Local Color

The girls from Penn Farm in Westmoreland County, Virginia, always deliver. Not only do they have the freshest produce, they have smiles and recipes to share with some tidbits of information about what they are selling. They are my go-to stand at two of my favorite farmer’s markets, one in Great Falls and one in Reston, Virginia. Be sure to Like them on Facebook.

Buying local means fresh and friendly. What do my hospitable friends at Penn Farm have to offer?

Scroll down to enjoy the colors from today’s market!

Purple peppers are to be eaten fresh in salads.

Purple peppers are to be eaten fresh in salads.

Jessie and Sam from Penn Farm

Jessie and Sam from Penn Farm

Kelley Hospitality herself checks out the plums for plum tarts.

Kelley Hospitality herself checks out the plums for plum tarts.

Sisters, Sam and Tessa, from Penn Farms, know it all!

Sisters, Sam and Tessa, from Penn Farm, know it all!

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)



Will the Best Tomato Please Stand Up

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)

Early Girl. Better Boy. Heirloom. Beefsteak. So where have I been? I thought I knew about and have tasted just about every tomato known to mankind until I ran into Samantha and Tessa from Penn Farms in Colonial Beach Virginia, at the Great Falls Farmers Market.

“What tomatoes are good today?” I asked

Tessa replied, The Cherokee Purple…it’s everyone’s favorite and we sell out fast!”

“You mean those small ones that look more like an apple? Okay, I’ll try them.”

What is a Cherokee Purple Tomato?

According to Rareseeds: “This tasty tomato is an old Cherokee Indian heirloom, pre-1890 variety; beautiful deep dusky purple-pink color, superb sweet flavor, and very large sized fruit. Try this one for real old-time tomato flavor.”

Seed Saver’s Exchange says this about the Cherokee Purple: “Unique dusty rose color. Flavor rivals Brandywine, extremely sweet. Productive plants produce large crops of 12 oz. fruits. Indeterminate, 80 days from transplant.”

The Cherokee Purple did not disappoint. Today I had them for lunch, sliced with a little salt, fresh basil, some mayo, and a piece of toast for dipping into the tomato juice left on the plate.

Two Girls

Samantha (left) and Tessa (right) are pretty cheerful early on a Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market in Great Falls. They also know their produce. As I pointed to all the tomato varieties they quickly rattled off their names. Thanks to them, I’ve now experienced the Cherokee Purple. They also introduced me to squash blossoms which is a topic for a later blog.

The variety from Penn Farms. Samantha and Tessa knew the names of all of them.

The variety from Penn Farms. Samantha and Tessa knew the names of all of them.



Tomato Wellness

According to many sources, tomatoes are a formidable source of lycopene and antioxidants. The Tomato Wellness website says tomatoes are one of the worlds’ healthiest foods. I have a friend in the south who claims that if you eat something with tomatoes in it every day you will not have a weight problem. While that theory has not been proven, it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s the best time of year to take the tomato plunge, so go ahead. It’s all good.


For more on my tomato thoughts, see “It’s Too Hot to Eat,” page 71 in the summer issue of Celebrate Home Magazine. Download for free here. 

A Marriage Made in the Garden

Photo by Cindy Dyer

Is there a better match for strawberries than cheesecake? I made these as part of an afternoon tea buffet for A Garden Muse reception for Photographer Cindy Dyer’s macro photography botanical exhibit at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. These wonderful bites were scooped up in no time.

Difficulty Level…None!
Wash, hull and hollow out medium-size strawberries. Buy a quality New York-style cheesecake like the one from Trader Joe’s. Use a melon ball scooper and stuff the cheesecake into the strawberries. Dip the top in graham cracker crumbs. How easy it that? They can be made the day ahead and wrapped tightly. Garnish with all that mint you have wildly taking over your garden as I did in this photo.

I found this ingenious recipe on My Sweet Life.  And, oh, it is such a sweet life! Thank you, Kelley Hospitality readers.

The World Series of Snack Shacks

Cue “Centerfield” sung by John Fogerty with retro baseball footage.

Tonight is Game 1 of the 2011 World Series with the Texas Rangers battling the St. Louis Cardinals. The boys of summer and their chase for the ring marks the end of the baseball season.

With that in mind it’s time to take our caps off and pay tribute to all the Little League snack shacks in towns across the country.

Great Falls Hits Home Run with Nike Field Snack Shack

For some, snack shacks conjure up memories of half-cooked hot dogs and second-rate greasy food. Not so in Great Falls, Virginia, where the burgers and dogs are grilled fresh to perfection, the pizza is hot, the candy bars are chilled, and the coffee is freshly brewed. And for those watching their waistline, there is fresh fruit, nuts, popcorn, and Skinny Cow frozen treats.

Snack Shack Manager Michelle Gasparis, volunteer, takes her job seriously. As a mother of four, she knows that some families are at the field five nights a week and depend on the Snack Shack to feed their families. The Shack is also a major source of income for the Great Falls Little League Program. This spring alone, the shack brought in $9,000 that went toward uniforms, field upkeep, umpires and more. The food is quality and at a good value. No one will go broke eating at the Snack Shack.

Michelle brews fresh coffee. "The Snack Shack brings the community together."

When you ask Michelle what is the best thing about the Snack Shack she says, “It brings our community together. We’ve thought about contracting the Shack out, but by running it ourselves we get everyone involved and come together as a community to support our local program.”

Michelle runs a clean, organized shop but passes on the credit to many others. She said there is a schedule of regular volunteers who faithfully open and close the shack, parents who staff it nightly and on weekends during the spring and fall seasons, as well as her husband Nick who does just about anything there needs to be done. Add to that the triple play of shopping, stocking, and cleaning.

Home run hitters are inducted into the Home Run Club at the Snack Shack which entitles them to a complimentary menu item on the day of their home run.

They Answered the Call from the Bullpen

Michelle is the current manager but others have gone before her with hours of dedication to make our local fields hospitable to the home and visiting teams. In my Little League lifetime before Michelle answered the call, there was Jennifer and Todd Norris, and Julie Casso before them. And to all the un-named others before them, thank you. It’s a calling and those who answer it are pretty special in this town.

Kaitlin and Kelley wait on a customer at the Snack Shack.

If you’re in Great Falls, Nike Field is located at the corner of Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) and Utterback Store Road— stop by just for dinner and catch a game. Nike Field is named after the Nike Missile site operated by the U.S. Army to defend Washington, D.C. from Soviet air strikes during the Cold War.

To all the volunteers in Snack Shacks across the country…thanks! Enjoy the last days of baseball. See you in the spring! Learn more about Great Falls Little League here.