Demo: Home Beekeeping

The benefits of bees are almost endless, and home beekeeping is more than just a hobby. Bees help pollinate your garden vegetables, helping your crops be more productive, and they produce copious honey that they’re more than happy to share with you.

From 1 to 2 PM on Saturday, DC State Fair volunteer and urban beekeeper Toni Burnham will be discussing why keeping bees is so important for supporting urban greenspaces, how bees fit in with natural pollinators, and why it is not a crazy idea to include a hive with tens of thousands of bees in an urban yard or garden! A glass observation colony will be on display for Fair-goers to get up close and personal with bees, introducing us to the members of the bee family and the work they do. Toni will explain how a typical home beehive works and how home apiarist use beekeeping tools–veils, smokers, and more.

Toni is involved with the DC Beekeepers group, which is planning a beekeeping course in October. The details are still being determined, but if your interest is piqued by the Home Beekeeping Demonstration or you can’t make the Fair this weekend, e-mail to learn more about the beekeeping course!

Demo: Homebrewing

Nugget hops grown in DC, destined for an awesome homebrew
What better way to close out the Fair and kick off a beautiful Saturday evening than learning how to make your own brew?

From 4 to 5 PM, DC State Fair Homebrew Committee member Patrick Coonan will have homebrew equipment and ingredients on display to teach Fair-goers how they can make their own DC homebrew. Once you learn the basics, try it yourself at home and enter the Homebrew Contest next year!

This year’s Homebrew Contest winners will be announced at the beginning of the demonstration session, so be sure to stop by at 4 PM to meet DC’s top homebrewers!

Demo: Home Canning

If you’ve ever wondered how jams, jellies, and pickles were made, DC State Fair’s own Master Food Preserver has the answers. Nicole Donnelly, DC State Fair Board Member and past volunteer, will share tips, techniques, and guidelines for safely preserving your bounty at home. Baffled by botulism? Feel pressured by the pressure canner that has been sitting on the shelves all these years? Come by and ask your questions so you can feel confident entering next year!

Stop by the Fair from 3 to 4 PM on Saturday and learn some home-canning basics!

Demo: Growing Asian Vegetables

From 2 to 3 PM on Saturday, a local gardener, garden writer, and blogger will be featuring several kinds of Asian vegetables, discussing how to grow and prepare different varieties and sampling dishes that can be made with them.

Master Gardener trainee Wendy Kiang-Spray is a full-time high school counselor, but she also freelance writes for Heirloom Gardener, Washington Gardener, Kiki magazine, and the Garden Guides website. She maintains the blog Greenish Thumb and is working on a book about growing and cooking Chinese vegetables.

Wendy will be demonstrating how to prepare several Asian vegetables for cooking, including luffa gourd, bitter melon, winter melon, and lemongrass. She will also sample a winter melon soup, a tea, and a dessert that you can grow and prepare yourself.

Bottle gourds dangling from a trellis in Wendy’s father’s garden

Most of the vegetables Wendy grows in her small garden and those in her father’s large garden are authentically Chinese, she says. “The climate in Shantung, China, where my parents grew up, is very similar to ours, so it all translates well to our gardens here. Many Chinese veggies serve double-duty in that they can be eaten when young but also used as household items. The bottle gourd for example, is water-tight and can sometimes last for generations! Bamboo is eaten and is delicious, but it is also made into household objects, furniture, building material. Some of the veggies that grow in more tropical climates, we can try here, but with patience and some good strategies. Lemongrass, for example, we need to grow as annual plants, or plant in containers and move inside to a sunny window to overwinter. Asian greens are famous bolters. To stay a step ahead, we try to be diligent about growing greens in cool weather – autumn is ideal for many Chinese greens. I personally think many Chinese veggies are just gorgeous too. Growing up, I remember the beautiful large plants like the Chinese long bean that grows hanging down in pairs, the whole plant creating so much shade the garden looks like a magical place. The bottle gourds right now suspend from their trellises like lanterns.”