Experiencing a new culture is like entering a whole new world of sights, sounds, smells, and textures. Jeff Harlow grew up in Winston-Salem; he was an avid vegetable gardener and sold many vegetables to the neighbors. He then moved to India, where he learned the art of growing herbs and mushrooms in the rural area of India called Ooty. Ooty is famous for growing herbs, teas, and mushrooms. He moved back to Carteret County three years ago, but he never lost his love of cooking.
For the past ten years, Jeff has focused on healthy cooking for his family. This culinary journey helped him learn how to use fresh herbs and mushrooms to accentuate food flavors and what herbs and mushrooms bring out the flavors in different kinds of food. As he got better at cooking with fresh herbs, Jeff started educating himself on their health benefits. He found out unexpectedly that these culinary herbs are beneficial for maintaining skin health. These benefits were a blessing to learn because he suffers from eczema, and his fresh herbs help with this. This information became the backdrop for starting Fresh Epicurean Farms to grow fresh herbs and mushrooms and create herbal skincare products under the name Fresh Soft Skin. Jeff says, “I like improving people’s lives. At the Olde Beaufort Farmers’ Market, I educate customers on healthy ways to use fresh herbs and mushrooms in cooking, best ways to grow herbs, and educate them on the herbal properties for good skin health.”
The weather in Carteret County is very similar to the Mediterranean climate, perfect for producing flavorful herbs and mushrooms, and was the ideal place for him to start a farm. It is also a place with high-quality restaurants and gift shops to sell fresh herbs and herbal skincare products. Another influence in creating an herb and mushroom farm was learning herb and mushroom cultivation in India. His farm is named Fresh Epicurean Farms because Epicurean refers to “a person devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially from fine food and drink.” Since farming is a cyclical business and he wanted to sell products throughout the year, Jeff also decided to sell his natural, herbal skincare products. Fresh Epicurean Farms sells to restaurants, home cooks, and people seeking natural herbal skincare products that are chemical-free.
Jeff adds, “I love when chefs and restaurant owners light up and get excited knowing that they can get fresh herbs and mushrooms, home-cooks telling me the food dishes that they are going to cook, and how excited people get about understanding how fresh herbs can be used for good skin health. Also, hearing stories of people who have told me how the product has helped their dry, itchy skin and muscle soreness. The other part of the business I like is getting to be outdoors and care for the plants and mushrooms.”
His two favorite herbs to grow are basil and chive blossoms. He says, “The reason for basil is there are so many different kinds of basil to choose from when it comes to cooking a variety of dishes from Indian to the Mediterranean to Italian recipes as well as the use of basil in skincare. These varieties of basil are Sweet Basil, Italian Basil, Thai Basil, Purple Basil, Lemon Basil, and Spicy Global Basil. The two customer favorites are Sweet Basil and Thai Basil. Sweet Basil is versatile in cooking many of the customer’s favorite foods and making pesto. Chive blossoms are delicious, and chefs and home cooks are curious about using these blossoms that have a light onion flavor.”
Promoting cooking at home using fresh herbs and mushrooms and educating people about natural ways of good skin health helps people have a healthy and natural mindset. This mindset makes cooking fun and shows the home-cook how to prepare their favorite meal that they might order at a restaurant. In addition, a healthy lifestyle helps combat the disease of diabetes and high blood pressure. Visit Jeff’s website for a variety of fresh herbs at Fresh Epicurean and an array of skincare products at Fresh Soft Skin.
“From Our Field to Your Table”
Grilled Mushrooms Kabobs
16 pearl onions
20 medium fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup butter, cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Minced fresh parsley, optional
In a small saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add pearl onions; boil 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Peel.
On four metal or soaked wooden skewers, alternately thread mushrooms and onions, skewering mushrooms horizontally through the cap. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine vinegar, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper; microwave, covered, on high until butter is melted, 30-45 seconds. Whisk to combine. Reserve half the vinegar mixture for serving. Brush kabobs with the remaining vinegar mixture.
Grill kabobs, covered, over medium heat or broil 4 in. from heat until vegetables are tender, 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally and frequently basting with vinegar mixture. If desired, sprinkle with parsley; serve with reserved vinegar mixture.
Rebecca Jones is a contract writer for the Carteret News-Times and a member of the Carteret Local Food Network blog writing team. She was born and raised in the Piedmont Triad area where she spent most of her life. She has two grown children and 6 grandchildren. Writing has always been a part of her life and she believes that it is a way to showcase and bring awareness to events that affect your community. In April of 2018, Rebecca and her husband George moved to Beaufort, NC. Her most recent two books, Love Brings You Home (about Hurricane Florence) and Go Deep (a devotional with photos), are sold locally and on Amazon.