Eat Local Challenge events, expeditions, cooking demos and more


Several events in the 2015 Eat Local Challenge aim to highlight indigenous plants and other ingredients foraged from local parks. - COURTESY USDA
  • Several events in the 2015 Eat Local Challenge aim to highlight indigenous plants and other ingredients foraged from local parks.

A wild game cook-off, an insect cooking demonstration and foraging expeditions throughout New Orleans parks are just some of the new events at this year’s Eat Local Challenge, now in its first week.

While in past years participants have faced the same challenge – to eat only foods and ingredients that were produced or raised within a 200-mile radius – this year’s focus on indigenous plant and animal species is meant to educate locals about some of the lesser-known foods available to them, some of which can even be found in their backyard.

"This year is a little more unique,” said Lee Stafford, founder of Eat Local New Orleans. “These are things that people usually just don't think about eating because they would never see it at the grocery store. We are spotlighting wild edibles, wild game and wild plants — it's inspired by a movement that is going on all over the United Sates.” 

The program partnered with local chefs who are highlighting local ingredients on their menus during the monthlong challenge. 

Chef Ryan Hughes at Purloo is featuring locally grown mayhaws, using them in a glaze for ribs and in a cocktail called the Mayhaw 75.

A wild game cook-off will feature grilled nutria, raccoon, rabbit and possibly possum, Stafford said.

Two foraging expeditions will be hosted in New Orleans City Park and Audubon Park. On June 7, Audubon Institute chief entomologist Zack Lemann will lead a cooking demonstration using dragonflies and grasshoppers caught in the Manchac Wildlife Area.

“It’s a lot more of a celebration of the place if you’re using ingredients and cooking things that are really from here,” Stafford said. Those not participating in the challenge can still attend the events thought the cost of attendance may vary. 

Here are some of this year’s events:

Wild edibles rooftop dinner party – Purslane, persimmons, hickory nuts and paw paws are some of the locally grown ingredients guests can expect to find at the June 26 wild edibles party, held on the rooftop on the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center. Purloo chef Ryan Hughes will cook a meal composed of 90 percent Louisiana ingredients. The event runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Wild edibles talk and City Park foraging expedition – On June 19, Dr. Charles Allen, a senior botanist at Colorado State University, will talk to guests at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.) about a variety of edible plants found in the Gulf South. The next morning Allen leads an expedition through Couturie Forest in City Park where participants can forage for edible plants and several species of mushrooms. A similar expedition will take place at 5 p.m. that day in Audubon Park. The cost is $3 for Eat Local participants and $8 for the general public.

OCH Local Food Fest – Sample raccoon, nutria, rabbit and other locally foraged ingredients and plants at the annual food festival on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard on June 6.

Insect cooking demonstration - Audubon Institute’s chief entomologist Zack Lemann will cook several types of dragonflies, grasshoppers, mealworms and wax worms on June 7 at the Audubon Insectarium at 1 p.m.

Chicken raising workshop – Learn how to raise chickens and build a chicken coop at this June 14 workshop at Press Street Gardens at NOCCA. Local gardener and chicken keeper Margee Green will sell several chicks at the event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Beekeeping workshop – On June 20, Local beekeeper Jerry Burg will host a talk about what’s necessary to raise bees and help guests plan their own apiaries. Burg will give two presentations – which are free to the public – at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the Crescent City’s Farmers Market (700 Magazine St.)

Urban farm bike tours – In collaboration with Nola Social Ride, the Eat Local organizers have planned several bike rides to some of the city’s urban farms and community gardens. Participants will meet at the Zeitgeist Multi-disciplinary Arts Center on June 13 and 27 before exploring community gardens in the city.

The Eat Local Challenge ends on June 30. For more information and a complete list of events visit the Eat Local Challenge website. 

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