i say plum and paste tomatoes

IMG_8629 Visual only! Don’t even dream of canning these wonderful ‘Ananas Noire’ tomatoes on view at the farmers market last Saturday at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Oasis.

IMG_8624 These guys?  Probably not.  Very much slicers, too, in my book.

Paste tomatoes are the bane of the gardener/canner’s existence, I’m feeling more and more.  They taste bad, they’re prone to blossom-end rot, and they take forever to ripen.  I’ve tried a number of varieties, always seeking that nirvana of good flavor and robust health, but every one seems to have its significant downside.  Every year I end up supplementing my significant acreage (ok, one super long row) with purchased plum tomatoes.

IMG_8620Plums are gorgeous and long-lived when they’re grown properly, especially the new striped and black hybrids, but the taste doesn’t advance beyond mediocre.  Although I strongly disapprove of adding bottled lemon juice when processing tomatoes, I kind of think it doesn’t matter when you’re using plums, since there’s no flavor to begin with.  Regular ‘Roma’ tomatoes are useless, and ‘San Marzanos’ are particularly awful here in the Willamette Valley.  People insist on buying them, since they are the Italian variety everyone knows as quality, but they just taste like cardboard in and out of the jar.

IMG_8619So what’s a local girl to do?  Keep searching for better varieties for our region.  I grew ‘Saucey’ for several years.  In 2014 my biggest success is a grafted plant of ‘Jersey Devil,’ which may be a new offering from Log House this year. They have a very pleasant little tail at the end and turn bright red, just like Satan.  They didn’t crap out like my highly anticipated ‘Orange’ and ‘Black Icicles’.

But paste tomatoes, in my opinion, are better than plums, but still prone to diva behavior.  They’re the ones that are not necessarily elongated and hollow/seedy in the middle, but may be more heart-shaped and solid flesh with very few seeds.  They will be a bit more liquidy at first than plums, but cook down nicely and produce a much more flavorful sauce.  I’ve posted many times about ‘Amish Paste,’ so I won’t go into it here, but the 1-pound tomatoes I get from the good strain of this plant (i.e., not the small tomato strain), are excellent.  Farmer Anthony Boutard recommended it to me several years ago, and he’s since moved on to his own ‘Astiana’ line plucked from a market in the Piedmont region of Italy.  I’ve yet to haul my preoccupied behind up to Hillsdale to get in on some of that ‘Astiana’ action.

IMG_8623Heart-shaped, solid tomatoes are also good for sauce.  One possibility for me this year might be these ‘Reif Red Hearts’, spotted last weekend next to the ‘Ananas Noires’. They look quite promising indeed as a sauce tomato, from what I’ve read on the internets.

IMG_8618As for local plums, and there are better varieties than ‘San Marzano,’ like ‘Scipio’, which was good last year from Sweetwater Farm, and these fat and gorgeous ‘Opalka’ plums from Mountain View Farm in Junction City.

Another possibility to consider are the good ol’ round canning tomatoes, like the all-purpose Moskovich, again from Ruby and Amber’s stand at the market.

IMG_8625What varieties are you picking, buying, and canning this year?

but first, the tomato news

IMG_8416Tomato time.  I take advantage of cooler nights and melt down chunks of paste tomatoes with a little olive oil and salt in a 225 degree oven overnight to make tomato paste.  After I mill out the skins and cook the rest of the water out, I freeze the paste in ice cube trays.  I’ll do this several times during tomato season to keep up with the harvest.  Not everything needs to be canned/preserved in big batches!

For a change of pace, try my green and red pizza sauce, cooked similarly to tomato paste but with more seasoning and green tomatoes.  You don’t need any special equipment for this one!

And later in the season, you can bet I’ll use up all the rest of the paste tomatoes in my ketchup recipe, one of the best recipes I’ve ever developed.

This year my always huge tomatoes got away from me in the dry heat, and I’m battling an even more severe blossom end rot issue than usual.  It’s clearly a calcium/fertilizer deficiency, since they grew so fast and I thought I had covered my bases with my usual treatment of dried milk and eggshells, plus even watering.  Even a calcium infusion late in the game didn’t help much.  Kind of mad at myself, since I’ve now lost about 75% of the plum tom crop, but I still have huge numbers of tomatoes, so I can’t complain about anything other than my own lack of vigilance.

What’s growing extremely well is the next generation Indigo tomatoes developed first at OSU.  I planted a grafted variety from Log House Gardens called ‘Indigo Cherry Drop’ that has proven to be blossom-end-rot (BER) bullet-proof (the only plant that emerged unscathed).  The others, not so much:

Tomatoes 2014

  • Orange Icicle and Black Icicle (both very prolific but wiped out nearly clean with BER, orange variety tastes terrific)
  • Black Ethiopian (a solid salad tom, pretty good BER resistance)
  • Indigo Cherry Drop – terrific, perfect golf ball size; actually tastes good, unlike the first gen Indigos (not great but good), and very pretty
  • Sungold
  • Amish Paste (got the big strain this year, thank goodness, and it’s stronger against the BER than expected)
  • San Marzano (grafted) – still tastes bad and full of BER
  • Jersey Devil (grafted) – another plum but same problems
  • Sunset’s Red Horizon
  • Henderson’s Winsall
  • Anna Russian – another big paste (or rather heart-shaped) that resembles Amish but seems heartier
  • Rose di Berne
  • Black Mt. Pink

And while I’m at it, just thought I should mention the peppers are doing very well.  I had to pinch off blossoms early in the season to encourage the plants to grow large enough to support the crop, so I’m just now getting some full, beautiful pepper development.

Peppers 2014

  • Corbaci (a long skinny sweet pepper, really cool and prolific, grew in pot)
  • Sweet banana
  • Carmen (x 2, not sure why i grew two of these)
  • Paradisium Alatu Sarza Szentes (yellow ribbed flat guys)
  • Jaloro (yellow jalapeno, in pot, hot)
  • Atris (F1 hybrid, huge)
  • Mulato
  • Mulato Islena
  • Padron
  • Aji Amarillo  (no flowers yet!!)
  • Negro de Valle
  • Pasilla Baijo (chilaca when fresh)

red and green tomato pizza sauce

IMG_5326I’ve been eating homemade pizza, and my waistline has everything to show for it.  lt’s made all the better by peppers and basil from the garden and homemade pizza sauce.  If you’ve made and frozen my tomato paste already, it’s easy to pizzasaucify it when you defrost it by adding some fresh oregano, black pepper, and olive oil.  I usually use two ice-cube-tray cubes per pizza.

But I discovered another way as I was experimenting with roasted green tomatoes: red and green tomato sauce.  The green tomatoes are fantastic!  They give the sauce a slight green-peppery edge, and roasting onions and garlic along with the tomatoes adds great depth of flavor.  Just add a little spice mix and you’re good to go.

Need more green tomato recipes?  Click the link or, if you would, check out my very first column in Eugene Magazine, in which I discuss the pleasures of green tomato molé.  It’s on the shelves now, Fall 2013. Planning to try some fermentation experiments next.

Red and Green Tomato Pizza Sauce

  • 2 roasting pans full of paste tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 roasting pan full of green tomatoes, cut in large chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large white onions, chopped coarsely
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Seasoning to taste with celery salt, black pepper, fennel seed, oregano, smoked paprika, and/or Penzey’s or another company’s pizza seasoning blend.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Prep tomatoes, onions, garlic, and carrot, then place in three roasting pans.  Exact amounts can vary, but try to make one relatively even layer in each pan.  Sprinkle with a little olive oil and celery salt (or regular salt) and toss. Roast vegetables slowly overnight until shrunken but still soft, 6-8 hours.

Grind roasted vegetables in a food mill, taking care to squeeze the onions and remove fibers when the mill is getting too clogged.  If the purée that results is still too wet to be a proper paste, cook down in a saucepan at very low heat to remove more water.  Add seasonings and freeze sauce in an ice cube tray.  For a standard pizza using store-bought pizza dough, defrost 2 cubes, about 3-4 tablespoons of sauce.

fermented salsa party

IMG_4080IMG_4077Salsa is one of the preservationist’s most difficult challenges.  In terms of flavor, at least.  Canned salsa always tastes cooked and too lemony to me.  And there’s this odd insistence in adding cumin and garlic, two flavors that I just don’t like in salsa.  Or oregano, of all things.  Perhaps I’m being too fussy.  But I really want something like pico de gallo but all year round and without compromises.  Is that too much to ask?  Well, I suppose so.

I couldn’t find a trustworthy and delicious salsa recipe online, so I had to make one.  And to you, dear reader, I present it as my latest gift.  It’s superior to canned salsa in all ways but one: you need space in your refrigerator to hold two half-gallon jars.  I realize that’s sometimes difficult.  But if you can’t swing that, do try a half recipe.  This one really should be part of your repertoire.

If you want to add garlic, you can, but just a few cloves.

The flavor of the salsa changes over the course of months in your refrigerator, becoming more and more sour.  It will still taste lively and fresh, regardless.  I find the extra sour flavor really refreshing on winter tacos and quesadillas, or stirred into beans.

Lacto-fermented Salsa

Yield: 1 gallon + another small jar for eating now.

  • 2 pounds white onions
  • 1 cup mixed fresh red frying peppers, green bell or long peppers, and/or hot peppers
  • 1 cup packed cilantro leaves
  • 6 pounds Roma or other paste tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • For each cup of finished salsa: 1 tablespoon whey drained from live-culture yogurt or another fermented juice (I used tomato kvass and green bean ferment juice, but I doubt you’ll have that!) and 1 teaspoon kosher salt (approximately 2 cups of whey and about 3/4 cups of salt).

Wash two half-gallon jars or four quart jars.  Pour boiling water in jars to top and let sit in sink while you are prepping vegetables.

Clean, trim, and quarter tomatoes.

Coarsely chop onion, peppers, garlic, and cilantro to ease their way into the food processor.  Working in small batches, pulse all vegetables except the tomatoes three to five times, and set aside in bowl large enough to mix 1 gallon salsa.  If there are any large pieces remaining, hand chop so everything is roughly even.

Pulse the tomatoes in batches in a similar fashion.  Do not blend so much they become paste-like.  There should be pieces of tomato left.  Hand chop any large pieces remaining.

Mix the vegetables together in the bowl with the lime juice.  Set aside whey or other fermented juice and salt.

Ladle the salsa into jars using a liquid measuring cup and a wide-mouth funnel.  For every cup of salsa poured into the jar, add one tablespoon whey/other fermented juice and one teaspoon sea salt.  Important:  leave about 3 inches of head space to account for bubbling.  Do not (trust me) overfill the jars.  Any salsa left over can be enjoyed fresh.  Last time I had about a pint.

Mix well, screw on lids, and place each jar on a plate or tray for any leaks.  Leave at room temperature for 1-4 days until bubbly and fizzy and sour.

There will be separation issues (see above picture).  Stir every day to push down vegetables and more evenly ferment. I find it impossible to keep the salsa pieces submerged under liquid and the salsa has a tendency to pack itself up near the top, so I am more vigilant about stirring and examining for mold.  It’s a quick, already acidic ferment, so I have been 100% successful so far in fermenting, but I do want to issue a caution that this part should be monitored.  I also wipe down the rim of the jar to discourage mold growth each time I stir.

When is it done?  Taste it.  It should be sour and lively.  I find it is best around 3 days, and the longer you let it ferment and get sour and fizzy, the longer it will keep in the refrigerator.  Mine lasts for many months.

Once it tastes good to you, refrigerate.

homemade ketchup that tastes right

IMG_4035IMG_4032You forgot about the ketchup, didn’t you?  Turns out that being sad makes for great ketchup. Indeed, this year’s version was the ne plus ultra of ketchups.  OK, I mostly got lucky.

As my previous, lengthy post on ketchup describes, and I’ve mulled over in countless classes, ketchup’s balance of flavors is more about the craft than the mystery of the perfect flavors in Heinz 57.  I’ve been honing my ketchup technique for a few years now, focusing on the texture and the umami component. Until this year, I’ve been unhappy with the thickness of the ketchup, as you can see from the photos in the post.  But I think I’ve got that settled.  My ketchup doesn’t leak watery ketchup juice on the plate.  Finally.

Powdered vegetables are the secret to thicken the sauce. After the frustrating experience of cooking the sauce down for many, many hours and still having it leak, I was thinking about adding agar-agar or xanthan gum to help.  But it turns out I didn’t have to because my umami solution solved the thickness issue, too.  Last year, my ketchup was almost too bitter with celery and lovage seed, so I brought those levels down and rounded out the whole thing with onion powder, an absolutely essential component, and garlic powder. It transforms the ketchup from something that’s too sweet and sour and high note-y into a baritone boom-boom-boom.  It’s ketchup that tasts right; even better, I’d argue, than Heinz.  Yeah, I know that’s crazy-talk.  But it really is that good.

In fact, it’s so good, I might even add more powder next year: tomato and celeriac powder.  And if I dry and pulverize tomato peels when I process my next batch of tomatoes, as Joel MacCharles of the marvelous preservation blog, WellPreserved, suggests, it will help add more umami and heft.  And although I used my magic celeriac salt, I might be even more successful if I’m not too worried about the salt content and can fiddle with the unique glutamate that celery root always adds.

I’m indebted to several sources for this recipe.  The base is from the tested standard recipe for spicy ketchup in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, and auxiliary recipes provided by the OSU Extension Master Food Preserver program (with which I am affiliated as a MFP volunteer), with improvements by Linda Ziedrich in Joy of Pickling and Joel of WellPreserved’s methodical, patient, multi-year series of posts on tomato sauce and ketchup.  The WellPreserved family processes over 400 lbs. of tomatoes a year, so I’m pretty convinced they can teach us a few tricks.  Mine diverges from all of these sources a bit in method, but don’t worry, it’s still safe.  It only changes some techniques to make things easier on the cook and some spices to enhance the flavor. Oven roasting adds flavors and removes much of the water without the need to boil for hours.

If you’ve canned Ball ketchup in the past, you’ll notice I half their recipe, approximately half a lug of tomatoes.  Quite frankly, I don’t eat that much ketchup, and this amount fits in my oven and stockpot much more easily.  I don’t have to do anything twice. Also, I can in half-pint jelly jars for ease of use.  If your family eats a lot of ketchup, you should double the recipe and can in pint jars.   If you decide to double my recipe for the standard amount, though, be warned you’ll need a huge pot, more sheet pans or two overnight sessions for roasting, and longer time cooking down the purée.

Some of the ingredients are not common.  From Joel, I take the idea of adding a Japanese pickled plum (umeboshi) to the ketchup for umami.  For a recipe my size, he’d add a tablespoon of umeboshi vinegar, but I only had the plums.  I grow bay, lovage, and my own cutting celery for seed, and as mentioned above, make my own celery salt, so I have these things on hand. Hell Dust smoked dried peppers are awesome; buy them here.  But if you can’t, it’s ok to use others if you can find them.

The vegetables are the best quality, either my own or from local farms, and I use Bragg cider vinegar. If you are shy about spiciness, don’t use fresh cayenne peppers from Thistledown Farm as I did.  Good ripe red mild frying peppers are fine.  I used mostly my own tomatoes (paste and others) and some ‘Scipio San Marzano’ paste tomatoes from Good Food Easy to arrive at the proper weight, but I strongly suggest using only paste tomatoes.

Feel free to improvise on the spices, but not on the ratio of the tomatoes, vegetables, vinegar and sugar.  This ratio was tested for safe canning by the USDA-affiliated folks.

Update, 2015: Use baking parchment paper on your aluminum pans when roasting the tomatoes, and it will prevent etching or staining.

Ketchup That Tastes Right

Makes 7-8 half-pints, depending on tomatoes and reduction time.

  • 13 pounds paste tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon homemade celery salt (or regular salt with some celery seed in it)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup chopped red hot peppers (e.g., cayenne)
  • 1 umeboshi (optional) or a little soy sauce or anchovy paste for umami
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1.5 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Hell Dust smoked pepper flakes or smoked paprika

Spice Packet:

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • sprig of lovage
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander

Equipment Note: You’ll need cheesecloth for the spice packet; several sheet pans; and a food mill or grinder.  If you have a grinder, great.  I’m guessing you do not.  A food mill is fine.  You might also opt to just blend in the skins and seeds, which will add a slightly bitter flavor and grainier texture to the final product, but I like a smooth ketchup so I use the food mill.

Instructions:  Wash, cut off stem end, and slice tomatoes in halves or quarters.  Toss them in some salt.  Oven roast them in a single or double layer on sheet pans in a 200-degree oven overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Move tomatoes to stockpot and add chopped onion, garlic, red peppers, umeboshi, and two bay leaves.

Simmer for 3-5 hours, stirring frequently, on very low heat, until the tomatoes break down and the onions and peppers are very soft.  Cool purée until you can handle it. Discard the bay leaves.

Now for the part that’s a pain.  Be patient.  Wax on, wax off.

Press the purée through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds.  Take your time.  Really press out all of the flesh from the skins.  You might even knead and squeeze the skins with well-washed hands to extract every bit you can.  This is important because most of the umami flavor in the tomato is in the flesh near the skin and the seeds.  Consider saving the skins/seeds for dehydrated powder (see note above and instructions).

Add the purée to a deep stockpot, because it will spatter all over the stove if you use, say, a 5.5 quart dutch oven L.  Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, onion and garlic powders, and Hell Dust.  Prepare a spice packet by placing the whole spices in cheesecloth and tying the top of the bundle with kitchen twine or similar.

Cook down the purée for another 4-5 hours over very low heat, stirring frequently.  The thicker it gets, the more likely it is to burn, so watch it carefully and scrape the bottom of the pan when stirring.

IMG_4036 The ketchup is ready when it clings like paste to your spoon, and when you mound it up on a plate, it doesn’t leak juice out.  (Joel describes four tests for ketchup thickness if you’re truly concerned.)  As you see above, last year’s ketchup has a bit of juice pooled around it; this year’s is much thicker and more appetizing, more paste-like.

You might food mill the finished product yet again before a final simmer before canning if you want an even smoother texture, but it’s pretty smooth as it is.

About 30 minutes before completion, set up your canning equipment. Wash your jars, rings, and lids, and heat the lids according to the package instructions as you’re heating up the waterbath canner.

Spoon the hot ketchup into jars carefully and pressing down product with a spoon to reduce air bubbles, leaving 1/2-inch head space.  Wipe rims of jars and adjust lids and rings.  Process in a waterbath canner for 15 minutes for half-pints or pints.  Do not process in quarts.

Important Timing Notes: it is easier to do this process over several days, refrigerating the purée in between.  Day 1: prep and roast the tomatoes.  Day 2: cook down the tomatoes with vegetables, mill the tomatoes, and add spices.  Day 3: cook down the purée into ketchup, then can it.

And more good news: tomatoes improve if you let them sit out and further ripen for up to four days after purchasing.  Joel notes that his sauce yield was dramatically improved by riper tomatoes.

separate two eggs: blossom end rot ketchup

IMG_4004The rain was ill-timed, for sure, and my garden is at risk.  Water has been an issue all summer.  Hubris and the bottom falling out of my life goaded me into believing that an overhead watering system was much easier than taking the time to put in the soaker hoses this year, so I’ve got powdery mildew shrouding the leaves of squash and cucumbers, cantankerous wilt encroaching on the tomatoes.  The soaker hoses I did lay down and test in June were either fixed too many times to work properly or just didn’t work at all.

My own eyes seem to be malfunctioning, too.  After those unspeakable hours when my beloved sidekick and best buddy had gone from seemingly healthy to “when they’re this far gone they usually don’t make it,” when I suddenly, terribly, intimately, finally understood the keening wail and hear-tearing grief of the ancient Greeks, they stopped knowing how to cry.  Something broke inside my head, and tears seemed to flow at their own will.

They didn’t come when I needed to feel some iota of resolution of a good life put to rest in the days that followed, stumbling around on the beach and begging for a sneaker wave to come take me.  They came and come while driving down Willamette or stepping into the fish market or making coffee or brushing my teeth, just enough to wet my eyes, and then go away again.  This pain births itself from you and rends you and makes you incomplete, absolutely paralyzed, sitting on your chest and not moving until — one hopes — it decides to climb down and go possess someone else.

You spend all your time still with the fear that there’s no consolation over the loss of a pet like him, and no longer consolation in your life. Instead of getting better, it just gets heavier and more leaden and more unreal. Even my subconscious has given up; the one fleeting glimpse of him I had in a dream I completely lost it and begged him to come back to me, saying what I had said thousands of times but not pleading, not in such high, hysterical, desperate tones: Come here, baby! Momma needs you!

It’s easy to say sorry about the job, sorry about the husband, sorry about the thousand other things you lost this year, just as easy as it is to compartmentalize these terrible things and deal with them one at a time as a series of tasks.  But no, we really don’t even know how to be sorry about the uncanny child-friend-mate-comfort blanket-lover-shadow bond one forges with a bright-eyed and utterly devoted feline with whom one has such a singular connection; we don’t know how to move beyond it…

And I’m just now getting around to mulching.

I moved the tomatoes to my Dissertation Draft Memorial Bed in the front of the house and the plants are gloriously erect and massive this year.  Huge, promising fruit have been developing well. There’s a grafted ‘Mexican,’ big luscious ‘Brad’s Black Heart,’ three ‘Amish Pastes’ sadly of the small and genetically muted variety, a nice ‘Carol Chyko’s Big Paste,’ my standard ‘Black Krim’ slicer, a ‘Hungarian Heart (which originated around 1900 in Budapest, like many good things), stalwart ‘Slava’, green and yellow ‘Grubb’s Mystery,’ Dawson’s Russian Oxheart,’ bright orange slicer ‘Kellogg’s Breakfast,’ and a deep yellow salad tomato, ‘Summer Cider Apricot,’ that I bought in a moment of weakness and don’t regret because of the unusual acidity.

At the first signs of blossom end rot, a virus we see every year on tomatoes as we transition from wet spring to dry summer in the Willamette Valley, we lay out calcium.  I’ve done it for years with ground eggshells dug in and dried milk watered deeply into the soil.  The first few tomatoes can be affected, but after they’re plucked and discarded, the rest are usually fine.

But this year, with the new bed and onslaught of trauma and my tragic confidence in watering methods against all portents from the gods, I didn’t see the early signs early enough.  Now most of the plants are infected, those big beautiful green lobes rotting from the bottom up like, well, there’s no point in veering off into the metaphorical direction, since you already get it.

I’m trying to cut my losses, then, with blossom end rot ketchup.  Safe canning practices say one’s not supposed to can with blossom end rot tomatoes, since the virus messes with the acidity, and since my crop is so damaged this year, I decided to make a batch of ketchup, which has enough acid and sugar added that slight variations in tomatoes don’t really matter.  And a little bitterness and salty tears just improve ketchup anyway.

And for sauce and paste and salsa?  I picked up a lug of organic ‘Scipio’ paste tomatoes from the good folks at Good Food Easy/Sweetwater Farm in Creswell, who are operating a farm stand on Sundays from 10-2 at 19th and Agate.  I ate one directly from the box and it was full and meaty and sweet and good.  Apparently, it’s also known as ‘Scipio San Marzano’ and ‘Astro.’ I’d warn folks off the regular ‘San Marzanos’ we grow in the valley.  It’s usually not hot enough and they take so long that they’re nothing like Italian ‘San Marzanos.’

Want the ketchup recipe?  Click here.

IMG_3421Boris Badenov Levin, RIP. 1997-2013.

Separate Two Eggs is my new, very occasional series about a lonely single woman eating sad meals alone. Or not. It’s really just a way to continue to queer food writing and add diversity to Mommy-blogging and monogamous couple-oriented fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

niblets: jack and the beanstalk edition

IMG_3223Niblets is an all-too-occasional feature on the ins and outs of the Eugene food scene. Syndicate me?  You know you want to.

Yes, I know I said I wouldn’t do another of these for a while, but it’s garden season and this town is just teeming with news.  Plant all day and enjoy one of our new restaurants at night.  Perhaps a new Southeast Asian (Malaysian?) restaurant, Kopi-O, across from Midtown Marketplace at 16th and Willamette?  I kid you not.

Adaptive Seeds reports that “Our very own Andrew Still will be teaching a workshop – Seed Saving & Seed Stewardship: The Path to Locally Adapted Seed and True Food Freedom – next Sunday, May 19th from 10am – 3pm at Sunbow Farm in Corvallis.”  This is special.  Andrew is a fantastic speaker and smart as a whip.  He co-leads one of the most radical new ventures in the valley, an “open source” PNW-appropriate, internationally gleaned, organic seed company that grows and collects open-pollinated seed crops from a small network of local farmers.  And it’s at another one of the coolest progressive farms in Oregon.  Don’t miss it.

And speaking of workshops, I’ll be appearing in a short segment on the Sustainable Table on KEZI 9 TV in Eugene (that’s our ABC channel, for those with fancy things like cable) on Wednesday on the 6 p.m. news.  I made some sauerkraut for reporter Brandi Smith and we chatted about upcoming Master Food Preserver preservation classes, like the fermentation class (now full) I’m offering on May 18.

Oregon Plant Fair sale at Alton Baker Park and the Hardy Plant Sale at the Fairgrounds are happening today from 9-2.  As in right now!

Spotted at Groundworks Organics last week at the farmers market: agretti! This unusual Italian green can be used raw in salads, cooked, or pickled. I grabbed the last one and only wish I could have bought a few more. Hope there will be more today. Please enjoy the visual delights of a white pizza I made (above) with Salumi fennel salami, topped with grass clippings of agretti, oregano, and wild arugula.

Growers of tomatoes and peppers (and aren’t we all?) will be relieved to know Jeff’s Garden of Eaton is open for another year.  Jeff works extremely long hours at a classical music non-profit, so it’s hard for him to manage the extensive work of cultivating nightshades, so please do support him.  He has the best selection of anyone in town — many unusual varieties.  He says:

Just a quick message to let you know that Garden of Eaton is once again offering a wide variety of mostly heirloom tomato and pepper starts for your garden.

We’re generally open every day between noon and 6PM at 2650 Summer Lane in Santa Clara. My assistant, Carolyn, will be here to answer any questions you might have about the different varieties available this year. You can reach Carolyn during the hours we’re open by calling (541) 607-1232 [ed: or email Jeff at jaeaton at clearwire dot net].

I hope to update my website sometime this week to include descriptions of the varieties available, but for now I invite you to drop by and see for yourself!

Have fun and be careful out there! (Bees.)