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March 26, 2013
Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686

From Easter dinner this weekend through the Memorial Day weekend picnic season, it’s easier than ever to buy local agricultural products from Virginia.

Let’s start with Easter. Whether your tradition dictates ham, lamb, turkey, beef or seafood, you’ll find it all raised, caught or cured right here in Virginia. Few things say traditional Easter dinner better than spiral sliced ham, sweet potato casserole and a salad of fresh greens with herb infused dressing. Many would argue for the spring lamb option with new potatoes and greens, however, and who could blame them?

For a new twist, how about adding some fresh shad roe? The Mattaponi tribe operates a shad hatchery and marine science facility on the reservation near West Point. They are making roe available for Easter. This is a unique opportunity because otherwise, there is a moratorium on shad fishing in the state to replenish the dwindling stocks.

Before leaving Easter, don’t forget the eggs. You’ll need them for dying, hiding and also for eating. If you hide real eggs, dye them in water warmer than the eggs so they don’t absorb the dye water. Be sure the shells are intact and don’t leave them out of refrigeration for more than two hours. Eat uncracked, refrigerated hard-boiled eggs within a week of cooking them. If you are concerned about the safety of eggs that have been hidden, make a separate batch to eat and after the hunt, discard the ones that were hidden.

Not longer after the spring holidays of Easter and Passover, the options for fresh, local Virginia grown foods explode. Field greens, onions, herbs, peas, asparagus, cabbage are the first to appear in local markets and through farm CSAs. After them come strawberries, followed by cucumbers, green beans, summer squash and white potatoes.

In coastal and Bay areas, you’ll see fishing and crabbing boats out early for the day’s catch. Enjoy the view, visit a farmers’ market or roadside stand and then eat ’til your heart’s content. Atlantic mackerel, sea bass, blue crab, bluefish, catfish, clams, croaker, flounder, scallops, scup, sea trout, soft shell crabs and spot are in season in spring, as picturesque as they are tasty.

A quick search on yields 13 farmers’ markets that sell seafood and ten more that sell fish. Many of these are in coastal areas like Gloucester, Virginia Beach or Onancock, but you’ll also find markets in the Shenandoah Valley, northern Virginia and the Richmond area. When you search “all” categories, not just farmers’ markets, you’ll find four pages of listings statewide for seafood and four more for fish.

How can you be sure you’re buying Virginia Grown products? When you buy directly from the farmer or on the farm, the guarantee is implicit. At grocery stores, look for Virginia Grown or Locally Grown signs, banners, labels or price cards. If you don’t see them, ask. And if the store doesn’t carry local products, tell the manager that it is important to you to buy local. Not many customers have to express a preference for local products before stores start carrying them.

So get your local products, enjoy your dinner, dye your eggs and then get your knife and fork ready. The peak of the Buy Local season is just beginning.

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