Reducing Food Waste: Plan Your Garden

Please remember I am not a farmer. I am not a gardener. But I still have a piece of advice for other people going to try to grow food this year.

Start with a list of what you and your household likes to eat. No, sorry, you can’t grow chocolate here.

Seriously, if you refuse to eat zucchini, don’t bother growing it. If you can tolerate it, though, we already know it produces abundantly. In fact, I will risk pushing your tolerance and suggest it was NOT bread and fish, but zucchini that fed the masses. But if you and yours will not eat zucchini, do not waste your soil nor your energy. Otherwise, think of what foods that you DO eat that grow easily and produce prolifically because this is what you will enjoy all winter.

If you like tomatoes, think about how often you eat them raw (salads and sandwiches) and how often you used a cooked style (pasta sauce, pizza, soups, etc). Your selection of variety to plant should be balanced with what you expect to eat. If you don’t really eat salads much, 1 or two plants will take care of you probably. But you will want more of the meaty varieties if you like sauce.

During harvest, I will offer ways to keep things safe to preserve while you are gathering the volume you need for cooking a recipe. So, plan to plant a bit more than you think you will eat, but be ready for kitchen time. I will help you preserve that garden produce so you can eat from it all winter!!

So plan your garden now around the food you want to eat. Talk to the garden experts now. Get your soil prepped. Planting time is coming and it all will be great!

Welcome to the World of Reducing Food Waste

Can-Do Real Food had its genesis about 6 summers ago when I worked as a farm laborer (yes, me!) for about eight weeks. It was hard work and I ate a lot of Advil those days. As I had helped establish a local indoor food market in West Virginia, other than some small gardens at home, I had never “farmed.” I am NOT a farmer. I am not even a good gardener. This is why I LOVE my farmers. Thank them every chance I have for producing food for me to eat.

My job then becomes important: how can I use these foods raised with such dedication and effort in all kinds of weather, how can I be careful not to waste any bit of this nutritional yumminess.

Let me help you with some daily tips. With all the other projects I have, I will limit it to short tips. Please add your own in the comments on the blog or on Facebook when it gets posted.

FREE SOUP: Some have called this “Depression Soup”, as the concept was taught to them from moms and grandmothers who lived through financially hard times. When you trim your produce for salads or for cooking, put all clean pieces into a container (I re-use and re-use and re-use a gallon ziplock) in the freezer. When the bag is full, pull out a dutch oven, fill with your veggie scraps and a potful of water. Simmer 1-2 hours for veggie stock and the basis for a flavorful soup.

(Then rinse the bag and let it air dry and re-use it with more veggies!)

Juggle Juggle, but don’t drop the Tomatoes

In my weekly market reports recently I’ve been mentioning that we seem to be at the peak of the harvest. How can I tell? Simply, when I walk down Cowls Street as the farmers’ market is setting up I am amazed at the overflowing bins of produce the farmers haul there. Tomatoes of all kinds, peppers both sweet and hot, potatoes large and small, sweet corn, summer squash glowing green white and yellow, winter squash in acorn and spaghetti models, strawberries from everbearing varieties, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, apples, and on and on and on.

In the past week in the Can-Do kitchen we handled 50 pounds of blueberries, 40 pounds of Asian pears, 30 pounds of tomatoes, 30 pounds of prune plums, and still have about 100 pound of onions to deal with. Today we were gifted about 20 pounds of peaches and the day is only half over.

asian pears in dyrerI keep our dehydrators running almost all the time now. The Asian pears are in there as I write this (plain and cinnamon) and the peaches will go in next. (Onions after that probably)

Mike, the guy who owns Cream ice cream and I have a good time chatting flavor combinations each week at the market. When I told him I was getting this gift of peaches (more coming this next week that are already planned for 2 types of jams) he suggested something which fed a need of his: powdered peaches he could add to ice cream in the winter.  So we will chop the peaches and then dehydrate it, powdering some, leaving some small chunks.  Mike can get some for his ice cream and you can get some for your yogurt or baking or other yumminess you like to do.

carmelized onionsThe onions……oh my. We add onions to our Loaded Pasta Sauce, so some will be used on Monday when we prepare that.  But I’ve made a few very small batches of caramelized onions for our home kitchen and one friend’s and I suppose you might be able to enjoy after I get some of these 100 pounds cooked up and then dehydrated.

 

So, you might ask, why was that “one friend” so lucky as to gain some caramelized onions?  Well, she presented me with some extra onions she had.  That’s pretty much all it takes and now she tells people she has her own “food processor.” One person responded, “oh yeah, I have one of those chopping machines too,” but you know it’s a tad more involved than that.

Anyway, lots to share with you. If you want to know if I can make something, shoot me an email at BethRankinOR@gmail.com. If there’s a safe way to preserve it, I’ll let you know.

tomatoes

Also, if you want Loaded Pasta Sauce, let me know how many and in pints or quarts. This has been a funny tomato season. It started late (really only about 3 weeks ago) and looks to be ending early. So I probably will not be getting a lot of tomatoes. Right now I have orders for 40 quarts so they will be fulfilled first. If you want some, tell me now. In a few weeks it will be too late.

 

 

Stock Your Pantry

We seem to be in the height of the harvest now and it is a great opportunity for people to grab what they can to enjoy the tastes of summer through the winter. 2014-10-03 11.21.47Can you imagine tasting a summer peach in February?  The ones available in the supermarket are currently in flower in  South America. They will be harvested a bit green to make the 1500+mile journey to us without spoiling. They will be presented in the grocery store a bit hard and you will ripen them on the counter. When you taste it, it will be very pale in flavor compared to the tree ripened, freshly harvested fruit you can pick up in the market.

So what can you do?

You COULD consider eating in season. We used to do that when I was little because fruits and veggies grown overseas and brought in were very expensive. Then shipping prices dropped and here we are, expecting to eat watermelon in January. Consumer demand drives corporate decisions. If we the people who love our food to taste good decide we will not buy unripe produce during the winter three things can happen:

  • The stores will reduce what they bring in.
  • Local farmers probably will pick up the slack as much as the climate permit.
  • We learn that eating in season brings a lot of joy as we welcome a favorite flavor once again for the first time.

Image result for canning equipment canning toolsAnd there is a fourth, but it’s all on you: preserve the food available in season. You can freeze (easy), dehydrate (also easy and you can pick up a dehydrator that will work well for you for as little as $50), canning (a bit of a learning curve and you need a huge canning pot and attention to food safety issues), and freeze drying  (if you have a spare $3500 to purchase one, I want to use it for just 2 kinds of processing, please).

Of course, there is an easy way: shop Can-Do Real Food and stock your pantry.personal pantry

For example, right now we have a lot of dehydrated fruit offered as single types, combinations and fruit leather (roll-ups).  Can you imagine buying some watermelon strips now and holding them in your cupboard until January?  That will be a ripe full-flavored yumminess.

Image result for summer poeach winter peach comparison

The tomatoes began to show up in the market a few weeks ago and last week the farmers who provide surplus to Can-Do Real Food started sharing. I had enough to make salsa, some mild (golly gee, people, I ONLY used bell peppers…..and some mild Hatch chilis that barely stirred my palate, so be BRAVE) and some we loaded with jalpenos and more but Graham says it is “medium”. Heat lovers will have to taste to know if it provides enough pain/pleasure.  So, when you buy, buy TWO and put one in the back of your cupboard and forget about it……until the holiday gatherings. Then pull out the taste of August!tomatoes from BS

The next tomato project is the Loaded Pasta Sauce. Buy 6, get 10% off. Buy 8 and get your choice of a small (9 ounce) jar or a small dehydrated bag of your choice free. Buy 12 and get 15% off (and the freebie that you earn at 8).

Why do I suggest this? Because eating locally grown food supports our neighbors, the farmers who work from beyond sunrise to sundown in all kids of weather.  I want you to enjoy eating local food year-round and if you don’t preserve today’s harvest, take advantage of the fact that I do…with no artificial anything.cropped-mission.jpg

 

An Apple A Day

We moved to McMinnville the beginning of September seven years ago. Our rental house has an amazing backyard with a huge herb garden, a lot of raspberry canes, two blueberry bushes, some rhubarb and two apple trees.

gravenstein apples

When we finished unpacking we could pay attention to the apples that littered the ground under one tree. I gleaned what I could and made some pretty darn good apple sauce and an apple pie. The rest of the ground fall was too far gone but I was eager for the next harvest.  We brought an apple and some leaves to the farmers’ market where the master gardeners identified it as a Gravenstein.

That was a new apple to me. I grew up in the Northeast and my favorite was a sweet-tart Stayman Winesap.  It made great sauce and pies and each apple was so large, you really only needed three or maybe four for a pie.  In those days I was bothering to peel the apples before cooking, so the fewer, the better.

Image result for stayman winesap
source: Century Farm Orchards

It was when I moved to Tennessee in the 1970s that I learned that apples generally have preferred growing zones, and regional varieties are not common elsewhere. So, the Gravenstein easily became my go-to and as Can-Do Real Food began, it was the apple found in the applesauce, the apple pie filling mix and later, dried.

But there was another apple tree in the backyard. Each year it would bloom but produce no apples. The master gardeners could not identify it from the leaves. All we knew was it was not a Gravenstein.apple blossoms April 11 2014

Both trees had not been properly maintained so we had them trimmed back. That next year we had about 6 apples on the mystery tree but I found them too late…..they were early summer apples and I had not checked early enough.

Last year we had a “bumper” crop—about 50 apples, all growing on the northeast section of the tree. (I have no idea why THAT was the growth pattern.) We brought the apple down to the farmers’ market and the master gardeners were stumped and suggested I take the apple to some apple agency office in the Portland metro area. We were not that concerned,  especially after I took a bite….and was not impressed.

I made up some applesauce. It was flat…..so I added some sugar and cinnamon and lemon juice. It was edible, but nothing I wanted to use for Can-Do. So I canned the applesauce for home consumption.

But I got a brainstorm to thin the applesauce and make fruit-roll-ups that would become tasty with the addition of…..something.

I had some blueberries in the freezer and made a puree which I swirled into the applesauce mix on the dehydrator sheet. When I ran out of berries, I then sprinkled the rest of the applesauce trays with candied ginger.

apple bluebberry roll-up
fruit leather before becoming a roll-up

Come taste the fruit roll-up concoctions this Thursday at the farmers’ market and see if I turned an early summer apple into something worth repeating.

It may be a moot point…both trees had abundant flowers and the Gravenstein is forming small apple buds now, but all the early apple tree shows is the remains of the flower. So, appears it was not pollinated and you know what, that is just okay with me. We get PLENTY from the Gravenstein!

apples in June
June 2017 Gravenstein tree is loaded!

A New Season Begins

Can-Do Real Food will be back in the McMinnville Downtown Farmers’ Market after a year’s hiatus to permit three joint surgeries to heal. I feel great; completely out of pain, so we are back to share shelf-safe local food with you!

We will be bringing the following canned items for your consideration:

Applesauce – Chunky texture, made with Gravenstein apples and a touch of cinnamon. No added sugar.

Berry Naughty Yumminess Sauce – Perfect for ice cream or an easy topping on a cake or pancakes or French toast or……it is naughty because it has orange liquor in it. OLCC requires us to tell you about that but even kids can eat this. blueberries-blackberries-and-raspberries

Hogan’s Hot Stuff – This is the last of the peach-jalapeno jam until new peaches in a couple of months. Grab it while the grabbing is good. (Message me if you want me to hold one for you.)

Quince Paste – I am sure this will move quickly. Perfect with cheese. If you have never tasted quince, stop by for a fun experience. It has a similar texture as pears but the taste is unique. 

Odds and Ends – Just 2-3 jars left of a few favorites. 

We have been dehydrating thinking of you as well as backpackers so there are some new items:

Mole Meal Mix – You can get supper on the table in less than 30 minutes following the simple recipe on the package. The recipe can feed 8 so way less expensive than fast food! This is a gentle- not hot- take on the Mexican dish……people who like heat will need to add more!

Huckleberry Dust – a powder to add to oatmeal or smoothies or yogurt that is high in anti-oxidants.Huckleberry Dust.pub

yello plum with hazelnut leatherPlum Roll-ups – 3 different takes….”Plain”, “Yellow Plum with Hazelnuts,” and “Pom Plum” which has the tanginess of pomegranate balsamic vinegar added in.

Rhubarb Lace -Just enough sugar to take away the pucker, these will be easy to enjoy!

Apple a Day – cinnamon and “naked” versions for a healthy snack

Fruit Feast – a mixture of dried fruits for healthy snacking

Mushroom Quinoa – Developed for backpacking, this can be enjoyed at home as a side dish or stuffing. Rehydrates in about 20 minutes.  We did all the cooking!

Our raw produce is predominantly sourced from local farms as well as backyard gardeners. No artificial anything added. Small batches, so grab when you see something!thankafarmer

The market starts at noon and runs until 6pm on Thursday. Located on Cowls and in the parking lot behind Town Hall. Plenty of parking within 2 blocks.  Hope to see you there!!!

 

 

 

 

Know Your Farmers…and Appreciate Them

A friend shared a post from a farmer  friend of hers and it is important to read.  As you know, I feel my ability to grow anything is challenged…..no green thumbs. I do like good food, however, so I honor my farmers not only with my business to preserve their surplus and give them another income stream, but I tell people again and again that the best they can do with their food dollar is to support their local farmers.  If you personally do not know where that steak came from, that tomato, or that egg, you are missing out on the best the agricultural work has to offer.  And you probably really do not know the real taste of the food you are eating. 

Soul Food Farm is quietly tucked into the rolling hillsides of Northern California. Since 1988, the Koefoed family has continued the legacy of this historic farm, and today it is bountiful with both wild and artisan flowers, lavender fields, and an estate olive orchard where,  every year, the local community gathers to help with the harvest. Happy chickens sunbathe in the fields while the sheep, goat, steer and cow nurture the soil with their grazing. Whether you’re visiting the farm for one of our many workshops or attending a farm-to-table dinner or special event, Soul Food Farm will leave your heart enchanted and your soul nourished. Read more about our story here.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Over the years I made a deal with myself to stop apologizing for the price of our farm products. It took a long time to develop that frame of mind, but eventually, I understood that hard work needs no defense. End of story. But, yesterday at a Farm to Fork event I had an encounter with a couple that stopped me dead in my tracks.

Image may contain: drink

A couple walked up to our little Soul Food Farm table and so naturally, I expected them to be interested in our olive oil Why else approach the table? Instead, I got this look of suspicion while they picked up a bottle and turned it over and then it came. They looked at me and said, “we don’t want to be rude, but why is it sooooooo expensive.” And then I was face to face with a choice. Try once more to explain what it takes to farm or dismiss the question. The irritation this dilemma caused in the past crashed through my memories and in a moment I decided to answer her question. Deep breath, positive expectation, begin. I started to explain that I prune the trees myself, and we pick the olives by hand, and we pay the mill upfront to press the oil, and as I ’m talking, she waves her hand in my face and says’ yeah, yeah, whatever” and walks off.Image may contain: table and outdoor

Instead of getting mad I was left wondering why is there still this lingering suspicion that farmers are price gauging? Customers would never walk into a grocery store and expect a discount before they bought an item or demand a sample. The utter contempt that’s conveyed not only by demanding to know why farm food is priced the way it is but just the plain rudeness of walking away when someone is speaking to you astounds me. Now, I could brush this off as a one-time occurrence but I know it’s not. I have many farmer friends who are up against this every time they sell at a farmers market. The constant and varied questions about price that always fall just short of an outright accusation of trying to cheat the customer.

As I walked around the farm today putting animals away, collecting eggs, filling water troughs, my frustration started to compound. What is it going to take for us to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers? When are small farmers going to be treated with respect? Not only from folks shopping at farmer’s markets, but the restaurants that buy their food, and the farm to fork dinners, festivals and conferences that are continually popping up. What do I mean by respect? I mean not haggling with farmers at the market over their price per pound. Do folks think farmers are running some racket? A get rich quick scheme with carrots and tomatoes? Restaurants need to start paying farmers at the time of delivery, COD. Farmers already cover the total cost of production; it is simply wrong to expect farmers to wait thirty to sixty days for payment after deliveries. And all those farm to fork events, how about actually having a good representation of local farmers at these events. Better yet, stop asking small farmers to donate food items to events that charge a ticket price.Image may contain: plant, fruit, outdoor, food and nature

We have to let go of the imagery that farmers are part of a pastoral fantasy. Farming is not a fable but a job, that’s necessary to the very fabric of our existence. Farming is often soul crashing hard work. Long, lonely days in the field. Planting seeds. The sun beating on your back. Nights comforting animals. Cold, early mornings, to harvest, pack and get to market. The burden of the cost of production yours and yours alone. Farming is not only a career it’s a service to the surrounding community. In return, only one thing is asked or expected, that the work is appreciated and treated with respect.

One rude couple, won’t make or break a small farm, but it’s a good reminder we have a long way to go.

The Joy of Having a Personal Food Processor

Here I am toiling away in the commercial kitchen when I get a message from a friend: How about a case of peaches?peaches

Hmmm, more peaches. I have made the Hogan’s Hot Stuff and the Naughty Peach Jam and brought both to the farmers’ market last week. There are more available and local people can contact me to arrange purchase. But as good as those are, both in taste and popularity, these new peaches offer a bit of fun in a different way.

They belong to my friend and I am her personal food processor. She hands over fruits and vegetables to me from time to time and I preserve them for her. This time she requested peach with ginger fruit leather. I love when people want to explore taste combinations and I think she’s right;  I can’t wait to see how that turns out.

My friend loves to cook and she recognizes a good deal on raw produce when she sees one. That’s how she ends up with a box here and large sack there of this and that. And after I work my magic, her pantry is a bit fuller and she’s looking for the next item for stocking up.

I’m doing the same thing in a way for one of my farm partners. They actually have no plans for selling any of the yummies I preserve for them from their garden. All items are for their home consumption. They have gotten to the point where they know they personally do not have the time (or energy) to put up tomato sauce or other things. They call me and I can take care of it for them. Right now we are exploring and agreeing that dehydrated Asian pears are the bomb!

asian pears
Dehydrated pears with 5-spice powder

And I’m doing the exact same thing for one other friend who really hates to cook. But she ‘ll be the first to declare that she likes to eat. She asked me if I could provide her some simple meals in a jar. I had talked to her how I pressure can left over turkey after Thanksgiving into turkey pot pie. Then, if we come home and are too tired to even think about cooking, we can open the jar and heat it up. This friend and I are exploring what family favorites of hers can be canned up so she can have it easier in her kitchen while her family eats delicious and nutritious meals without the cost of eating out.

personal pantry
Bottom 2 shelves of our personal pantry with dehydrated mixes and canned items 

I can do the same thing for you. I can cook it here or there, either way. In fact, if you want to learn to can or dehydrate, working in your kitchen makes a lot more sense so we can do the job together and you learn as we go.

You can eat local food year round!!

Fruit Feast

Living in the Willamette Valley is a food lover’s paradise. We have just about everything but tropical plants here, so lots to enjoy.  Each summer’s harvests seem to start with strawberries and then on to other fruits before the veggies start producing. So I’ve been dehydrating yummies since the end of May all for your potential future enjoyment.

  • Strawberries from this year’s crop.  Sweet and yummy.
  • Bananas from the grocery store…they LOOKED too far gone by the outer peel but were about 98% usable to dry.  So remember that when next time you see “old” bananas marked down!
  • Figs from last season soft and chewy.
  • Cherries  Most are sweet but one or two pie cherries might have snuck in.
  • Concord grape fruit leather – okay, I’ll come clean…. I tried to make fruit roll-ups but they didn’t turn out to be rollable…so they were cut into pieces.
  • Pears from the start of this year’s harvest.
  • Apples dehydrated last fall.
  • Cantaloupe is pure candy. Unbelievable how this experience convinced me!
  • Raisins from last fall’s Thompson grapes.
  • Raspberry fruit leather from this season that also was a fail as a fruit leather but provides that zingy sweetness perfectly.
  • dried fruit a

 

The Wild Ones

My husband Graham (Vice President of Research and Development) loves wine. He jokes that the reason we moved to McMinnville was because he heard there was a winery nearby.  Now that we’ve been here six years he easily admits how much he has enjoyed visiting and sampling the amazing depth and breadth of the wines offered locally. (I’m the designated driver!)

Graham is also quite devoted to Facebook and has friended many of the local wineries to stay aware of special events. We’ve recently attended free performances and concerts at several near McMinnville.

Image result for eieio winesA few years ago he told me that the owner of EIEIO Winery (a man named McDonald, of course) had posted that his property had a lot of plum trees that had not been cared for and the trees were loaded loaded loaded with ripe fruit. He had purchased the property where his house is located several years before and perhaps for 10 years prior to that the plum trees surrounding the inside of a paddock had been neglected. The plums were very small but very sweet. Anyone who wanted them was invited to contact him and arrange a time to glean.IMG_4920

There were yellow plums. There were red ones. And purple ones. It was an amazing rainbow. We tasted and discovered two things. 1: Yes, they were deliciously sweet. 2: They were cling, not freestone. (We  are masters of handling fruits that cling to stones now!)

We got them to the commercial kitchen and into the huge walk-in cooler for the processing the next day. I then went to the post office to send a package and met the owner of Third Street Oil and Vinegar. She presents olive oil and balsamic vinegar infused with flavors and has an amazing talent for taste combinations that work. She tasted the plums and suggested a balsamic vinegar infused with pomegranate. pom balsamic vin bench

The next day I made the most perfect jelly. It was my first year in business so I was very proud how it set up and looked so pretty with its deep reddish purple tone.  And the taste was great! Sweet and tangy.

Well, we have not been back to EIEIO since then but a friend has been bringing me the wild plums off a tree on her property these past few weeks and I decided to see if we could present the same wonderful tangy sweetness as a fruit leather.  And voila! It has been done!Pom Plum fruit leather

Ingredients are wild plums, a tiny bit of cane sugar and a splash of pomegranate balsamic vinegar. Packaged 4 roll-ups to a bag, selling for $5.  No artificial anything and I bet you will not find anything like this anywhere else.