Fried snapping turtle, bear stew, stir-fried bunny and squirrel pizza were some of the wild foods prepared for the annual Wild Game Cook-off that takes place each year in Ellerbe, sponsored by the Richmond County Cooperative Extension and the Sandhills Rod & Gun Club.
Judges had a hard time choosing their favorites among the strange and unique dishes, some of which were sweet like pecan pie or cake.
According to Terry Sharpe, there was a record number of entries, topping out at 40 dishes. This year the youth group saw five entries, more than in the past. Sharpe has been to 12 of the 13 events.
“I thought the event was good, for two reasons,” said Sharpe. “We had a lot of kids enter and that’s always neat. And because we had 14 entries into the fruits, nuts and vegetables category. This started out as just a wild game cook-off and we’ve been trying to get more interest.”
Sharpe said he was busy helping out during the event and wasn’t able to sample every dish like he wanted to, but saw a dish that caught his eye.
“I thought the most unique thing I saw was squirrel pizza,” said Sharpe. “It’s such a neat idea.”
Judged as most authentic among all 40 entries was Blackberry Bread by Keith Thompson. In the Youth Category, Kayla Butler won overall with her dish entitled Stir Fry Bunny. Wild fruits, nuts and vegetables had 14 entries and Sandy Bryant won with her Black & Blue Crisp. Among six dishes in the wild fish and fowl category, Sylvia and George Angus Pate won with Dove Pie. There were also 14 dishes entered into the wild big game, small game and other mammals, and Terry Sharpe won the category with Deer Steak and Gravy.
“My favorite dish was probably the bear and beans stew,” said Extension Nutritionist Sarah Mammarella. “As a nutritionist, I would say that eating wild foods are a good addition to a balanced diet. We can be sure that no wild caught animal would have any unnatural antibiotics or steroids in them. However, the health and nutrition of foods (whether wild or not wild) has a lot to do with the preparation of the food. In other words, frying wild turkey would be just as unhealthy as frying store bought turkey. I think what surprises me the most at the Wild Foods Cook-off is the creativity of the cooks.”
“The 2013 Wild Foods Cook-off was a huge success again this year,” said Tiffanee Conrad-Acuña, livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. “We had approximately 100 people attend with about 40 dishes to taste. We had a lot of new youth participate this year. It’s exciting to see young people take an interest in the outdoors and cooking. People came from all over the state and other states to get a taste of the wild. I believe the Fish Gone Nuts dish cooked by one of our Richmond County youth had the most popular name.”
The Sandhills Rod & Gun Club, Martha Faye Crafters Club (formerly Extension Homemakers), and Richmond County Cooperative Extension sponsored the thirteenth annual Wild Foods Cookery Contest, held at the First Presbyterian Church in Ellerbe.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.