Collard Greens being cooked. Photo by Jessi Smith
Collard Greens being cooked. Photo by Jessi Smith
Nate Willis is with the Newtown Farmers Market. Photo by Jessi Smith
Nate Willis is with the Newtown Farmers Market. Photo by Jessi Smith
Tashika Newsom and Rosalyn Thomas just make really, really good shrimp, corn and sweet potato pie. Photo by Jessi Smith
Tashika Newsom and Rosalyn Thomas just make really, really good shrimp, corn and sweet potato pie. Photo by Jessi Smith

Eat Local Week: Big Mama's Collard Green Fest

Big Mama’s Collard Green Fest highlights the unique food events Sarasota has to offer.

Transition Sarasota 'Greater Sarasota Eat Local Week' (Oct. 22-30) kicked off on Saturday afternoon with a succulent soul food extravaganza at the Newtown Farmer's Market—presenting some of the most mouth-watering local bites Sarasota and Manatee County have to offer—in the first-ever Big Mama's Collard Green Fest.

This particular event pitted local residents against restaurant chefs to compete for the bragging-rights title of "Big Mama"—or, in other words, to determine who reigns supreme as King or Queen of the Collard Green in Sarasota and Manatee County.

"The magic of this is that we have all this amazing raw product that we sell at the farmer's market—and it's great local stuff. We've been looking for ways to really tie that product into this community that's known for its southern cooking," says Newtown Nation vice president and farmers Head of Economic Development, 'Mr. Lou' Murray.

Murray says that late-summer rain extended this year's collard green season, making October the perfect time to launch the first collard-centric festival in Sarasota — one of only a handful in the United States.

Foodie Extravaganza

A dozen competitors cooked up batches of their best family collard recipes on Saturday—with southern style, Cajun, Creole and Caribbean greens represented in the mix—and submitted them for a blind taste test by a judging panel selected by the event planning committee. Event attendees also had the opportunity to get in on the tasting action, and to feast on soul food offerings from local chefs and vendors who turned out for the festival, while enjoying live music at the farmer's market.

Nate Willis sels local produce
Nate Willis sels local produce

Foodie events are on the rise in Sarasota. Along with “Eat Local Week,’ there are several delicious feasts to attend, including the Suncoast BBQ and Bluegrass Bash, the Suncoast Food & Wine Fest, Savor Sarasota, Let’s Eat Englewood, and Forks & Corks, just to name a few. Virtually all of these events highlight local and regional chefs who excel in creating unique dishes, which highlight local delicacies and flavors.

Enjoy ‘Eat Local Week’ this weekend!

The first annual Big Mama's Collard Green Fest is just the beginning of what Transition Sarasota's 'Eat Local Week' has to offer in 2016. Each year, dozens of partners come together to celebrate the farm-to-fork dining movement in Sarasota and Manatee County with educational programs, farm and garden tours, "reskilling" workshops, community discussions, hands-on activities, and, of course, delicious local bites.  

This year's theme is 'Food Changes Everything,' an exploration of the interconnection between food and topics like health, social justice, and the environment. Check out the remaining activities during ‘Eat Local Week:’

Thursday, Oct. 27:

The nation's first 'green' building open to the public, Florida House, presents its Greener Homes and Gardens Tour at 5:30pm. The tour includes light, organically-grown bites from the garden and tours with Florida House Director John Lambe and gardener Camille Van Sant.

Whole Foods Market will host a Kombucha Workshop with speaker Aneta Lundquist, owner of Sarasota-based 221BC Kombucha.

Friday, Oct. 28:

The Englewood Farmer's Market hosts Food as Medicine, a series of events, demonstrations, health screenings, cooking and tasting demos, and more.

Saturday, Oct. 29:

Food as Medicine comes the Venice Farmer's Market with four booths including health screenings by the Sarasota County Health in Motion program, cooking demos by local chefs, nutrition presentations, and backyard gardening education.

Food as Medicine will also take place at the Bradenton Farmers Market on Oct. 29. featuring Dr. David Zamikoff of Natural Healing Arts Medical Center and Felicia Tappan of Slow Foods Kitchen.

Sunday, Oct. 30:

Bradenton's Geraldson Community Farm hosts its Fall Harvest Fest (1 p.m. to 5 p.m.) to celebrate local food with family-friendly fun that includes food, music, hayrides, a bounce house, and other kid-friendly fall-themed activities and games.

Local herbalist Cate McCullen will lead a one-hour 'Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk' through Sarasota's Arlington Park from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Learn how familiar plants growing right in your own backyard can be used for food and medicine.