Celebrating National Picnic Month in the Mitten State
by Dianna Stampfler, Promote Michigan
The summer in Michigan is all about beach parties, camping and picnics with family and friends – even if that is a simple bar-b-cue in your own back yard on a hot summer day. Did you know, some of your favorite picnic foods and beverages are made right here in the Great Lakes State? As the second-most agriculturally-diverse state in the country, and a leader in quality food production, it’s no wonder that everything you need for a Pure Michigan picnic can be found locally!
Fire up the grill and choose your favorite sausages, brats or hot dogs from Flint-based Koegel Meats or Hamtramck-based Kowalski, throw it on an Aunt Millie’s bun (made at one of a half dozen bakeries in the state) and top it with Heinz Ketchup (made in Holland), McClure’s Pickle Relish (made in Detroit) and mustard from Brownwood Farms (made in Traverse City).
Deviled eggs are found in recipes dating back to ancient Rome, when they were traditionally served during the first course. In the Midwest, they’re a popular summer picnic offering. Michigan currently ranks #9 in egg production. Look for Vande Bunte Eggs from Martin, at Spartan Stores around Michigan (complete with the Pure Michigan logo).
Did you know that the average ear of sweet corn has 800 kernels? Or, that in an average year, Michigan produces nearly 90 million pounds for fresh market, worth more than $20 million? That means plenty of ears for family picnics…just don’t forget the Michigan butter!
One of the top side picnic side dishes is potato salad. Michigan ranks #7 in the nation for potato production with more than 90 growers harvesting 1.4 billion pounds each year (and contributing $164 million to the state’s economy, annually). Other key ingredients, like celery, onions, eggs and mustard can also be sourced locally.
Michigan is also the #1 grower of potatoes for the production of potato chips – with 70% of Michigan potatoes (round whites) turned into chips. Among the favorite producers are Better Made (from Detroit) and Great Lakes Potato Chips (from Traverse City).
Fresh fruit is a great snack while picnicking—and Michigan is harvesting plenty of peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, blueberries and even melons. Did you know Watermelon is thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa, with the first recorded watermelon harvest nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt? Forty-four states grow watermelon, ranking the U.S. fifth worldwide in production. Here in Michigan, Premier Melon Company in Schoolcraft is a top grower.
When it comes to dessert, Grand Traverse Pie Company dishes up some of the tastiest flavors and with more than a dozen locations statewide (along with distribution at many Kroger stores), you’re sure to find one that pleases you.
Whether served a la mode with your pie, in a cone or in a dish, ice cream is a must for any picnic. Hudsonville Ice Cream in Holland is a leading producer of packaged ice cream which can be found in stores around the state. You can also stop by local shops such as Sherman’s Ice Cream in South Haven, House of Flavors in Ludington or MOOmer’s in Traverse City (rated the best ice cream in the U.S. by Good Morning America). Oh, and as a footnote, July is also “National Ice Cream Month” and that’s big business for Michigan. You can read more on PromoteMichigan.com.
Of course, beverages are also part of the picnic menu. Stop by the market and pick up a variety of flavors of Faygo or Town Club Soda (both made in Detroit) or Northwoods Soda (made in Williamsburg, near Traverse City). Adults will also enjoy Michigan beer or Michigan wine, found throughout both peninsulas, from shoreline to shoreline.
For more about Michigan’s thriving agricultural industry, valued at more than $102 billion in economic impact, visit http://www.Michigan.gov/MDARD.
Dianna Stampfler is the president of Promote Michigan and is the publicist for the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival. She lives in northern Michigan and enjoys eating and drinking her way around her home state.