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.

 

 

The Harvest is Happening and the Kitchen is BUSY!!!

Do you love to eat? Whether you consider yourself a foodie or merely know what you like, whether you enjoy home cooking or prefer to have someone else do the work, Can-Do Real Food has something for you!

Great news! Can-Do Real Food is building inventory as fast as humanly possible as the harvest is happening.  The only news that would be better would be that we are open for business but I want to hold back for another few weeks before we start offering items for sale.  This will hopefully serve to whet your appetite and help you be patient.

Personally, one fun thing I experienced as part of the travel I was lucky to enjoy was the amazing foods and dishes I had never tasted growing up.   Some of these international experiences show up in our easy to prepare meal kits. For example, our Mole Sauce provides all you need except for the protein to fix a delicious quick chicken mole dinner. We make it with a hint of heat, just enough to remind you that this is a Mexican recipe, but not enough to get the sinuses flowing. Even hot-pepper-phobes find it tasty. And if you like heat, you can add more with your own favorite pepper or hot sauce.  Today we prepared a lot of these meal mixes for you and now we need to head to Creo Chocolate in Portland to buy more of their 73% for our recipes!mole sauce

We offer other “international” flavors, including our Moroccan Tangine, which basically is a stew with wonderful spices and fruit. Not spicy hot but again with a small hint, because we want everyone to enjoy it. Again, we do not include the protein.  (Why do we skip that? The government oversees food processing work in two categories. I am inspected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a representative of the USDA. Food processors who provide meat in their products must also have a license issued by the FDA. The requirements for the inspector to have their own office and bathroom just makes this license unreachable in the commercial kitchen I use at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries.  So, no protein in our food products. )

loaded pasta sauce
Like this……but different

This past winter in the test kitchen we explored how to present a dehydrated version of our popular Loaded Pasta Sauce. That sauce was originally developed to incorporate the surplus zucchini and carrots that the farmers had. The dehydrated version does the same. We first macerate the tomatoes in red wine and then roast them for several hours. Then they are dehydrated hard so we can powder them. The carrots also need a bit of pre-cooking before drying; we found in the test kitchen phase that merely using shredded carrots left them with a crunch that just is a bit unusual for pasta sauce. Precooking before drying takes care of that. The rest of the recipe is similar but the end product is a bit different than the canned version. You may be amused to learn that when the people around the Tasting Supper table blind taste tested four versions of the recipe, they preferred the wine version, even over the canned recipe!  Right now we are dehydrating the tomatoes but it will be a while yet before we have the other local produce to assemble the recipe for you.

zucchini noodle startWe will be drying slices from zucchinis that grew too large for the farmers to sell. Since we know many people spiralize zucchinis for use in the summer, this will allow a shelf-safe product for use during the winter when zucchinis are imported and a lot more expensive. It helps people who want to have pasta but avoid the carbs and is delicious with our dehydrated pasta sauce. Additionally, if you are a backpacker, rehydration of the zoodles takes only a few minutes.

Last fall we obtained 150 pounds of pumpkins and butternut squash and have prepared a lot of single serving packages as well as 2-4 serving packages of our award winning Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup. All you need to do to enjoy this soup is boil the right amount of water , mix in the power and 3 minutes later the soup is ready!

Then we have a lot of fruit products include fruit leathers, chunks of fruit, and even a fruit dust. That one needs an explanation I think.   Huckleberry DustLate each year, after the first frost, Ranee Solmonsson of Sunshower Hill Farm harvests her garden huckleberries. These differ a bit from wild huckleberries because they are actually a different genus. The berry is large and not sweet at all. But when sugar is added, the flavor is that deep rich blueberry flavor we love. Can-Do Real Food prepares a culinary syrup for Ranee to be used on pancakes but especially wonderful in a beverage. Well, when we prepare it, we put the berries through a mill that separates the solids from the juice. The juice of course goes into the preparation of the syrup. The solids are “waste”. But this past December I tried to dry it as a fruit leather. It was too lumpy to roll up, so I ended up grinding it finely and it is absolutely amazing added to oatmeal or yogurt!

quinceAnother item we make that I would guess you might never see anywhere else is membrillo buttons. I first learned about membrillo when I moved to Oregon but apparently quince trees grow in many places around the world. In Spain, membrillo is made by preparing quince paste and then air drying it in deep containers. Before I became a commercial food processor I used a cookie sheet with sides and left the membrillo to air dry for a couple of months. Well, food safety regulations will not permit me to prepare it that way for you, so I put small dollops of the quince paste on a dryer sheet and voila! buttons. They are sweet and tangy and are shelf-safe, something you can carry in your bag or car and have for a easy snack.

Image result for charosetI try to make other unusual things. For example, it is now July and I can see we are going to have a bumper crop of apples from my Gravenstein tree. Besides dried apples, I plan on making a mixture that is a recipe we use for the Passover Seder in the spring. Charoset is a sweet mix that symbolizes the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt. The recipe I grew up with included grated apples, nuts, cinnamon and wine. I will be making a dehydrated version that can be used as a simple snack or rehydrated with a little water to have a soft condiment that would be superb with chicken any time of the year.

We will have herb mixes as we did before and also another batch of umami dust that can be used to enhance your stews and soups and other savory dishes.

It is our pleasure to play with food and present delicious items from local farms with no artificial anything.

And, since we are in the middle of harvest, if there is something you would like us to consider making, now is a great time to share the concept!

I Couldn’t Quit

So about a second after I announced Can-Do Real Food unfortunately had to stop because of health issues I began to feel like that was NOT the best solution.

In 2017 I canned lots of fruit and veggie recipes but I also expanded what we were doing with dehydration. I became fascinated how we could develop meal mixes, not just dried fruit or leathers. No automatic alt text available.

We asked shoppers at the downtown farmers’ market to taste and comment on some new concepts, like dried tomatoes. People responded well by offering suggestions like putting herbs on some, salt on others. One guy said, “Yup, it tastes like tomatoes and I hate tomatoes.” He was a good sport!

We had some disappointments. For example, a recipe we first prepared fresh and thought  a winner did not work the same when dried, so we had to let that one alone.

But others were winners. Our Mole Mix, for example, always sold out each time we prepared a batch. Image may contain: food

And always, we stayed with our mission and obtained surplus produce from farms, helping reduce food waste. We will continue to purchase produce from our farm partners.

Meanwhile, in my private life I was watching my daughter Lisa and her dude go on their back country adventures. They backpack, mountain bike and ski, often in places few people go. They carry their food, their water, and their fuel as no wood fires are permitted any longer because of the threat of wildfires.

I listened to their comments about the dehydrated foods available on the market. There were some they loved and others that were never going to be repeated. Lisa also combined some things together herself to supplement the prepared mixes because there were things they liked and could not purchase.

They already had told us how they enjoyed the Winter Squash Coconut Curry instant soup mix and challenged me to develop more foods that could be edible with a short fuel usage to bring water to boil.  Our Mole Mix will do that, too!

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Herb mixes

We will be in the test kitchen in the next few months to see if we can develop a powdered version of the canned Loaded Pasta Sauce.   We believe we can come up with something definitely different in texture and  a bit different in taste but still really good. The sauce can be used with the dried zucchini noodles we make from those squashes that get away from the farmer and become watermelon size.

2017gSo, in 2018 Can-Do Real Food will be preparing canned products ONLY for contracts with our farmers or others and about 3 or 4 savory dehydrated offerings and a number of fruit based dried foods.  For example, when we processed one of our farm partners’ garden huckleberries into a syrup, we milled to separate the berry skin from the juice. We then took the solids, added a bit of sugar (in this case only because garden huckleberries are NOT sweet) and dried the mix. Because of the lumpiness of the skins, we could not make a fruit leather, but we grinded it to offer as an add-in to oatmeal or yogurt.

The backpacking community will enjoy this, as well as other campers who want a break from preparing a meal from whole foods. In addition, a supply of some of our foods would make sense to anyone who loses power at home several times a year. If you have a grill, you can heat up water and then you can prepare the mix into a good meal.

We will NOT be at the farmers’ market as we have been the last two summers. Instead we may have a table one week in September when we have built up an inventory during the harvest season. Generally, we will market online and be able to mail these lighter weight foods easily.

Please let me know if you’d like to be on a special email list to announce when we will be at the market or when foods are available online.Image may contain: text

How to: Garden Huckleberry Syrup

Can-Do Real Foods works with a number of small family farms in the area. One, located high on the ridge above Newberg, is Sunshower Hill Farm, owned by Ranee and Jody Solmonsson. They raise a number of organic crops and Ranee produces amazing teas.

A couple of years ago she had a small crop of garden huckleberries and wanted a culinary syrup which might be used for pancakes and desserts, but was planned to make spectacular beverages from a simple Italian soda with carbonated water to your most alluring adult beverage of choice.

Whenever we mention this product most people assume we are talking about wild huckleberries, the kind you enjoy on summer hikes usually at higher altitudes. Garden huckleberries, however, are a whole different genus and belong in the nightshade family. They grow on cultivated bushes and are ready to harvest after the nights start getting significantly cold. Image may contain: plant, fruit and food

The berries are pretty large and not sweet at all. The skin is tough and the berry, when ripe, is hard. 2017a

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This presents a bit of a challenge in the processing. We need to extract juice from this hard berry, so the first step, after washing,  is to heat it up to help soften it.

Then the berries get milled and having the right tool is an important trick. Using a typical food mill or a chinois is long and laborious, with the container needing to be cleaned out and muscle fatigue in the shoulder usually occurring before the job is finished.

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However, thanks to a friend, we were able to borrow another kind of mill that spit the juice one way, the “must” (seeds, any stems and skins) another direction and it all worked easier on the arm.

Even better, when we ordered one we were able to get one with a motor as well as other screens to help us with other foods we process this way, such as pumpkin, grapes, and quince.

Once we have enough juice, sugar is added and then a bit of lemon juice to add a sparkle. Filling the jars is the final step and then, as in any canned food, letting it process and sit to make sure the seal is tight.2017d

Sunshower Hill Farm will have this item for sale starting late in November.  Contact them directly for obtain this wonderful syrup. Image may contain: drink

 

 

Marketing the Market

Last year something funneled down into my thinking mode and I realized I could ask shoppers at the Farmers’ Market booth if they would like to receive an email early, maybe Tuesday night, maybe Wednesday (leaving myself wiggle room) that would tell them just what we were planning to bring to the Thursday market.   And guess, what? People signed up! About 150 of them.

Since we often make small batches, maybe only a dozen of some yummy, I like to give the Buying Club a chance for first dibs. People are reminded if anything intrigues them to let me know to set one aside for them. It does not mean they need to purchase; just that they have that opportunity. This has been particularly friendly for those people who can not get to the market until late in the day.  (And because there is nothing lost if they do not show up or do not buy the reserved item, I don’t mind. I can always market it another day. The joy of preserved foods.)

I thought you might enjoy the Market Newsletter I emailed out Tuesday evening to the Buying Club for this week. Just to see the kind of communication it is.  If you have any ideas how to make it sparkle and drive more sales, PLEASE let me know.

JAM SESSION!!

Let’s make beautiful music for our taste buds this week! I’m bringing ONLY jellies because we have the new harvests beginning to pop and it is time to remind you that fruit spreads shine in ways more than breakfast toast or peanut butter sandwiches.

 

Our gravenstein apple tree was loaded last year (does not look good for this season, though) and when we heard one of our farm partners, Gratefull Gardens had a wooden cider press, we went over there to make a lot of cider. We took some of that juice and produced a beautiful clear MULLED APPLE CIDER JELLY.  Fall flavors, sure, but you know you enjoy them. This jelly can also be used to cook with sausage, potatoes, peppers and apples. Or as a glaze for chicken.

Two of our farm partners, Bethel Springs Farm and Keeler Estate Vineyard, both grow plums. Those deep purple orbs lend themselves to so many uses. Cara Lagunas of Third Street Oil and Vinegar suggested we splash a bit of pomegranate balsamic vinegar into that mellow plumminess. If you have not even tasted POM PLUM JELLY you might not understand how this deep rich flavor can translate very easily into a magnificent salad dressing.

Okay, the ever-present QUINCE PASTE will not be around much longer (at least until the fall). We have introduced this little known fruit to many people who now fully understand how matching this mellow full flavored paste with cheese is the bomb! Over goat cheese, in a baked brie, or simply with cream cheese, it’s superb. It’s also great with peanut butter.

“I don’t like rhubarb!” You know how often I hear that? When asked, it turns out the introduction was very tart. Well, I like my rhubarb sweet so here ya go…give it a try. Mixed with ginger because, as I’ve said it before, I just do not do with other people do. I love it with strawberries, don’t get me wrong. I just want to excite you with new options. Come taste the  RHUBARB GINGER JAM.  Great on ice cream and can be a filling for a cake also.

From Keeler Estate Vineyards we bring you two forms of their pinot noir wine. The PINOT NOIR WINE WOW! is a deep rich jelled spread that will help you introduce this to nonwine drinkers. (Did you know we must boil off the alcohol in order to get to set point for the jelly, so sad or not, there is no “booze” in this.)  We also introduced mulling spices to the mix and so, MULLED PINOT NOIR WINE WOW! is also available with cinnamon and other lovely flavors.

However, there IS booze in the NAUGHTY BUNNY MARMALADE, orange liquor to be exact. This marmalade is full of oranges and that is the flavor that comes through. Excellent as a glaze for chicken or fish. And to explain simply why we developed this marmalade, all you need to do is think of all those slightly pornographic carrots, you will understand that Bethel Springs Farm has more carrots than they can sell to their customers. More excitement in our canning kitchen and your home kitchen thanks to them!

We went to a nearby farm to obtain some pears a couple of years ago and the farmer showed us a bush that, after harvest, had only a few desiccated berries hanging. With the chickens underfoot wanting what little remained, we tasted them and eagerly agreed to harvest the next season. That was last summer and we only have a few jars left of GET YOUR GOUMI JELLY. A Siberian native plant, it has no predators here nor does it spread. It has a huge pit in the small berry, hence its lack of commercial viability here. So, we have this one small batch, almost all gone with a unique sparkling taste.

I love figs. I know many of you do too. We tasted an amazing FIG ORANGE JAM when we were in Croatia several years ago and have been trying to replicate it ever since. This one not only is great as is, but if you take the time to reduce it a bit, it can make a great filling for homemade fig newtons.

BERRRY NAUUGHTY was made for the first time last year when the market was about to open and Can-Do Real Food had next to no inventory until the 2016 harvests could be processed. We raided the freezer and had a few of this and a little of that and a bit more of this other berry. Not enough of any to make a straight jam. So we combined them, added some orange liquor and we sold out! So, now, we gathered our berries from the freezer, this time blackberries from a wild patch on a farm well off the road so no fumes, some raspberries from my canes, and some blueberries from our partner farm Beach Family Farm. It is with great pleasure we offer you a deep rich jam and I suppose you could use if in another way, but only if you can tear it out of the hands of your family members who are putting it on their toast.

See you Thursday noon to 6pm!!

 

 

 

Who Do You Know?

My mom was a nurse and so made sure we ate healthy meals. Each night we’d all sit down together as soon as the parentals were home from work and we’d have a meat and two veggies. Usually a home baked dessert afterwards. Sometimes it was delicious and sometimes I would have preferred to have a “no thank you” helping (i.e, liver).

As I struck out on my own I usually made a meat (never liver) and veggie, trying to skip desserts. Anyone who knows me personally knows I lost that attempt.

And once the kids were on the scene the effort improved and more veggies entered the picture (but never any liver). Most meals were made from scratch in those days but I had my shortcuts, like boboli or frozen bread dough to make pizzas and Betty Crocker brownie mix for the chocolate fix.

About seven years ago I started learning more about how the food we were eating was considerably different from the same food of my childhood. Concerns about pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified foods were one thing. But then I learned about how fish like tilapia was a farm fish which meant it was raised in man-made ponds that were often pretty polluted. And now, to complicate things more, Congress permitted country of origin information to no longer be on labels. So, really, where DOES that chicken come from?

Around the same time I began to get involved in the farm-to-table movement in West Virginia.  To say I knew nothing is not an understatement. I grew up in the New York metropolitan area, and while New Jersey’s nickname may be the Garden State, I lived in the paved part. But I enjoyed visiting farms and asking questions and I learned.

I learned a lot and I learned only a smidgen of what they know. They, the magic makers who take a tiny little speck of stuff, a seed, and manage to make that turn into tomatoes or squash or spinach. Amazing magic. They know how to do it and it definitely takes a lot of skill.

Right now here in the Willamette Valley some of the farmers are finding some fields are drying out enough from the winter rains to get started, but others will have to wait for more sun….or at least more non-rain days.  And then, later, they will deal with the vagaries of the weather, with heat and sunshine and lack of rain. And then, here in Oregon, the rains will start again, maybe in October, maybe in November, maybe with climate change whenever it does.

Those vagaries can make or break a financial year for our local farmers…and your local farmers too. I don’t care where you are when you read this, you have some small farms nearby. About a hundred years ago there were farms all over. The Garden State, for example, had earned its nickname because it was the vegetable garden for New York City.

So, accept this piece: there are farmers near you, raising food you can eat.

Before I started working with the farmers I met in West Virginia and here in Oregon, they used to be invisible. Either I never went down back roads or the roads I drove were not rural enough. But they were there, all along. Maybe just tucked back off a long driveway, or around the hill on the other sides. They are there.

Why am I belaboring that point? Because it is time, past time, for you to know your farmer.

I’ve been using that phrase for years and it seems more and more I am posting it almost weekly as new disgusting things about our food becomes known. But what does it really mean?

It means that it is once again time for you to understand that what you put in your body does make a difference.  It means your food is even more important than who won March Madness.  It means that it is time you understand the difference in your food can make a difference in your life.

I’m not talking any special diet here. I am talking knowing the source of what YOU chose to eat.

First of all, and maybe this is all you need to appreciate, it will TASTE BETTER!  Why? Well, most of the fruits and veggies at the supermarket come long distances, flown in or by train or by truck.  In order to be transported without spoilage, those fruits and veggies are picked green…not ripe. Almost everyone has eaten tomatoes in the winter and then a fresh tomato off someone’s backyard plant in the summer. THAT amazing explosion in your mouth is the humongous difference in eating something picked green and something vine ripened.  ALL fruits and veggies are that way.

Not only that, but if you were brought up with canned vegetables, try all those that you decided you would avoid as an adult one more time, fixed from locally grown fresh produce. If you’re like me, you will be surprised. Those cans of spinach that Popeye crammed down his throat to get strong never convinced me….until I ate fresh spinach in a salad and then braved up and cooked some. Spinach is no longer on my “hate it” list.

Secondly, and this is a bit concerning to me, we know our infrastructure (bridges and highways) have not been getting the maintenance they should have been getting over the past few decades. If there is a problem, as there was with the blizzard here in Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge blocking I-84 and the railroad, the transportation of goods (including food) may be slowed.  If I can get most of my food from local sources, I can manage quite well. Now the Willamette Valley is an amazing garden and so much grows here that we could get by with only a few things missing from our diet, but not all areas are this fertile. Nevertheless, there is food near you. Find out what it is and learn how to prepare it for your meals.

Third, while the economic indicators show that the recession is over, it just doesn’t feel that healthy yet. One way to have a tremendous impact on your local economy is to spend more of your money IN it. In other words, use local shops and farms and services instead of the large corporate entities as much as possible. I, for one, discovered that printing my labels for my canned products cost more at Staples than at a small locally owned print shop. A lot less at Copy Cabana! So, when I go in weekly during my processing season and pay for printing, I know that money will mostly stay right here in my town.  The food I buy from local farmers helps the local economy the same way.

So how do you build a relationship with a farmer?  One easy way is to identify where and when your local farmers’ markets are.  Many market managers make an effort to plan the hours so consumers can stop during lunch hour or after work on their way home. Here in McMinnville, our planned market hours are expanding to noon to 6pm on Thursdays from mid May to Mid October. There are markets every day of the week within 30 minutes of here! Maybe in your area too.

When you go to your farmers’ market you will see four or five or more fruit and vegetable stands as well as other specialties with meat,  bread, wine, beer, candy, and preserved items (yeah Can-Do Real Food!).  Speak to the person at the booth. Ask about how they produce their food. They will be happy to speak with you!  They are proud of what they do and love it when people show interest.

Some farmers offer a CSA. That stands for Consumer Supported Agriculture. This is an easy way to get more bang for your buck (more food for your dollar), but there is a catch, maybe two. First, you pay ahead, either by the month or the season or the partial season. This permits the farmer to have working capital during the growing season. Second, you will get some produce you may have never eaten before. That can be a hard hurdle to overcome, but ask the farmer for a recipe or use your internet skills to search for one. Make exploring new foods a regular family adventure. (When Graham and I  first got together we did a cuisine of the week for a few months and learned new ethnic recipes. Now our exploration usually is a new veggie our farmers suggest.)

Look, some people (you?) have a close reliance on a hair dresser, a nail person, a massage therapist. We want what makes us feel/look/move healthy to be a regular, reliable part of our routine.  Where is your decision about the source of your food in that list of important people? Where is the consideration of how you CAN influence your health with what you eat?

It’s easier than you think. There are many ways to find local information, but an easy place to start is Local Harvest. Stick in your zip code and hit the search button. You will then see a list of farms and more that are near you. Have fun exploring…..and share your stories!

 

Name That Food!

My husband has told me that in Texas there is a store where there are a kazillion kind of peppers and the employees must be fluent in two languages and neither need not to be English.  Houston, for example, is a major city with many many immigrants, and a wise business understands that many non-English speakers who live there love those peppers. He said he often brought visitors there because it was fun to play “Name The Vegetable” since the produce department had global selections.

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Today, the regular supermarket has selections that sometimes even a new cash register clerk does not recognize. This is a sad but perfect example of how many people no longer cook from scratch and so they do not know the appearance of “whole food” .

Recognizing a plant that is growing is the next step for many. For example, I am not a farmer. No green thumbs. I do everything I can to support them by buying locally from farmers I know to working with them to use surplus in our recipes so they can have another income stream with shelf-stable foods to offer to their customers. Farmers work hard, long days, no time off in season or if they have animals, all year. The LEAST any of us can do is support American farmers! But I grew up in suburbia and can recognize those few plants my dad grew in our garden.

Several years ago I wrote a blog for Huntingon, West Virginia’s Wild Ramp Market. Visiting a farm I snapped photos of plants in the garden and posted the pictures  asking people to Name That Veggie. Many people were able to guess just about all of them. 

Today I saw something online that provided photos of some common things we eat (and some I personally have never seen let alone had a chance to taste) like coffee and capers. Check it out! See how many you can identify.

And after that, if you can try to eat one you’ve never tasted, let me know!

 

And the Beat Goes On!

The weather changed into its winter wet cycle here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon a bit over a month ago but, believe it or not, we are still busy in the kitchen processing our farm partners’ harvests!

This week we processed over 200 pounds of garden huckleberries, making a deep rich culinary syrup. Sure, you could use it on pancakes, but it shines in making beverages. One of the Can-Do kitchen staff started dreaming of a kind of mojito….we’ll have to get her recipe.  We expect another 500 pounds of the berries after this weekend so there will be plenty of syrup for everyone!

Thanksgiving last week was a time to pause and think of all we have accomplished this year. Tied to the harvest, we very much feel blessed with living here in this fertile area. Here is a list of all we prepared this season:

 

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And even now, as we enter the slower time of year, we are busy in the Test Kitchen developing some new concepts.  We have seen that many of the people who purchase our products really enjoy cooking, so with them in mind we are developing some specialized recipes that will cut down cooking prep time. Just to tease you a bit, we have been asked by Creo Chocolate, the Portland chocolatier who supplies the 73% chocolate for our dessert sauces, to develop a mole sauce.  This will enable you to have all the ingredients you need to add to your broth and your protein. Very affordable and our focus group thought it was just the right mix of heat and sweet.

Until then, enjoy the treats you have purchased…..come see us at the McMinnville Grange Farmers’ Market Saturday, December 10 from 10-2 to stock up your pantry, find some wonderful items to enhance the holiday meals and festivities, and perhaps even pick up something to gift to someone special.

 

Hip Deep but the Flood May be Slowing

We had a day of rain on Saturday. The rain here in Oregon is very different from every other place I’ve lived, mostly east of the Mississippi. Except for summer late afternoon or evening thundershowers, east coast rain usually is settled in for hours and hours, maybe days. It comes down hard and there is no way to go out without an umbrella.rainbow-nov-7a

Here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon most rain is a gentle misty event. It’s the kind of rain that requires the “sweep” setting on the windshield wiper and a hat and waterproof jacket is all that is typically needed. During the winter the clouds overhead scuttle east, blown by high ocean breezes. In the winter, our rainy season, there are breaks in the clouds and we get to see lots of rainbows.

Sunday was partly cloudy, with some clouds pretty dark with moisture but no new rain fell. Today was more grey but no rain. Tomorrow it is expected to be about the same with some more sun, daytime temps in the low 70s.

Why the weather report?  Well, tomatoes. img_1719

When the fall rains really begin, the tomatoes absorb the moisture and split…and so, that season will be done.

On Sunday when I did my farm pick-ups only one farm had tomatoes. We are still processing somewhere about 150 pounds, trying to make our wonderful Loaded Pasta Sauce as fast and furious as we can. Because, well, when the tomatoes stop….so does the pasta sauce processing.loaded-pasta-sauce

Choosing to eat locally with the seasonal garden production is a wonderful way to get connected to the earth and its cycles, even if you live in the city or suburbia. With our food processing business tied to the farms, we feel this ebb and flow all the time.

Highest and Best Use

I learned a new term in college that has  always been part of any evaluation since then: highest and best use. In terms of land planning, it relates to the greatest economic development that is permissible by law on any given piece of land. For example, a forest has some potential for income generation through recreational fees as well as tree harvesting, but a factory that produces whatever widgets it makes can end up with lots of value.Profit

Highest and best use in those terms relate to economics only. What is the most money you can earn from any piece of property.

But there are other meanings to highest and best use, really.

Yesterday, at the Oregon State Fair I had some time prior to my Can-Do Real Food presentation, so I went around and sat with people in the audience and chatted. Most were really receptive to conversation but one person cut it short.

I started by asking if they were a farmer or a gardener. Yes, I farm was the proud answer. I held up my thumbs and clearly showed they were not green and told her I highly respected the work she did to produce food.

So far so good.

I then told her I am a food processor using the surplus food from area farms.  She asked what that meant.

I told her how I had worked on a farm and had been really surprised and pretty appalled how much food ended up in the compost pile only because it was shaped funny.IMG_1690

So? she responded…and there was an edge to that tone of voice.

When I explained how I had developed my business to capture that unsold healthy produce to preserve it for local consumers she was visibly shaken. She informed me that compost has value.

I agreed,. I know, as the farmers at my partner farms have told me, that compost goes back into the soil as green fertilizer.

But, I suggested, it can be used to not only feed people, but to provide another income stream for the farmer.

At that point she stood up and told me that she didn’t NEED any more income. She then walked out.

So, she is probably right. When I was in college and learned about highest and best use I was being taught that the epitome of best is collecting the most money.

Perhaps this woman had a message she could share that would be valuable.