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Stevia on Display at New York Herbs Fair
by Patricia Doxsey
From The Daily Freeman - 2006-08-25

RHINEBECK - Through history, herbs have played an important role in human life, whether in matters of the heart, health, economics, or superstition.

Today, a variety herbs can be found in most kitchens, used by professional and amateur chefs to enhance the flavor of nearly everything edible.

At the Dutchess County Fair on Thursday, visitors to the Harvest Demonstration Kitchen got a lesson in working with herbs from Joan Madonna, the indoor greenhouse manager at Adams Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie.

It was one of a variety of cooking demonstrations offered daily in the seven-day fair's special kitchen.

An herbalist, Madonna showed visitors how to make a simple herb butter by mixing finely chopped fresh chives into softened unsalted butter.

A flavored vinegar, she said, can easily be made by filling a jar with a favorite herb, adding white vinegar and allowing it to sit for two weeks, turning the jar daily.

An herbal decongestant can be made by placing a mixture of horseradish, garlic, onion, and ginger in a jar that is then filled with apple cider vinegar.

"It provides temporary relief if you're congested, or, if you're very, very cold, a little of this will warm you right up," Madonna said.

Jane Hughes of New Hampton said she and her husband, Doug, attended the demonstration to get new ideas for using herbs.

"I cook with herbs, or at least I try to," she said. "I hope to pick up some pointers. I just don't know if I'll remember them when I get home."

Della Marintsch of Rifton was surprised to discover that another herb, Stevia, described by Madonna as a "natural sweetener," really was sweet.

"It's surprising," she said. "It tastes like sugar."

Among the roughly three dozen people in the audience for Madonna's demonstration was Paul Varco, the meat manager at Adams Fairacre Farms.

Varco was giving a demonstration later in the day on selecting and carving various types of meats, including the traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

He said it's a task performed by millions of people each year, but most carve a turkey improperly.

"Most people slice it right off the breast with the grain," he said. Slicing it in that manner, he said, creates slices that have long fibers, and the meat is tougher. It's better, he said, to remove the turkey breast from the bone, then slice against the grain.

Cooking demonstrations are offered throughout the day, at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., in the Harvest Demonstration Kitchen in the Arts and Crafts Building.

Jack Ford, responsible for lining up the demonstrations, said he designs the programs to "celebrate the bounty of the Hudson Valley."

"It's a celebration of regional foods, cooking and chefs," he said.

The Dutchess County Fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Sunday. Admission to the fair is $12 per person. Children under 12 are admitted free.


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