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.

pickled cherries and cherry festival

One of my favorite local farms, Hentze Farm, is having their annual cherry festival this weekend, July 16 and 17.  I’m planning to sling preserved cherry products for the crowd on Saturday as part of the Master Food Preserver demo station.  We’ll be answering questions about how to preserve summer tree fruit and berries.

Come out to Junction City to say hello!

This might be the only week (they tell me) for U-Pick cherries, and you can also buy other fruit and vegetables.  There will be BBQ, live music, and farm animals and games for the kids.  Kids and adults alike may enjoy the cannery equipment that sets this farm apart from others, too.  The family bought up some of the machines that cut beans, pit cherries, and strip corn, so you can always get your farm-fresh produce prepared for convenience there.  Each year, I buy a 10# bag of freshly pitted sour cherries for brandied, frozen, and dried use during the year.  The leftover juice can be turned into a sour cherry jelly or syrup.

I’ll be bringing my pickled cherries to sample as a prelude to my demo at the upcoming “Intro to Pickling” class on July 22.  We’re nearly full but if you’re desperate to learn how to pickle, it’s from 6 to 8:30 at the Community Church of Christ, 1485 Gilham Road.  Call 541-344-4885 for information on how to register. The class is $15 or you can still buy all three remaining classes (pickles, tomatoes & salsa, meats) for $40).

Believe me, once you taste these, you’ll want to include them in your repertoire, so I’m including a recipe here!

My pickled cherries use the classic Chinese five spices as flavoring: star anise, cinnamon, clove, Sichuan peppercorn and fennelseed.  These spices all work beautifully with cherries individually — why not put them all together?

As they mature for a month or so, the vinegar and spices mellow to produce a sweet, sour, spiced pickle that is absolutely delicious with roast pork or duck.  Imagine it alongside a thickly cut pork chop from Biancalana Pork, for example.

Pickled Cherries with Five Spices

Makes about 3 pints

You can use fresh Bing (dark sweet) cherries or premium frozen ones (the bigger the better) for this recipe.  I used Hentze’s frozen cherries from last year, already pitted, since the crop wasn’t quite ready.  And a pint of fresh Queen Annes for some color variation!  The cherries are prettier if you leave the pits in, and the pits add a nice, slightly almond flavor to the brine. Be sure to plan ahead for this recipe, as it sits for several days on the counter and then needs to rest for a month or so.

  • 4 cups sweet dark cherries (see note above)
  • 2 cups cider or white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (can use less for less kick)
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 3-4 whole star anise
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

Stem the cherries and pit them, if you wish.  Let cherries sit overnight in the vinegar in a non-reactive bowl.

In a non-reactive saucepan, add sugar, water, and spices. Drain the vinegar from the cherries into a bowl or directly into the saucepan if you are bold.  Place the cherries into the non-reactive bowl.

Heat the vinegar mixture to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Let the liquid cool to room temperature, then pour over the cherries.  Cover with a plate to submerge, and put a towel or plastic wrap over the bowl.  Let sit at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Drain the liquid from the cherries into a non-reactive saucepan.

Remove the cinnamon stick and strain the spices (if you wish).  Boil the liquid.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature.

Clean and sterilize 3-4 pint jars.  Scoop the cherries into the jars, leaving room for quite a bit of liquid.

Pour the liquid over the cherries in the jars, leaving an inch or so headspace.  Cover the jar with a non-reactive cap (the plastic ones are fine, but metal lids/rings are not) and store in the refrigerator for a month before eating. Keeps for many months.