…or just support your local farmers

Since I’m announcing things today, don’t forget to attend the 12th annual “That’s My Farmer” meet and greet, where you can learn more about our local CSAs.

This message is from the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, the folks who bring you your Locally Grown guide each year:

12th Annual That’s My Farmer!

Wednesday, April 6th, 6 – 8:30pm
First United Methodist Church, 13th & Olive
Doors open – 6:00pm
Program begins – 7:00pm
Suggested Donation: $5 per person/$10 per family
Come meet the heroes of the local food movement! Don’t miss your annual opportunity to meet the local farmers offering Community Supported Agriculture Programs (CSAs).
Subscribers to CSAs pay at the beginning of the season to become members of a farm, and receive a weekly box of fresh, nutritious and delicious food delivered to a convenient drop site throughout the growing season. There many CSA programs available, selling everything from fruits and vegetables, to grains, beans, meat, dairy and eggs.
That’s My Farmer is a unique partnership between 11 farms and 13 faith communities. Come and learn about your options for eating local, nutritious food all year.
There will be door prizes donated by participating farms, and Coconut Bliss for all.  Proceeds from the event go to the That’s My Farmer Low Income Fund to subsidize CSA shares for families in need. You can make a contribution to the fund at any time during the year.

 

get your vegetable starts here!

From the OSU Extension – Lane County Master Gardeners, we receive this clarion call to the land of ginormous cabbages:

The FOOD for Lane County (FFLC) Gardens Program is holding a one-day plant sale and fundraiser:  Saturday, April 2 from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 pm. [at the Grass Roots Garden at 1465 Coburg Road – read full details here.]

This year we will have: Blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries, assorted fruit trees, as well as healthy annual vegetable and herb starts grown at the Youth Farm including peas, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, artichokes, onions, shallots, leeks, green onions, kale, collards, mesclun mix, arugula, mustards, bok choy, dill, cilantro, kohlrabi, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, calendula, sweet peas, bachelor buttons, nasturtiums and so much more! In addition, shoppers will have their pick from thousands of edible and ornamental perennials, trees, shrubs and natives donated by 20 local nurseries.

This one-day event is a major source of funds to help cover operating costs for the GrassRoots Garden and the two other FFLC Gardens.  Master Gardeners who help with the sale will have first selection of starts they wish to buy.

If you’ve never seen the Grass Roots Garden, you must go.  What those kids do with a reclaimed plot of land behind a church is amazing.  The photo was taken there in the middle of winter a few years ago.

culinaria eugenius in woodburn: mission outlet antidote

I’m very pleased to report I took the advice of friends and ate at Luis’ Taqueria in Woodburn as I was on my way to Portland.

Woodburn is a old town with a large wart.  I hope the gigantic outlet mall on the west side of I-5 brings in dividends for the townspeople, I really do.  I’m sure it provides many jobs.  And truthfully, the shops aren’t bad.  But after watching hordes of bargain-hunters with glazed eyes and children grasping hungrily at the latest North Face jacket, I was feeling a bit claustrophobic.

So I went across the bridge into downtown Woodburn, which like many small Oregon towns, fronts the railroad tracks and has a line of wood-and-brick front late-19th century shops which have seen better days.  Unlike many Oregon towns, though, it has a highly visible Hispanic population, and all those shops are Mexican restaurants and markets!

The 2000 census put Woodburn’s population at around 50% Hispanic, but if that area is any indication, I’d put it at about 80%.  I noticed that there is a Hispanic culture festival of some sort each year, dating back at least to 1964, so the community has been around for at least that long, and surely longer.  And you can see it in the restaurants.  It was so nice to be in a vibrant taqueria with so many non-white faces eating very delicious food happily.  I think a taqueria is one of the most joyful places on earth.

The downtown area is depressed, make no mistake.  On 1st Street, there’s an abandoned movie theatre that was once probably pretty cool.  I saw some aimless men wandering around that area and slow moving patrol cruisers, never a good sign.  The internets also show some longstanding racial tensions in the community.  But you can also see civic pride initiatives at work, too, including a spit-shined locomotive engine that is on an Oregon historical register and, I think, open to visitors.

By the way, the town websites also tell me that there’s a sizable Russian population in Woodburn.  The Chamber of Commerce has a rather pastoral description of the Russian community, and puts the population at about 11% (2003).  I looked for Russian restaurants/markets in Woodburn, but couldn’t find any.  It could be that the community is, from the looks of it, ultra-Orthodox and not very open to outsiders.  I’m not sure.  But any leads would be appreciated.

I’ll be sure to check out some lovely churches the next time I go:

To view Woodburn’s Russian churches, take Highway 99E south from Woodburn 2 miles to Howell-Praire Road NE. Turn left (east) and travel 1/4 mile to Monitor-McKee Road. Turn left and travel 1/2 mile to Bethlehem Drive NE. The churches are all located in the area.

But back to the taqueria.  You have to eat at least one seafood ceviche tostada (left in picture).  Ceviche, of course, is that lime-juice cured mix of fish and shrimp with tomatoes, onions, hot peppers, and cilantro.  Don’t make the mistake I did and omit the order of tortilla chips, though.  The wet marinade makes the tostada sloppy eating with your hands (who has time for a fork, thought I).

And the carnitas taco was absolutely delicious, too.  You really can’t go wrong with fried pork.  You might be more adventurous and try the cabeza (pig head, which became a theme of the trip, as  you shall see in future posts), adobada (stewed beef), chorizo (spicy sausage) or chicharrones (pork rinds in a spicy sauce).  You can get your sopes (little boats made out of masa dough) fix or tamales (and even buy sweet or plain masa to make your own).  On the weekends, they have menudo and pozole soups.

The prices are great, the restaurant is family-friendly (but not obnoxiously so) and very clean.  I was warned in Spanish by the cleaning lady in the ladies room not to wash my hands until she had wiped down the sink that had been sprayed with “clor.”  The food is simple and comfortable — nothing fancy.  But make no mistake: they don’t cut corners.  All the tortillas are handmade as you wait, and the salsas and toppings are fresh and yummy.

I note with some sadness that a popular bakery on the strip has gone out of business, but a pristine and very well stocked butcher/grocer is still hawking its wares.  I noticed tubs of homemade dark red molé paste on the shelves, and I really regret not taking one home.  Next time!

fermentation nation: radish kim chi

For the upcoming fermented foods class, hosted by your very own Lane County Master Food Preserver Alliance on April 13, 6-8:30, I’ll be demo-ing radish kimchi, among other things. Isn’t it beautiful?

My favorite type of kimchi, when it’s good, is the radish cube kimchi left to ferment on the counter for a few days.  The Koreans call it “kkak ttu gi” or “ggak du gi,” and when it is properly juicy and bubbly, it will have almost a fizzy, live quality when you bite into a cube.

All that fermentation provides kim chi with all the health benefits of sauerkraut; the stuff is teeming with probiotics, vitamins A, B and C, iron and calcium.

But that’s not why we eat it.  We eat it because it’s delicious.

In Eugene, there aren’t many Korean restaurants that serve cubed radish kimchi, but they’re pretty standard in the ban chan collection of kimchi and pickles you see in big city Korean restaurants.  (They do sell radish kimchi at Sunrise Market, fyi.)  But it’s much better when you can make it at home.

All you need is a gallon or larger glass jar (the red pepper will stain plastic) and a trip to the local Korean market, where you will buy Korean red pepper (much milder than our ubiquitous chili flakes), a Korean radish (a.k.a. “moo”), tiny salted shrimp, garlic, ginger, and green onions.  I used garlic chives from the farmer’s market, too.  The Korean radishes vary in size, but most approximate an elongated cantaloupe, or a small football.

If you can’t make it to the class — where I’ll be providing my recipe and tips and samples — and you’d like a step-by-step illustrated recipe, this is a good, simple one.

Radish Cube Kim Chi

  • 1 large Korean radish (“moo”) or enough daikon for 6-8 cups cubes
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic (or throw into food processor with ginger)
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup fine (vs. coarse) Korean red pepper powder (“gochu karu”)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup Korean salted shrimp, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

Peel and cube the radish into 1-inch (no larger) pieces.  Salt and let sit in bowl on counter for 1-2 hours.  Drain the cubes and rinse in cold water.

Prepare the kimchi souse.  You can either make a paste in a food processor with the garlic, ginger, sugar and shrimp, or just finely mince everything and combine with the drained radish cubes.  Mix well with your hands (you might want to use gloves if your hands are sensitive to spice), massaging spices into the cubes.  Add a little bit of water to ensure everything is nice and pasty, and the souse covers the cubes.  Add the sesame seeds and scallions and mix well.

Place the kim chi in a gallon or larger-sized glass jar that has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.  I use a 3L hinged jar without the rubber ring, so I can close the jar but not seal it.  It helps to use a canning funnel to get the cubes into the jar — you’ll get red pepper paste everywhere.

Let sit on the counter for about 2 days, mixing and pushing down the radish cubes into the souse.  After it starts to bubble, let rest in the refrigerator for 5 days before eating.  If you can wait that long.  The fermented kim chi is the best, in my opinion, but you can actually eat the stuff at any point from right after you make it onward.  It will keep in the refrigerator for a few months, but the flavor will change over time.  Keep tasting, and eat it when it tastes best to you.  (The photo above is after a day of sitting on the counter, and the first two shots are immediately after being made.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

clean beans with hummingbird wholesale

Attention local food supporters and beaneaters!  The folks at Hummingbird Wholesale (with Slow Food Eugene) are looking for a couple dozen volunteers to sort and clean local dried orca beans next Saturday, April 2. Orca beans are those pretty black and white soup beans, also known as vaqueros or calypso beans.  Here’s a picture and recipe for orca bean and ham soup, what you may soon be eating, if you buy them!

This is a free event and kids are welcome as long as they respect the work party aspect of the event. Please RSVP to Erin Walkenshaw, the Hummingbird representative, at ewalkens@yahoo.com.  More information from an email they sent out, edited for space:

  • Hummingbird Wholesale Spring Bean Cleaning Spree
  • 2-5 pm on Saturday, April 2nd
  • First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive Street, Eugene

Get a chance to take part in building up our local food system! We have a whole hill o’ beans and they need to be sorted! This is a very easy task, but hugely important in making locally grown legumes a reality in our area. So come on out after your trip to the Farmers Market and enjoy the good company that getting something done together creates. We need able hands to commit to at least two hours of bean cleaning, during the rest of the time you are welcome to munch on some food and make some new friends. We are also planning a few distractions to mix up the bean cleaning and keep things rolling.

Hummingbird Wholesale has 1,600 pounds of locally grown Orca beans that were recently harvested, cleaned, and delivered to our warehouse, but they are not sale-able as there too many immature or overly dirty beans mixed in. Usually, a distributor would return beans in this condition to the farmer, thus the farmer would take another loss in an already difficult season. Instead, we are aiming to clean the beans without adding to the cost.  To pay more to have the beans sorted again by machine or by hand starts to make them so pricey that they become difficult to sell. The last thing we want is freshly harvested, locally grown crops languishing in our warehouse!

We also want to give the (first-time) farmers a decent price for their efforts, so growing crops like this is feasible for them.  Our Orca beans were grown on a Polk County, third generation farm just north of Corvallis. The farmers are Tyler Gordon and his girlfriend, Kelly Behne, both of whom are completing studies at Oregon State University. They planted two acres of transitional organic Orca beans on the 300 acre farm, which is owned by Tyler’s grandfather. (Ed note: the rain and slug problem this year created considerable losses to the crop, so a gesture like this is important to show our support.)

march showers bring march flowers

Have to keep reminding myself of spring, now that it’s here, and we’re still mired in that cold, damp weather that makes outdoor activities miserable.  Anyone have any rosemary flower recipes?  I have a giant, spear-straight rosemary that is the sole pollinator in my garden right now, and is thus covered in bees, but I’d be willing to sacrifice a few stalks for something wonderful.  I’ve seen recipes for rosemary flower biscuits and candied rosemary flowers, but the latter seems too fiddly and the former too floury.  Maybe a riesling jam with the flowers?  Or a simple syrup?

homemade hominy and other corny matters

What a sad story is corn in America.  Demonized now because of the commodification of agriculture and our reliance on feed corn, corn is viewed with a suspicious eye.  As a naïve Midwesterner, I’ve always loved corn.  I like popcorn, corn on the cob, cornnuts, cornbread, corn tortillas, corn salsa, tortilla chips, cornmeal, corn broth, corn chowder, corn stirfry…the list goes on.  The only kind of corn I don’t like is canned creamed corn.

Well, and high fructose corn syrup, which kind of starts out the same way.

I realized after reading Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, like so many of us did, that corn was a huge part of my diet as an American.  My very first diet seachange was to start cutting out preservatives and “hidden” sources of cheap corn in my food to shift my dollars away from Big Ag.

So I laughed in sympathy when Ayers Creek Farm owner Anthony Boutard began his talk for our Oregon Agriculture panel at the Food Justice Conference last month by shaking ears of corn at the audience, saying how mad he was that Pollan had ruined corn.

In 1922, McCall’s magazine ran an editorial on the introduction of new American fiction that would represent real, not nostalgic or idealized, American life…as American as corn.  I believe (partly as an addled corn addict, partly as a Midwesterner, and partly as a huge fan of Boutard’s corn) that we should rehab the reputation of American corn…as American as fiction.

We grow decent corn here in Oregon, believe it or not, and some of it is actually dried.  Homemade hominy is the perfect opportunity to start corn’s renaissance efforts.  I had the chance to make it last week, thanks to some red and yellow flint corn, already treated with hydrated lime, that Anthony brought down to Eugene for me.  Above, you can see a picture of the results: both my not-quite-successful attempt to remove the pericarp coating the inner kernel and the awesome freezing power of my new chest freezer, which just added a tiny bit of frost atop the corn.

Hominy can be pressure-canned or frozen.  I froze this batch because was a bit nervous about the stubborn clinging of the pericarp (the little nodule on the end is supposed to come off and didn’t, even with fierce rubbing) affecting the penetration of the heat in pressure canning, which sounds silly now that I type it.  Freezing is a lot less hassle.

My favorite use of hominy is what I call fake posole, a soup that isn’t even remotely like posole, save the pork and hominy.  I particularly like the combination of green chiles and pork.  In the soup pictured below, I simmered pork shoulder in a stock pot with onion, garlic, and bay leaf for a few hours, then shredded the meat and added some of my homemade salsa and a couple of cups of roasted chiles (frozen is fine) and the hominy.  The difference in using fresh (or fresh-frozen) hominy is that what’s usually mainly a starchy texture in the can becomes the most delicious, nutty, roasted corn flavor when you make your own.  It greatly enhances everything it touches, and I’ll never touch the canned stuff again.  For example, check out the pure white, washed out kernels in the soup (made with canned hominy), and the brilliant yellow and red stuff above.  The color differences, well, pale in comparison to the taste differences.

To make your own hominy, you’ll need hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide), also known as pickling or slacked/slaked lime (Spanish: cal, if you want to search for it in a Hispanic market), to break down the outer pericarp on the kernels.  I’ve also seen recipes from a very reliable source, the University of Georgia National Center for Home Food Preservation, that use lye (sodium hydroxide) or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

Edited to add, 2014:  I wanted to highlight Chef Mark Kosmicki’s method, as described in the comments below: “If you didn’t want to use chemicals, you could do this just fine with wood ash. I’ve done it recently with wonderful results. You just have to soak the corn in water the day before, then boil with a half cup ash per pound of corn, then boil till the skins are loose, an hour or two. Run it under water to clean, which is kind of hard.”
Also, in the intervening years between writing this post and editing it, I should mention that Anthony has published a fantastic book on corn, really a must-have for the locavore gardener/cook.  Expect science and recipes from renowned Portland chefs!

Here are Anthony’s instructions, slightly edited for clarity.  Enjoy!

Hominy

  • In an enamel pot (ed: important, since the lime is caustic and you don’t want it reacting with metal — I used my Le Creuset dutch oven and it cleaned up easily), add two tablespoons of hydrated lime per pound of corn.
  • Add water to cover the kernels by an inch or so.  Heat the pan to a bare simmer, don’t boil, and let cook for 40 minutes to an hour.  The solution will turn a lurid yellow and the fragrance of corn will fill the kitchen.
  • Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture steep overnight at room temperature or on the back stoop.
  • The next day, strain off the lime and liquid into the compost bucket (ed: will add calcium to your compost).  Rinse the kernels vigorously several times until they are clean.  The outer skin of the kernel, the pericarp will wash away (ed: I stress VIGOROUSLY and SEVERAL, but don’t worry if you don’t get it all off, since it’s still tasty.  I let it sit for two days and it was still hard to get the pericarp off).  The result is alkalinized corn, or nixtamal.
  • The nixtamal is cooked very slowly until it is tender, at which point it is called hominy. If you have a slow cooker, you can use it to cook the hominy (ed: highly recommended).  Fill your stockpot or slow cooker pot with the corn and fresh water.  Cover the kernels well, as they will absorb a good deal of water.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until the kernels split open as little flowers.  The hominy is now ready to use in a pozole or soup.