winter csa and farm produce options

IMG_5405 Since I grow a garden most of the year and buy in bulk for preservation projects, I don’t opt for a summer CSA (community supported agriculture farm produce share). But since I get extremely busy in the fall and extremely cold and wet in the winter, I happily rely on winter CSAs to get me through.

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IMG_4010For the past few years, I’ve bought a share in Open Oak Farm’s winter CSA because they grow vegetables I like, plenty of escaroles, and offer a bean and grain supplement with locally grown dried beans and whole grains and flours. Alas, they have decided to stop the CSA this year, and you can see why from the photos above of their seed development activities at a recent farm open house. All these vegetables need to be cleaned and turned into seed over the wet months.

Alas, winter CSAs are few and far between.  I’ve also enjoyed Good Food Easy from Sweetwater Farm in the past, which has a flexible CSA paid monthly, and a variety of good vegetables and fruits through the winter.  Farm management has recently shifted from Farmer John and his lovely partner Lynn to their wonderful manager Erica Trappe, so we’re expecting even more good things.  Note to low-income folks: they even accept foodstamps!

To branch out a little, I have chosen Telltale Farm this year, a small woman-run concern out River Road owned and managed by Tatiana Perczek.  They offer some wonderful options, including wildcrafted mushrooms, a Deck Family Farms egg supplement (much appreciated now that my egg trade friend has divested from his chickens), and, best of all, a “small” option just perfect for one cook.

Another welcome winter CSA is the Lonesome Whistle Farm bean and grain share CSA.  They don’t seem to have a link on their website, so here is some information and a link to their Facebook page.  (Again, I implore local businesses to make announcements in a concise paragraph that’s easy to cut and paste for social media — you will get more free advertisements if you make it simple for others to help your PR):

As a “shareholder” in [Lonesome Whistle’s] Grain and Bean CSA, you pay upfront and share in the harvest – getting a one-time distribution of 64 pounds of various heritage grains, polenta, popcorn, and heirloom beans. The crops have been planted, harvested, processed, and cleaned by December. Shareholders get to choose between a Farmer-Ground Share, or a Home-Millers Share. This year’s Farmer-Ground Shares will include:

Red Fife Wheat Flour: 8 pounds
Dark Northern Rye Flour : 8 pounds
Steven’s Soft White Wheat Flour: 8 pounds
Abenaki Corn Polenta: 12 pounds
Corn Flour: 4 pounds
Dakota Black Popcorn: 8 pounds
Emmer berries (AKA Farro): 8 pounds
Heirloom Beans: 8 pounds

Home-Millers Shares will be the same as above, except it will be all in the whole grain form for you to mill at home. […]Shares will be ready for pick-up at our CSA Distribution Farm Party on Saturday, December 14th between noon -5pm at the farm. Grain & Bean Shares cost $292.00 each. More information: jeffandkasey@lonesomewhistlefarm.com or 541-234-4744.

Looking for other fall farm produce this winter?  May I suggest apples, squash, and frozen berries for fall canning from Hentze Farm in Junction City?  It’s a century farm open until Christmas, and like Lonesome Whistle, they’ve had a hard year.  Gordon Hentze is a major supporter of Lane County Extension programming, donating bushels of produce to Master Food Preserver classes, which are essential in keeping costs low to serve our community.  Join them for a hot air balloon ride, wagon rides, and live music at their Fall Festival on October 12 and 13!

On your way up River Road, be sure to check out the new Groundwork Organics farm stand across the street from Thistledown Farm.  It’s a renovated dairy building that I understand will be open for a short while to test out the possibilities, then will reopen next year.  Check out photos of a recent CSA open house in the building and information here.

IMG_4052IMG_4050 IMG_4047And last but not least, help the grain farmers at Oregon-Innovators-award-winning Camas Country Mill, who give so much to our community by donating local beans to food banks and have played a dramatic role in reviving local grain production in Oregon, raise money to restore a one-room school house on their property.  The school house will be used for community programming.  Flexible funding campaign details for the School House Project here.  It’s really moving — check it out!  We dined on farm grains at a fundraiser a few weeks ago (cover photo).  Delicious food courtesy of Party Downtown (above, sprouted lentil and basil cheese spread on wheat crackers and sun-dried tomato flax crackers (served with salami bruschetta); barley risotto carbonara). And that’s Farmer Tom Hunton being sweet to his mother, if you weren’t convinced already.

What else is out there for winter farm produce options?  Please help out and share your favorites in the comments.

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halloween came early in vegas, glad to be home

It’s been an intense month, but I’ve got a bit of breathing room.  It’s been a struggle to reorganize my priorities to spend more time strengthening my leg as I learn how to get full range of motion again, but it needs to be done.  I do less in a day so I can spend more time exercising and going to the gym.  But that’s ok for now.

Walking and taking photos has been a pleasure.  Since I’m so slow, I can see a great deal.  Walking downtown has been thrilling, seeing all the new food businesses emerge (a long overdue restaurant post will come soon, I promise). I’m also really excited to have been part of a team studying some possibilities for a food studies program at University of Oregon.  We went up to OSU to meet a number of Oregon scholars interested in a food studies coalition of sorts, then hosted several eminent food studies faculty from other institutions back at home.  I hope something good comes out of it all.

I’ve been planning some events with my food research group on campus, including the visit from Sandor Katz on November 16, too.  Then I spent a half-week in Las Vegas at a literature conference last week.  I’m still haunted by the Strip, where I saw Dora the Explorer and Freddy Kruger mingling among the tourists outside the Flamingo.  And don’t even get me started about what was inside.  Halloween came early!

Creepy, no?  The talking animated tree was at the Bellagio and the talking Neptune posed between the Nike swoosh and a Cheesecake Factory logo was part of an inaudible animatronic show depicting the fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace.  The eyebrow-raising relief of Roman soldiers raping naked women, also Caesars Palace.  Check it out and its companion piece of Roman soldiers beating men when you enter the slot machine area.  No fucking joke.

I did enjoy seeing colleagues at the conference, where I presented my work on sexual modernity and on modernist food, and the Flamingo wasn’t a bad place to stay at all.  My room was very clean and the hall was absolutely silent.  Couldn’t ask for more, especially in the middle of the decline of Western civilization.  Great meals, too, at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and Lotus of Siam, a hole in the wall place off the Strip in a mini-mall, made famous by Jonathan Gold a few years ago.  I had a noteworthy lamb leg with apples and blanched rutabaga cubes with a wonderful bottle of wine at the former, a pounded Northern Thai jackfruit and pork “dip” and a puffed rice and sausage dish at the latter.

But now I’m home sweet home, and couldn’t be happier to see my friends and neighbors and farmers at the market this weekend.  I walked around on my own for the first time in months, and it was a little hard, but I managed, even in the rain.

I skipped the zombie Thriller in Kesey plaza.  I had seen enough Halloween.  Instead, I reminded myself of how dazzling our fall produce is.  The hard winter squashes in yellows, oranges, reds, and slate blues are gorgeous, especially with the multi-hued peppers that remain, but I more stimulated by baskets of quinces and huckleberries at the gourd guy’s booth, brilliant red and gold flint corn polenta at Lonesome Whistle (their first go at flint corn!), and tiny American persimmons at Grateful Harvest alongside Concord grapes and the rest of the Italian prunes and fall strawberries. The weird weather created a stellar apple crop.  I bought some huge, delicious Pippins from Hentze farm, and drooled over Dave Biancalana’s description of his apple cider pork sausage with rosemary and apples.  There were golden raspberries and juicy Napa cabbage and new ginger (!!) at Groundworks Organics.  My favorite White Russian kale was available at Ruby & Amber’s Organic Oasis (I hope I’m remembering this one correctly). Cider from River Bend farm and roasting peppers were enticing us at the front of the market.  Someone whose name I forgot was selling local sweet potatoes, an important item of note for Thanksgiving.

As for what’s coming:  the mushrooms are sprouting up, especially golden chanterelles.  Beans and grains are being sorted and cleaned right now: expect the new crop very soon.  I’m pretty sure the hazelnut crop got swept up before the rains, too, so that means great plump filberts.  Walnuts should be here soon, and cranberries.  Time for homemade cran-vodkas, my favorite fall drink!

I love this little valley, this great state.  I’m so glad I’m here to share it with you.

please, sir, i want some more: whole-grain morning gruel

Living with 100 lbs. less of a husband, and a newly minted marathoner yet (training for his first full one), causes some food clashes in a house formerly dominated by the taste principle of cooking.  Alas. But even with my weak willpower and distaste for nutritionism in American food rhetoric, I had to admit that my 20-year habit of eating a big white bagel in the morning was Not Good.  I would often start to crash and need a small snack around 10:30 a.m., and then turn into a raging bi…g white bagel if I didn’t have lunch by 1 p.m.  I had tried many times to change and found myself crashing even harder with cold cereal or oatmeal.  Adding cream cheese or butter to toast didn’t seem to help, either, and I found anything heavy and savory, like eggs, revolting in the morning.

I’ve really come around on the eggs issue, though, and after my strict debagelization training regime with Retrogrouch, I now usually can eat a fried egg with a piece of thin pumpernickel German toast in the morning, as long as it’s not first thing.

But he’s taken, lately, to making an overnight porridge with whole grains, not the chopped or rolled version you see in packaged grain porridge.  I took to calling it gruel as a joke because of its austerity, but it’s anything but thin and watery. [Edited to add: he has switched over to the crock pot, thank god.  It affects the texture and makes it slightly more gluey, but it’s still good.]

The gruel usually features oat groats that we get locally from Camas Country Mill.  He’s also done it with ryeberries from Open Oak Farm, also local, and occasionally with Open Oak’s wonderful purple barley, which we’ve been eating quite a bit of since he’s returned from his leave in Seattle.  What these grains share in common is that they are not processed at all but left whole and un-pearled or rolled, processes that break down the groat so it is more easily digestible, but removes some of the nutrients.

Retrogrouch makes his gruel even more healthy with the addition of flax meal, which may not be to everyone’s taste.  Whole grains lack the starchy quality of those that have been pre-digested.  I find flaxmeal tastes like mealy wheat germ, and the texture is difficult for me, but it does add some “stick to your ribs” quality that using whole grains lacks.  He also adds whole flax seeds and chia seeds, the latter currently trending in pop nutrition circles, which add crunch and a pleasant slipperiness.  He adds no sugar or salt, but I think it would benefit from a pinch of salt.

It’s critical to note that the gruel cooks very, very slowly for about 12 hours.  He claims it is better than the version he’s tried at half the time, because the grains finally break down and yield a creaminess (see above).  However, at 12 hours, I constantly worry about him burning the bottom of the pot.  So far there have been no casualties.

He likes to add frozen thawed blueberries and walnuts as a topping in the morning and eat gruel as a snack throughout the day.  I, being my own weak self, prefer cream and brandied apricots with a little vanilla powder, and can’t fathom eating it more than once every few days.  But surely there’s a happy medium.  And it’s really quite good.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you couldn’t go back to regular oatmeal (or god forbid a bagel) after trying it.

[ETA:  You can find oat groats in the bulk section of better supermarkets, including Market of Choice.  Retrogrouch also wants me to explain that he uses oat groats not merely because he likes the flavor, but they have more protein than other grains. Chia seeds add protein and fiber; chia and flax also are high in Omega-3 fatty acids]

Do you like this kind of information/post?  Let me know in the comments.  I don’t want to turn this into a health food blog, but if you like Retrogrouch’s very different approach, I’m happy to include more from him.

Whole-Grain Gruel

  • 1 cup oat groats (best from Camas Country Mill)
  • 4 tablespoons Chia Seed
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed meal
  • 4.5 cups water

No need to presoak the grains.  Bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring frequently to incorporate the meal and to break up the chia seeds, which tend to clump. Lower temperature to the lowest setting (we use our gas stove’s simmer burner) and heat gently for 12 hours.  If you have an electric stove, you may want to use a crockpot instead.  Once you have the technique and your own stove’s capacity down, just stir every couple of hours, but you might want to be more vigilant to make sure nothing is burning on the bottom of the pan.  Be particularly careful in beginning of the cooking process because the flax meal goes to bottom and may stick.

For cooking in the crock pot, just add all ingredients and cook on high for the first couple of hours, stirring every hour or two to integrate the water that rises to the top and scrape the sides, which cook more rapidly. Turn to low for 3-4 more hours to finish cooking.  Won’t be hurt if it gently cooks overnight.

Makes about 4-5 cups of gruel.  Can be refrigerated for several days.

harvest time and the livin’ is easy

We’ve entered the time of year we dream about for the other 11 months, that juicy, sweet, lazy crest of summer in Oregon. It takes effort to do anything we’re all so full of endorphins, so happily disengaged.  The land of the lotus eaters ain’t got nothing on us.

But if you (meaning me) can pull yourself away from that glass of Pimm’s cup and grilled lamb, prepare for the cloudy days ahead with canning.  Aw heck, just buy and eat it all fresh.

Raspberries.  Get ’em while you can, preferably today or tomorrow.  We’re in the last throes.  Riverbrook Farm on E. Beacon Drive off River Road is out and closed for the season.

Boysenberries, ditto.

Marionberries, ditto times two.  Our main season blackberries are starting to come in and that signals the end for the specialty crosses.

I did find a U-pick for blackcap raspberries (!!) on Beacon down the street from Riverbrook.  Go. Immediately.  They were closed on Sunday but they might have a day or so left, I’m not sure.  Never seen a blackcap?  Look at the picture or read more here about Huerta de la Familia’s pioneering project.  That’s my plant above, but they’re small compared to what you can get from Huerto or the farm I found today.

Blueberries — great crop this year.  Buy in volume and eat with abandon.  U-pick all over the place, too.

Pickling cucumbers are in full force at farms, for those of you who pickle.  Buy them in 10- and 25-lb. bags in small, medium, large, and XL (I go for medium, since they’re easiest to wedge in jars).  Those of  you who pickle surely know this already!  Do buy a big armful of dill and freeze the heads now for use all year.  Frozen dill heads are superior to fresh ones in pickling.  Make with the clicky for my recipes and tips.

Beans are good to go for pickling, too, and looking great.

The first ‘Bodacious’ corn has appeared.  This is a local celebrity, but I think it might not be my favorite (tho’ I’ve never said no to an ear of corn, so I’ll thankfully eat it and any other corn I can get).

Beautiful cabbages, heavy with juice, are also widely available.  Now’s the time to make bright fuchsia sauerkraut before the summer dries out the less hearty red heads.  They (who? I dunno, just “they”) say, however, that green cabbage needs a frost to make the best kraut. You decide. I, for one, can’t wait.  The small heads will weigh about 5 lbs. right now (about twice as heavy as a supermarket cabbage of the same size), so don’t buy too much!

Albacore season has started.  I helped out at a Master Food Preserver canning class (which are all full, by the way, sorry).  Get on next year’s class list (!) by following the information in local food writer (and MFP!) Jennifer Snelling’s recent article in the Register-Guard or try your own by following my instructions, which are an annotated version of the Extension-researched and approved recipe she posted in the article.

Peaches have just started.  Non-local apricots are still on the shelves.  They’re generally from E. Washington, not California, which is good news.  First plums, too.

Good prices on Hermiston watermelon and cantaloupe.

And for that fresh blackberry pie?  Pick up some flour for your dough at Camas Country Mill at the Saturday Lane County farmers market downtown or Springfield farmers market on Friday.  Really a brilliant interview with Tom and Sue Hunton of Camas on “Food for Thought” today, perhaps their best yet.  Listen to the archive if you want to hear a firsthand account of how life in the south valley is changing for grass seed farmers — or at least how it can change in a very positive and sustainable direction with some capital and vision.  I’m so proud of these folks it almost hurts.  Oh, and by the way, here’s my adaptation of Camas Country Mill teff cookies, mentioned in the broadcast. :)

What else is in season?  What are you loving?

teff chocolate chip cookies to convert the masses

My creative bone is broken, and I just couldn’t come up with a funny name for these delicious cookies.  Tefferonis?  Teffnuts?  Tefferdoodles? Teffochippers? Terreffics?

See? Broken.

But the important thing is that they taste good and the texture is more interesting than regular wheat flour chocolate chip cookies. The teff flour is not husky like whole wheat; it’s rather more sandy or gritty in an appealing way because the hulls are so much smaller than wheat.

And small is the name of the game.  Teff is like quinoa or millet that shops in the petite section.  It’s an ancient, nutritive grain grown in Ethiopia…and now the Willamette Valley!  We’ve had access to Bob’s Red Mill teff for quite some time now, but Tom Hunton of Eugene’s Camas Country Mill has decided to try growing it, with great success.

I’ve described my own battles with injera, an Ethiopian flatbread made of teff, and I’ve heard that teff makes a good “enhanced” brownie, but I’m happy to report there’s a new teff recipe in town.  Tom was distributing a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipe with his flour on sale at the Saturday farmers market in Eugene.  He said it was provided to him by Heidi Tunnell of catering/barn dinner fame.

Sounded good to me, so I took it home and changed up a few things to allow for what I had in the refrigerator.  There are quite a few versions of this cookie on the internet (I think it originally was printed on the Bob’s Red Mill teff flour bag), so if you don’t have these ingredients on hand, look for an adaption that suits you.

My biggest change was using almond butter instead of the peanut butter called for in the recipe, and I added just a touch more oil, since I was worried about the difference in consistency and fat mouthfeel between crunchy almond butter and, say, a conventional peanut butter.  I find the cookies really sweet already, and adding regular peanut butter would tip the scale into unpleasantness for me (but take this with a grain of salt, o sugareaters).  This didn’t stop me from adding more chocolate chips, though, since the 1/2 cup originally called for seemed more of a tease than anything.  Use the strongly flavored Grade B maple syrup (often called ‘pure’) instead of the more buttery and milder Grade A that we’re used to consuming or the processed crap like Mrs. Butterworth, because it provides a nice mapley edge to the cookie.

These cookies would be vegan if you could figure out another option for the chocolate chips, but I wouldn’t mess with that.  But no butter, no eggs.

The best thing about these cookies is that you can seduce healthy people with them, and still enjoy them yourself.  Win win.  And surely a better name will make them yet more appealing.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Teff Cookies

Yield: 3-4 dozen

  • 1- 1/2 cup teff flour (not grains, which are tiny but not tiny enough to be flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup freshly ground natural almond butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil (don’t omit)
  • 1 cup pure (Grade B) maple syrup
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.  In a larger bowl, combine almond butter, vegetable oil, and syrup, mixing well.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients slowly, mixing in with a fork, just until incorporated.  Cover and chill bowl of dough several hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On two cookie sheets lined with a sheet of parchment paper, drop dough balls about the size of a ping pong ball (~ one rounded tablespoon) two inches apart from each other.  Flatten each ball with your fork, making a decorative criss-cross pattern on the top.

Bake for 11-13 minutes or until bottom is lightly brown and cookie holds together when you try to gently lift it from the sheet.  Better to underbake than overbake, but be sure the center is not too wet.

Cool on a wire rack.

just us food justice: uo conference sneak peek, feb. 19-21, 2011

You’ve heard me, and undoubtedly others, discussing the unprecedented interdisciplinary Food Justice conference coming to the University of Oregon next weekend, February 19-21.  The conference is free and open to the public, and features talks from your favorite local and national food thinkers and doers; art; a theatrical reading; tours; and a food fair with educational booths from food organizations.

And best yet, it’s in your own backyard.  This conference has the potential to change minds and raise awareness about food systems and sustainability.  Don’t miss it!

On a personal note, I’m pleased that the new Master Food Preservers Alliance will be at the food fair with a tentative schedule of 2011 low-cost food preservation and safety classes.  Please stop by and say hello!  And while you’re at it, say hello to a volunteer at the fair, since it is likely to be one of my Honors College students.

I’m also thrilled to be involved in two sessions, one on “Cultivating Oregon’s Agriculture” (Session G) and another on “Urban Farms, Micro-Ranches & Greenhorns” (Session H), both on Monday.  I’m moderating the first and responding to speakers in the second.

But you want to know about the big ticket items, right?  Here they are, brought to you by conference convener UO Professor Allison Carruth.

Program Highlights

  • On Friday, February 18th, there will be a staged reading of a community-based play written by Professor Theresa J. May with members of the Karuk, Hupa and Yurok communities, who have been directly affected by fish kill on the Klamath River in Oregon. The play is called Salmon is Everything. The reading will take place in a beautiful building at the University, the Many Nations Longhouse.
  • The conference proper will begin on Saturday, February 19th with Frederick Kirschenmann‘s opening plenary address (scheduled from 4:00-6:00 that evening). Kirschenmann is a longtime farmer and farmer advocate in the United States, and he currently serves as a fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa.
  • On Sunday, February 20th, there will be a full day of panel sessions on topics ranging from food empowerment in Latino communities in Oregon and California to “GMOs: Perspectives from Law & Literature.” The keynote event that day is a panel on emerging research in GMOs, genetics and sustainable agriculture, featuring Charles Benbrook, Ignacio Chapela, Stephen Jones and David Cleveland. Sunday will also mark the opening of FOOD: An Art Exhibition, which will take place in Lawrence Hall in the LaVerne Krause Gallery.
  • The final day of the conference is Monday, February 21st. The program that day begins with keynote sessions featuring Darra Goldstein, the founding editor of the journal Gastronomica, and a roundtable of six inspiring nonprofit leaders. These leaders come from Milwaukee, Portland, Eugene, Seattle and Boulder, Colorado. The afternoon will then turn to a slate of six exciting panel sessions.
  • Vandana Shiva‘s Closing Plenary is also on Monday.  All of the free tickets to Dr. Shiva’s plenary have been distributed. However, we will be simulcasting Dr. Shiva’s plenary to two overflow rooms. The seating in the overflow rooms will be on a first-come, first-served basis. The procedure for non-ticketholders is as follows: Line up on the first floor of the EMU as directed by event staff, beginning at 4:30 pm on Monday, February 21st. Event staff will direct non-ticketholders into the first overflow room (The EMU Fir Room). Once all seats are full in that first overflow room, the event staff will direct remaining non-ticketholders to the second overflow room (Lawrence Hall, Room 177), which is about a 3-minute walk.

dark days #20: southern greens and soft red wheat

I was in a Southern greens type of mood, so I thought I’d cook up some fresh collards in a smoked hambone stock for the very last Dark Days winter local cooking challenge.  And it’s good timing, too.  Spring is here!  We’ve been hit by a spring storm with some wild weather all week: sunshine, rain, hail, wind, and then it started all over again.  We managed to get the grill going, however, and Retrogrouch grilled up a couple of Biancalana Pork Growers shoulder chops seasoned with a peppery rub.  Frumento, soft red wheat berries grown by Ayers Creek, were simmered until split and plump with bay leaves and carrot, then turned into a pilaf with local carrots, filberts, onions, and barberries.  Farmer Anthony Boutard has this to say about frumento:

Most varieties of bread wheat have a tough skin and are not particularly flavorful as whole grains for soups, stews and salads. A couple years ago, we purchased a package of frumento from a grocery store in Rome. It was sold as a breakfast cereal. The grain appears to be a soft red winter wheat of some sort. It is very tasty and tender for wheat. It is a true winter variety in that it forms a low growing tuft over the winter, and then shifts its growth pattern in the spring. The heads are large, productive and easy to thresh.

I liked this meal, because I was able to turn the leftovers of two hardy bunches of collards and the smoky, porkulent stock into a wheat berry soup for the next day’s lunch.  A twofer!  It was just what I needed.

Today was the first day of our annual farmer’s market, running now until Christmas.  We’ve turned a corner.  I’ll post the gloriously un-dark day’s pictures later today.  Bright green spring greens, red and pink radishes, garnet beets, orange carrots, creamy white turnips, o my!