piece, adds a lamp pipe down the center, and then starts stacking things together, seeing what works and taking it apart again until it “fits.” This is where her joy comes: in the unexpected merging of components.
photo courtesy North Carolina State Archivesby Ernest DollarThis season, as you’re making your list and checking it twice, our area retailers would be grateful if you remember to “shop local.” That didn’t used to be a matter of choice. Local was the only option, and in Raleigh, it was often a colorful one. Ernest Dollar, director of the City of Raleigh Museum, found this fascinating photo of one of Fayetteville Street’s early sellers of wine, oysters, cigars, and groceries.Bananas and other fruits hang in the windows of Antonio Leo Dughi’s store at 235 Fayetteville Street, around 1900.Dughi stands in front of his store with his son, John (far right), and a young Dughi child. Customers and store clerks stand to the left, as does as an oyster wagon pulled by horse named Nancy. The ice cream wagon on the right was pulled by horse named John.Dughi and his wife were forerunners of the great wave of Italian immigration to the United States in the late 19th century. Dughi arrived in 1875 and eventually settled in Raleigh, where he established a store in a cramped downtown building.Dughi’s wagons helped his store become wildly popular by delivering fresh seafood, produce, ice creams, and novelty items to families across Raleigh. The Junaluska sign on top of the building refers to a wine company by that name.
Courtesy Jason CraigheadJason Craighead has long had a leading role in the Raleigh art scene as an an artist, as a member of the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, as a collaborative studio founder, and as a former gallerist. Now his reputation as a contemporary artist has grown beyond North Carolina. This fall, Craighead’s work made a splash with Beyond Myth, a solo show at the prestigious Cheryl Hazan Contemporary Art gallery in New York, and next month, he’ll have another solo show at Tinney Contemporary in Nashville, Tenn.Lately, Craighead says, his work has been influenced by myths of heroes and adventurers, those who “answer the calling within and venture down a path that is filled with challenges.” Bending Time (above), from his most recent body of work, reflects some of those ideas. “When we choose to seek our very own personal adventure and find our very own personal voice,” he says, “… our hearts have room to rise.”Jason Craighead’s work is represented locally by Flanders Gallery, 505 S. Blount St., flandersartgallery.com.His Nashville, Tenn. show opens Dec. 5 at Tinney Contemporary, 237 5th Ave. North, Nashville, Tenn.;tinneycontemporary.com. Read more about Craighead at jasoncraighead.com.
A scene from The Happiest Millionaire. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios.by Cameron HowardThe red Netflix envelope arrived in my mailbox on Duke’s East Campus, and I opened it back in my dorm room, which still bore the signs of recent, frenzied moving-in. The DVD was The Happiest Millionaire, a 1967 Disney musical starring Fred MacMurray as Anthony Drexel Biddle, the Philadelphia scion of a banking fortune. He’s an eccentric but very “happy millionaire” who runs a Bible and boxing school out of the stable, keeps alligators in the conservatory, and adores his eldest daughter Cordelia, played by Lesley Ann Warren.It’s a fun film marked by that peculiarly joyful but slightly sideways quality of Disney’s family films from that era, and it’s interesting to watch legends like MacMurray and Greer Garson, who plays Biddle’s wife, still dominating the screen decades after their careers began.As I sat there in my clunky wooden chair and matching desk in my tiny room, the experience took a surreal turn when Cordelia’s suitor, a young man by the name of Angier Buchanan Duke, and his mother, Sarah, entered the picture. Yes, those Dukes! Angier Duke was Benjamin Duke’s son and Washington Duke’s grandson, and he really did marry Cordelia Drexel Biddle. (In an odd turn of events, one of Cordelia’s brothers married Angier’s sister Mary, who was Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans’ mother, hence the various arrangements of Biddle/Duke names scattered around campus.)A scene from The Happiest Millionaire. Courtesy Walt Disney Studios.I thus had the strange experience of watching a (highly) fictionalized film based on the Duke family on Duke University’s campus in a dorm room three minutes away from the Biddle Music Building. To make it even weirder, I had visited the Sarah P. Duke Gardens just that afternoon. I hadn’t intended to start my college career with a classic movie about the Duke family, but it could not have been a more perfect choice.After all, I’d been a Duke fan years before I became a student. I was one of those toddlers decked out in Duke gear babbling cheers and flinging pom-poms at what I felt was “my” stadium long before I understood why. My love for old Hollywood goes back just as far; I grew up watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Bringing Up Baby instead of Full House and Saved by the Bell, and have adored classic movies for as long as I can remember.And I’m still utterly enthralled. It’s the glamour, the cleverness, the glorious style, and the subtlety (often due to a production code that kept things “clean”). It’s the virtuosic dancing, the rapid-fire dialogue, the amazing almost-but-not-quite British accents, the gorgeous costumes intended to astound, and that red lipstick that somehow never smudges. And it’s the stars, those idols of a nostalgic glamour preserved on glossy strips of celluloid. I love it all: the dreamlike musicals, timeless dramas, unsettling noirs, topsy-turvy screwballs, and tear-jerking melodramas – and how each one, whether it’s included in the canon or not, holds its own secrets and its own seedy and marvelous history.Sometimes films from the Golden Age can seem like slower, tamer, even painfully old-fashioned versions of today’s movies. But classic film is an art form with its own conventions, techniques, and aesthetics. The films are deceptively dense; each frame is packed with layer upon layer of choices, innovations, deliberate decisions, and miraculous mistakes that contribute to the fantastic shadows flashing by at 24 frames per second.But if the art of the films doesn’t grab you, the history might. Just like any artifact of a past age, these films are veritable time capsules inadvertently exposed to light. Old movies reproduce a certain moment in time, often without meaning to, though of course the “reality” they present is usually more beautiful, simpler, and far less chaotic than the real world has ever been.Courtesy Walt Disney Studios.It’s a cliché to bemoan “they don’t make ’em the way they used to!” but it’s entirely true. Hollywood functioned very differently then: The studios owned most of the theaters, almost everything was filmed on enormous backlots, and everyone, from the biggest stars to the carpenters and electricians, were under contract to a particular studio. The “dream factories” churned out movies from the teens to the fifties, and only began to crumble after the Supreme Court declared the massive studios in violation of anti-trust laws in 1948. It was this unbridled power that made classic Hollywood so extraordinary.Take Esther Williams. She was a national champion swimmer who was a favorite for the Olympics, but her life took an improbable turn when the 1940 Games were cancelled. MGM scouts were looking for an answer to Fox’s ice-skating sensation Sonja Henie, and decided a shapely swimmer would be just the thing. Williams was offered a contract (most actors had seven-year contracts with the studios) and MGM poured money into creating the “swimming musical,” building a massive pool complex inside a 32,000-square-foot soundstage, and turning a pretty nineteen-year-old into a glamorous movie star who captivated millions of moviegoers. For almost ten years, Williams topped the box office with her bright, sparkling movies featuring massive water extravaganzas that inspired the modern sport of synchronized swimming. The story of MGM’s mermaid verges on the absurd, but it could only have happened in the studio era during Hollywood’s Golden Age.Fortunately, these movies are undergoing something of a renaissance today. The DVD market, Turner Classic Movies, and companies like Netflix and ClassicFlix have made classic films available again. And theaters like Raleigh’s The Colony and The Cinema, Inc. and Durham’s Carolina Theatre turn screenings into events and recapture the magic of seeing these movies in their rightful place.As for me, I will always remember watching The Happiest Millionaire in my dorm room at Duke. I think of it every time I encounter the names Angier Duke or Biddle, and I smile at that weird, magical moment when Duke and classic Hollywood collided.
by Mimi Montgomeryillustrations by Addie McElweeIn the interest of journalistic transparency, I’ll start this article off with a disclaimer: My knowledge of the flora and fauna that populate our local environment is slim. It can be narrowed down to a few identifiers – grass, leaves, a few varieties of common trees, and the occasional pine cone. It’s not enough to say I don’t have a green thumb. I am more akin to a creature without any sort of digital appendages at all, perhaps a sea cucumber, or a snail. I once bought a succulent, forgot where I put it, then found it three months later on the back of a shelf gasping in a pool of dehydrated, hungover misery like a college kid back from Cancun. If the horticultural world had a form of child protective services, it would have been sent knocking on my front door. So when I went to Raleigh City Farm to take a “foraging tour” with the Piedmont Picnic Project in March, I was, needless to say, completely out of my element. Headed by co-founders Elizabeth Weichel and Amanda Matson, the Project focuses on urban sustainability and increasing awareness about food history, teaching practices like gardening, foraging, preserving, and fermenting. Its aim is to provide Raleighites with simple ways to eat locally and sustainably. Raleigh City Farm, which also aims to increase accessibility and local awareness, was a fitting spot to embark on our trek. You don’t have to live on a rural farm to know where your food comes from, both groups point out, or to learn the history behind it. They believe anybody can and should be an active participant in finding and growing local, healthy foods. Clearly, I was a prime candidate for this “anybody” demographic. Other than the time I ate all the leaves off one of my mother’s house plants (at the tender age of six), my foraging experience has been contained to the produce aisle of Trader Joe’s. I’m definitely more of a Lucille Ball than a Bear Grylls, but I laced up my walking shoes, packed my pockets with enough nasal spray for an antihistamine overdose, and was ready to go. I was joined on the trek by Adrian Fisher, an urban agriculturist from Raleigh’s sister city of Hull, UK and hosted by the Raleigh Sister Cities group; Douglas Johnston, a Sister Cities representative; a crew of Meredith College Kenyan exchange students; Rebekah Beck, general manager of Raleigh City Farm; and a sprinkling of other intrepid foragers. We stood around until someone called out, “Let’s go Cro-Magnon!,” and off we went, heeding the bugle cry into the downtown wilds. Our merry gang of hunter-gatherers first stopped at a patch of grass between the curb and sidewalk outside the parking lot of Yellow Dog Bread Co. and Edge of Urge. What to me looked like a furry patch of weeds under a power line was in fact a gathering of henbit, Matson told us. A member of the mint family, henbit has a square stem with an almost-Elizabethan collar of purple flowers. It’s a common snack for chickens, hence the name. You’ve probably seen smatterings of these across your front yard, but I bet you don’t consume them raw, cooked, or boiled into a tea. Who knew an unassuming patch of sidewalk weeds could yield something with such potential? Clearly, those outside our tribe had no idea, either: Drivers beeped their horns at us as if we had the phrase “Honk if you love foraging!” taped to our backs, although they were probably just baffled to see us congregated animatedly around the base of an electrical pole like wild boars in hiking clothes snuffling for truffles. We plucked some of these newly discovered greens and continued on our way. Our next stop was the front yard of a beautiful historic home on Mordecai Street. Those were no measly weeds in the front yard, we quickly learned, but actually clumps of chickweed. It’s good to sauté or toss raw in salads, and it gets its name because – you guessed it – chickens like it, too. Naturally, we grabbed a few handfuls. Now you’re probably wondering if this was all on the up-and-up. Matson was quick to let us know that it’s always wise to ask before foraging a plant from someone’s private property. Apparently, foraging without permission can be considered theft, and some public spaces won’t even allow it. I could only imagine the conversations that would ensue if I had to tell my lawyer that I wasn’t being ticketed for speeding or an expired license this time – I was an agricultural outlaw, nabbed for smuggling leafy goods from a neighbor’s yard. Luckily for us, we managed to avoid any run-ins with the fuzz. We continued down the street to the historic Mordecai House, where we wandered through the vegetable garden in the back of the home and stopped to admire a clump of hoary bittercress growing along the picket fence. Apart from sounding like the name of a medieval disease or a potion ingredient from Harry Potter, hoary bittercress is a member of the mustard family and can be consumed cooked or raw for an added peppery taste to dishes. Its tiny white flowers are edible, as well. We added several handfuls to our growing cornucopia. Down the hill from the Mordecai House we mosied into Mordecai Spring Park, a grassy clearing full of foraging potential. I was beginning to look at lawns and strips of grass with a different set of eyes – as not just overgrowth idly passed-by, but as all-you-can-eat buffets in a wild-grown food court, ripe for the plucking. With our newfound perspective, the park became a veritable Whole Foods salad bar. We scooped up wild onions; chestnut pods; purple deadnettle (which can be used in salads and boiled as a tea); ground ivy (used as a spice and sometimes as a substitute for hops in breweries); and cleavers, those fuzzy leaves that stick to your clothes – and, it turns out, have seeds that can be ground into a substitute for coffee. Our baskets full of leafy plunder, we headed back to base camp at Raleigh City Farm. We’d worked up an appetite on our urban safari, and we were ready to dig in. Weichel and Matson had prepared snacks made with ingredients they’d found on their own local foraging expeditions, many of which consisted of the same types of plants we had just encountered. So we loaded our plates with a wild salad; honey wheat bread with jellies made from kudzu, muscadines, honeysuckle, and black locust; green pesto with field garlic, black walnuts, hoary bittercress, and purple deadnettle; and shortbread cookies with ground ivy. The spread was topped off with kombucha made of persimmons and rosehip, and a tea of ground ivy, henbit, dandelion flower, and wild shiso seeds. It was wildly delicious. Now that I can proudly add “foraging veteran” to the short list of accolades next to my name, I have a greater appreciation for the sustainability movement that’s happening here in Raleigh, especially in the downtown area. It truly is a simple matter of increasing awareness and knowledge about the topic – once you know what to look for and where to look for it, you find yourself seeing opportunities for fresh, local food wherever you go. Plus, if we are ever submerged into a post-apocalyptic dystopia, we foragers won’t be stuck eating canned beans and Twinkies like the rest of you. Actually, if it comes to that, you can hang with me – I know where we can find a mean patch of hoary bittercress.Piedmont Picnic Project: piedmontpicnic.comRaleigh City Farm: 800 N. Blount St.; raleighcityfarm.com
Nick Donaldsonby Liza RobertsHundreds of art and garden lovers came from all over the Triangle to Frances Alvarino Norwood’s lush North Raleigh gardens for her 21st and final Larkspur Party June 4 and 5. Garden lovers will still have a chance to see her flowery showplace, she says, on Aug. 7 and Sept. 4, but without the art that has drawn huge crowds to her residential neighborhood.The Larkspur party was created by Alvarino Norwoood to showcase the work of fellow artists to the public. It began as a free, three-artist show in her front yard in 1995; this year featured 38 artists across her expanded three acres of flower and vegetable beds. The blooming sanctuary is itself a work of art, and a reflection of her other profession: gardener. “At some point,” she says, “we had to decide if we wanted more artists or more garden beds, and the garden beds won.” Still, she says, it’s been a good run, “an opportunity to share my mother’s love of gardening, and has allowed me to get to know some incredible artists and meet many other enthusiast gardeners.” Longtime fans thronged for one last hurrah. Tucked between Alvarino Norwood’s massive hydrangea, delicate poppies, and airy Queen Anne’s Lace were paintings, pots, wind chimes, and sculptures. Botanical illustrations by Preston Montague and silver jewelry by Dan Dye were standouts. In the larkspur itself stood Alvarino Norwood’s own elegant, elongated figurative ceramic sculptures, which sold out within the first hour. The Alvarino Norwood family will open their garden to the public without charge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 7 and Sept. 24.