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From cook to grower in Raleigh

Collard Green Wraps are a modern take on the beloved collard green.
Collard Green Wraps are a modern take on the beloved collard green.

James Edwards’ path to the farm passed through the kitchen.

Edwards, 34, grew up in Seagrove and studied culinary arts at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. After graduation, he spent six years in New York City working as both a waiter and cook at various restaurants, including Moran’s, a longtime Irish restaurant in West Chelsea.

“I was trying to learn every thing I could to prepare myself to open a restaurant,” Edwards said.

Edwards returned to North Carolina to renovate a 1,400-square-foot storefront in Albemarle for a restaurant. He opened Off the Square Restaurant in 2010, but was frustrated by the lack of locally grown food in the area. He decided to turn to farming. “I wanted to go deeper in the food system,” Edwards said.

About two years ago, Edwards started helping build infrastructure at the Raleigh City Farm, a nonprofit farm with a mission to encourage farm entrepreneurship. Edward built the farm’s shed and cistern, among other things. When there was an opening for a head farmer, Edwards stepped into that role.

Edwards has been the head farmer at Raleigh City Farm for about nine months. He grows vegetables and fruits on the one-third acre to sell to restaurants, such as Poole’s Diner, Busy Bee Cafe, Garland, Standard Foods and Stanbury. The farm also has a CSA (community-supported agriculture), a weekly share of produce for consumers, and an on-site farm stand where food is sold to the public.

Customers also benefit from his culinary training as Edwards shares recipes for each week’s produce on the farm’s blog. A current one is for Collard Green Wraps.

This is an excellent time of year to cook greens, and Edwards’ recipe shares a neat trick for converting those lightly cooked collards into wraps by shaving the stem. It looks like Raleigh has more to look forward to from Edwards.

He has one long-term goal in mind: “Before I’m 40, I want to open a restaurant in Raleigh supplied by my farm.”

Andrea Weigl: 919-829-4848, @andreaweigl

Meet the Farmer

From April to December, farmer James Edwards of Raleigh City Farm sells from 9 a.m.- noon Saturdays at the farm, 800 N. Blount St., Raleigh. Follow Edwards on Twitter and Instagram: @organicist

Info: raleighcityfarm.com

See a complete list of local farmers markets at nando.com/1ap.

Collard Green Wraps

From James Edwards and Charlotte Coman of Raleigh City Farm.

1 bunch collards, about 3/4 pound

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup sorghum

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 pound shiitake and oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 medium sweet potato, grated with a cheese grater (about 1 cup packed)

1 head tatsoi, thinly sliced

1 head pak choi, thinly sliced

5 ounces baby kale

1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Sea salt and pepper

Garnish: Thinly sliced radish and microgreens (optional)

Blanch the collard greens: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for blanching. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, carefully shave the stem on the back of the leaf until it is flat with the leaf, then cut the stem off at the leaf’s base. Blanch collards until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from water to colander, let drain and set aside to cool.

Make the sauce: Mix Dijon mustard with sorghum until well-combined. Set aside.

Make the filling: Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms until golden brown. Add garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.

In the same pan, add sweet potato, tatsoi and pak choi. Sauté until tender. Remove from heat and add to bowl with mushrooms. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Fold baby kale into warm mixture, then fold in cheese. Add 1/4 cup sauce to the mix, stirring to combine.

Lay each collard leaf flat and spoon filling down the center. Roll up like a burrito. Repeat.

Garnish with radish and microgreens. Drizzle with the remaining sauce.

Yield: 8-10 servings.

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