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This article was prepared for the August 25, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Fresh Garden Tastes and Tour

All throughout the Princeton area the song of the cicadas has been replaced by a far more subtle sound – that of tomatoes dropping onto rain-softened soil in hundreds and hundreds of gardens. Ripening at an alarming rate, the tomatoes often sit side-by-side with plants heavy with eggplant and popping with peppers.

"This is summer’s bounty," says Mikey Azzara, outreach coordinator for NOFA-NJ, the Garden State branch of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. The question is what to do with all of the lucious vegetables. Azzara provides an answer in the form of his organization’s summer edition of "Cooking with the Season."

The event begins with a tour of Spring Hill Farm on Princeton Avenue in Hopewell, where organic farmers show off their crops and talk about their growing methods. The next stop is Mediterra, where co-executive chef Lawrence Robinson prepares a five-course meal, with course-specific wine pairings. He explains his cooking methods during each course, and even provides printed recipes for overwhelmed suburban gardeners to take home and try with their own seasonal bounty.

Azzara says with pride that he is a graduate of Middlebury, "Class of 2002.5." Winter graduates like himself ski down a mountain, in cap and gown, to their graduation ceremony. He enjoyed every minute of the frigid ceremony, and he is equally enthusiastic about his work with NOFA-NJ. He is on a mission, in fact, to teach New Jerseyan, a group far removed from its agrarian heritage for the most part, to enjoy the fruit and vegetables that still spring from the state’s soil.

In running farmers’ markets in the past, Azzara noticed that patrons would be far more likely to stock up on squash, zucchini, and exotic tomatoes if they knew what to do with them. He added cooking demonstrations to the farmers’ markets, and saw sales – and enthusiasm – rise. "Cooking with the Season" is an extension of this tactic, adding the fun of a farm tour and the luxury of a multi-course meal in a fine restaurant.

"Cooking with the Season," a NOFA-NJ event, Monday, August 30; tour of Spring Hill Far in Hopewell at 5:45 p.m. (meet at the farm), followed by dinner at Mediterra, on Hulfish Street in Princeton. Cost:$65, plus gratuity. For more information, call 609-737-6848. To register, call 609-252-9680.

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