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Posted March 25, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Farm fresh food: Upcoming fall classes will teach value of local produce

Melinda Bremmer
Melinda Bremmer, of Middletown, holds fresh white gingerbread made from her grandmother’s recipe, which she has upscaled with apples. Bremmer will be teaching cooking classes at Richard’s Fruit Market on Middle Road this fall, completing the series with the apple class on Oct. 10. Photos by Rich Cooley/Daily

Melinda Bremmer
Bremmer displays a sampling of her canned goods, from left, sweet cherry preserves, squash pickles, peach jam, canned peaches and apple sauce. The canning class will take place on Aug. 29.

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By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

MIDDLETOWN -- Considering growing your own produce to save grocery money but wondering what you'll do with the food once you grow it?

Richard's Fruit Market on Middle Road in Middletown will have the answers to your cooking questions this fall, when it introduces a series of classes called Farm Fresh Recipe Seminar, focusing on teaching participants to work with locally grown produce and turn it into a masterpiece -- on the cheap -- in their very own kitchens.

Registration for classes is just around the corner, though, so start looking at your calendar.

Eddie Richard, owner of Richard's Fruit Market, says he hopes to entice Northern Shenandoah Valley residents to become more interested in making their own food at home.

"Planting the seed of 'Oh, we can do this,'" he says is a reason he is planning for the classes months in advance.

"You have to plant your garden in May, so to get ahead of the game, if they're thinking of this," Richard says, it's never too early for people to start thinking about the fall.

The series will consist of six classes from August through October, offering information about peaches, tomatoes, canning, beef, wine and apples. Those interested are invited to sign up for as few or as many as they want. They will receive a $5 discount on the series price if they register by June 15. The normal cost is $95 for the series or $18 per single session.

Melinda Bremmer, of Middletown, will teach the classes, bringing a lifetime of knowledge with her.

"My mom was a baker, a nutritionist, a home economics teacher," she says, adding that she has carried the tradition of baking into her own adulthood.

"Cooking was her favorite thing in the world," Bremmer says of her mother. "She made a different dessert every single night. She made everything from scratch."

Bremmer feels she is a better baker than cook.

One of Bremmer's favorite desserts to make is pie, and she adds a personal touch to each one.

"I can't just make a normal crust," she says, explaining that she often makes a crust to resemble leaves, flowers or other designs. More than just a personal interest, her talent for crafting pies into artwork has gained her a reputation -- at least in her own family.

"All of my kids, for their birthdays, they ask for pies instead of cakes," she says.

The joy of making one's own food is an experience Bremmer and Richard say they hope to share with their students this fall.

"It's a self-esteem thing ... it makes you feel good to say 'Look what I did,'" Richard says.

Richard and Bremmer decided to offer the cooking series partly because of need in the community for less expensive food, as well as a desire to show that homegrown or locally grown food tastes better than food that has been shipped from across the country.

"I'm trying to keep up with the times in a sense of people's needs," he says.

One of the classes will focus on canning, because he says he feels many people do not know how to can foods to eat throughout winter and spring.

"We're just getting back to basics, getting the most out of your dollar," he says.

Bremmer stresses the money saved by making meals and desserts at home is reason enough to learn the trade.

"It's just phenomenally less expensive to buy them locally," she says of apples in particular. "You can make 'em last," she adds -- by storing apples in a bag in the refrigerator for up to three months.

The experience in teaching the classes will also offer Bremmer a chance to grow her career locally. Making the transition from a marketing and consulting business, Bremmer moved to Middletown from Alexandria in December looking for something new and bringing with her an interest in agriculture and cooking.

"I grew up in a semi-rural area and always wanted to grow up on a farm," she says.

Recently investing in some cherry trees as well as a chicken coop and a pair of bunnies, she has tossed her figurative farmer's hat into the throng of local growers in the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

"I look at life as a life-long learning experience ... and I like learning new things all the time," she says.

Richard says he hopes the classes will improve residents' interest in locally grown produce.

"I make an attempt to try to come up with new things that make people [buy locally]," Richard says.

"A lot of folks don't have as much money now, times are tight," he says.

"It's really going to benefit their pocketbook," says Bremmer.

Richard's Fruit Market, located at 6410 Middle Road in Middletown, offers 17 varieties of apples and eight kinds of peaches, as well as tomatoes, green peppers, squash, pumpkins and gourds, eggs, beef and pick-your-own flowers when available. To register for classes or for more information, call 327-6166 or visit the Web at www.Richards FruitMarket.com.

Fall seminar info

The Farm Fresh Recipe Seminar will include recipe demonstrations, fun facts, historical information and tasting.


  • Aug. 1: Peaches

  • Aug. 15: Tomatoes

  • Aug. 29: Canning

  • Sept. 12: Beef

  • Sept. 26: Wine

  • Oct. 10: Apples


  • $95 for the series or $18 per class

  • Register: By June 15 to get $5 off series price

Call for more information and to learn times of classes: 327-6166.

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