Sunday, November 22, 2015

Farm Bulletin: 2. Vivace—Lively

If you shop at the farmers' market, you may notice a difference in the taste of the same crop grown on different farms. In winemaking this difference is known as "terroir," defined as "the taste of the place." For instance, carrots from DeNoble Farms on the Oregon coast might taste different from those grown at Gathering Together Farm in the Willamette Valley. Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm gives us an insight into some of the factors that might affect this difference in flavor from farm to farm.

Liveliness in vegetables is often elusive, a flatness in flavor that you can't quite put your finger on. It is easy to blame shipping distance, time on the shelf or variety. True, all of these can have a deleterious effect. Equally important is a good array of nutrients made available to the growing plant.

Castroville sign.

Many of us were introduced to artichokes grown in the coastal area around Castroville, California. In 1980, we visited Carol's sister Sylvia, then living in San Francisco, and she brought us down to Castroville where we saw the artichokes and enjoyed a perfect artichoke soup at a restaurant in the town. We'd fallen in love with artichokes as children, at that time  an expensive and seasonal treat, so we were eager to see them growing.

About two decades ago, in the mid-90s, the flavor of California artichokes struck us as flat as a cardboard carton, and we stopped eating them. We shrugged off our disappointment, thinking it was a decline due to the newer types which are treated as annuals. A symptom of the yield-over-flavor mentality.

Horseradish benefits from sodium added as a soil amendment.

Both of our fathers told us stories about the quality of food grown near the sea and the importance of salt in their flavor. Cecil Boutard told us that certain crops benefitted from salt applications, especially those that originated in coastal environments like asparagus and seakale. Peter Black, Carol's father, told us about the lamb he ate at Mont St. Michele where they graze on land inundated by the tide. From then onwards, every other meal of lamb was, as he recounted, a mere shadow of that perfection. We took their observations to heart, and over the past decade we have applied over 20 tons of sea salt to our soil or as foliar spray.

Early authors recommended the use of sea salt as a manure for certain crops, underscoring the observations of our late fathers. John Wilson in Our Farm Crops (1859), recommended its use if crops of maritime origin are grown more than 20 miles from the sea. His advice was based on carefully quantified yield trials. Still, most farmers we know recoil at our use of salt, grimace and usually mutter something about the salting of Carthage. That story never made sense to us given the fact that salt was too valuable to waste, even as a matter of revenge. Anyway, the proof is in the pudding: tons of salt later and we are still growing crops with no Carthaginian devastation. Even the crop that receives the most heavy applications of salt, horseradish, still needs weeding and the soil is still full of worms and other organisms.

Lycopene content is increased in tomatoes.

Last January, the journal Science (243:472-473) published an article titled "Ecosystems say 'pass the salt!'" The gist of the article, which opened with the standard reference about the destruction of Carthage, is that sodium is a limiting nutrient in non-coastal ecosystems, and additions of salt stimulate the soil's flora and fauna. The work was done in the tropics, but has application in our wet ecosystem. The investigation of sodium was initiated by the observation that ants offered both salt water and sugar water were attracted to both pretty much equally. Interestingly, sodium is simply never discussed when discussing plant nutrition or soil health. Soil and foliar tests do not include sodium, or a host of other important functional elements for plants. An essential but ignored element in agronomy.

For organic farmers, especially in the Willamette Valley where the rain washes the sodium and many other elements out of the soil, the advice to use salt is sensible. Non-organic farms rely on salt-based fertilizers and have to be very concerned about the salinization of their soil, which is probably why salt disappeared as a soil amendment in the early 20th century. Soil amendments used for organic agriculture are typically very gentle and do not pose the same risk of salinization. It must also be stressed that the use of salt as a soil amendment is crop specific. Chicories, turnips, radishes, kale, celery, tomatoes and artichokes are examples of crops that benefit. Crops such as cane berries, melons and grapes do not tolerate the chloride ion in salt well, so we never apply it directly to these crops, though the annuals benefit in the rotation plan. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research on the subject of sodium and plant health, and we are left to follow our hunches. Sea salt is also a source of dozens of trace minerals needed by animals and plants.

Turnips from Ayers Creek Farm.

Based on the work of an Israeli researcher at Ben Gurian University and their own test plots, Rutgers published a couple of bulletins on the use of salt in growing better-flavored tomatoes. Their observations mirror our work. It must be stressed that adding salt as a sodium supplement does not make the food salty, it amplifies certain flavor components, otherwise produced at lower levels by the plant because they are not essential to reproduction. In the case of tomatoes, the result is a significant increase in lycopene content. The expansion of artichoke production inland, away from the coastal areas, affected the flavor. Fortunately, you can buy coastal artichokes here in Oregon, and for a brief time from the fields of Castroville. We always ask the produce manager if we can look at the box.

Coaxing flavor and liveliness from vegetables has an element of alchemy where you are working with unseen elements, as well as a chess game where you need to understand how the board will change several moves ahead. Farmers are working from their own observations. The needs of individual crops vary. The crop may be a seed, fruit, root or leaf. Our farm is a mosaic of soil types and sometimes we misstep. Our use of sea salt is just one element of nudging the flavor and quality of our crops higher. Albert Howard's Agricultural Testament is an elegant work that places emphasis on the health of the entire farm unit, including its people, and not on individual problems. In one chapter, Howard warned against the fragmentation of the agricultural sciences. The farm is an ecosystem as well as place of production, and learning about the processes in unmanaged systems is useful, even if the author propagates that old slur against the Romans.

Read the first installment in this series, Allegretto—Sprightly Cheerfulness.

Castroville sign from Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Two Soups Double Your Winter Comfort

I grew up in a time of convenience, when to make a cake all you had to do was open a box, crack an egg and add water. It was like magic, guaranteed to turn out perfectly every time. It was also long before I thought to read the ingredients in the tiny print on the labels and wonder what those multisyllabic words meant. During our courtship, Dave wooed me with his lunches of grilled cheese sandwiches alongside a bowl of canned condensed tomato soup—when getting fancy meant making it with milk instead of water.

Coffeehouse flyer and recipes.

But there was a period in college when I was drafted to run a coffeehouse-cum-soup kitchen on campus, coordinating volunteers to make the day's featured soup. Most were made from scratch, and I still have the collection of recipes ranging from Mike's beer cheese soup to Jane's "potage parmentier" to Robert's killer French onion soup. One I didn't get, despite much begging and pleading, was Dr. Coleman's secret recipe for split pea soup. Lusciously thick, with a spicy heat that left a warm glow, he always brought a huge pot of it into the kitchen already made, so I couldn't even sneak a glimpse of the ingredients.

Curried coconut squash soup.

What that early experience taught me was that soup recipes can take myriad forms, from one with an ingredient list the length of your arm, dozens of steps and hours of chopping and simmering to something that can be thrown together in a few minutes from whatever's in the pantry and the vegetable bin.

Have a couple of potatoes, an onion, a couple of cups of milk and some canned clams or frozen corn or shrimp? Chowder! A couple of carrots, onion, garlic, canned beans and tomatoes? You've got the makings for minestrone!

Here are a couple of soups I've made this past week that are perfect for warming up chilly winter evenings. I usually just slice some of Dave's homemade sourdough and call it a meal, but you can get official and make a salad to serve with it if that makes you feel better. Call the neighbors over if you're in the mood, since adding more stock or water or a few more ingredients can stretch it to feed a crowd!

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Sage

1 lb. dried white beans (cannelini, borlotti or any small to medium-sized white bean)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh sage leaves or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
6-8 c. water or chicken or vegetable stock (or a combination of the two)
Salt to taste

Put dried white beans in a pot and cover with water by 1 inch. Soak overnight or for several hours. Drain.

In a large soup pot, heat oil until it shimmers. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until tender. Add garlic and heat until fragrant, but don't brown it. Add stock, sage leaves and drained beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for at least two hours or until beans are tender, adding more water if the beans absorb too much of the liquid. Add salt to taste. It can be served at this point, but I like to purée it with an immersion blender until it's smooth. (This can also be done in batches in a blender or food processor, but cool it slightly first or it'll explode all over the kitchen.)

Options: Chop a head of kale and stir it in to wilt at the end of cooking the beans, though this probably means you wouldn't want to purée it. Add a chunk of bacon or ham when you add the stock, (removing if you decide to purée the soup), then shred it and add back to the soup before serving.

* * *

Curried Coconut Squash Soup

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp. curry powder
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne
1 13 1/2 oz. can coconut milk
2-4 c. water or chicken or vegetable stock (or a combination of the two)
4 c. roasted squash, cut in 1" cubes
1 kaffir lime leaf (optional)
Zest of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime

In a large soup pot, heat oil until it shimmers. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until tender. Add garlic and heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add curry powder and sauté for 1 minute. Add cayenne, coconut milk, water and/or stock, squash, lime leaf, lime zest and juice. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lime leaf and discard. Purée with immersion blender until smooth. (This can also be done in batches in a blender or food processor, but cool it slightly first or it'll explode all over the kitchen.)

 Here's one attempt to replicate that split pea soup, though adding white pepper may be the secret to the heat. Check out these recipes if you're inspired to start your own soup saga.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Veteran Faces a New Battle, This Time at Home

Recently my friend Kendra Kimbirauskas wrote about a farmer, Hubert Brumett, she met as part of her work as CEO of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project. A farmer herself near the small town of Scio in the Willamette Valley, she understood not only the heartbreak of Hubert's situation, but also the danger he and his neighbors face from the siting of a factory hog operation next to his land. And though Hubert lives in Indiana, the same thing could happen here, since Oregon has not set any setback distances for CAFOs at the current time.

At the end of a dusty Indiana lane, set back in woods, is a little white home. On the porch swing next to the front door is where World War II veteran, Hubert Brumett, slowly rocks forward and back while enjoying the fresh air and the sounds of a world he has known his whole life.

Not a lot has changed about the house over the years. But beyond the front porch, the times and the landscape are shifting quickly—and in ways Hubert never would have dreamed.

Hubert was just a boy in 1939 when he left his family’s Indiana farm and enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“We used to call ourselves men,” he says with a smile. “But we were all nothing more than just kids.”

During his time in the military, Hubert found himself far from the Indiana countryside, stationed in New Guinea, The Philippines and Okinawa. His job was to guard B-24 bombers from enemy sniper fire.

He credits his surviving the war to the fact that he was injured in a jeep accident. It took him out of action for four months. When Hubert returned to his unit, he didn’t recognize some of the faces—and familiar ones were missing. That’s when he found out many of the boys he was stationed with had been killed.

“If I would have been with them, I’d have been killed, too,” he says.

After the war, Hubert was discharged and he returned to the Jackson County, Indiana, farm that his father bought. Hubert built a house there in 1957, and it has been his home ever since. Even at 94, he still lives there independently.  And after a lifetime of farming, working and raising a family, Hubert looked forward to living quietly in his little piece of paradise.

That all changed last year.

Hubert’s world came under fire when he learned that a local hog company proposed construction of an industrial-scale concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, that would house some 4,000 hogs and produce more than 1 million gallons of manure just 557 feet from his front door.

No stranger to farming, Hubert couldn’t understand why a hog operation of this scale could be built virtually on top of his house. It didn’t make sense. Aren’t there rules that require a facility that size to be a certain distance from the nearest neighbor, he wondered?

The disappointing answer was no.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Hubert. “You’d think they’d have some rules—some limits on where they could build theses hog barns. But there aren’t any rules and they don’t care.”

Right now, Indiana law allows for a new CAFO to be sited within 400 feet of a neighboring residence. In Jackson County, a variance allows for new livestock operations to site just 300 feet from a neighboring home. Including Hubert’s, 485 homes are located within a 3-mile radius of the proposed Jackson County hog operation.

The CAFO operator has no plans of living anywhere near the facility, opting to live in town several miles away from the operation. And it’s no mystery why.

Industrial hog CAFOs confine thousands of animals inside cramped, artificially lit and mechanically ventilated buildings. Massive amounts of manure are collected in giant pits, untreated and decomposing. And while there, it releases over 160 gases toxic to people and animals. Gases like hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane rise from the pit to create a toxic atmosphere. So dangerous, in fact, that gigantic fans are installed to blow the gases out of the barns and into the surrounding area.

The fear? If the fans fail, the hogs will die.

But hogs are not the only ones to suffer potential injury from the fumes.

Hubert lives with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD is a disease that makes it difficult to breath and it requires Hubert to use an oxygen tank. His doctor recently wrote a letter offering up her opinion that the particulate matter and gases from the planned hog operation would be debilitating to Hubert’s health. Hubert’s family fears that if the hog operation is built, they will have no other choice but to move him to a nursing home.

“It just breaks my heart to see this,” says Hubert’s daughter-in-law, Brenda Brumett. “He fought for his country. He worked hard. He raised his children. Give him the dignity to live on his own land the way he wants to live.”

Showing no sign of giving up his home and his independence, the Army veteran says there’s only one thing to do.

“All we can do is fight it.”

Hubert’s neighbors—over 100 families who many are farmers themselves—banded together to support Hubert and challenge building of the proposed industrial livestock operation. They have formed a group called Help Us Build Ethical Rural Trust, or HUBERT.

For more information about Hubert or to help him in his fight, please visit his Go Fund Me page. Learn more about other veteran farmers, including Mickey Clayton of Dot Ranch in Oregon.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Farm Bulletin: 1. Allegretto—Spritely Cheerfulness

I can't tell you how much I've missed contributor Anthony Boutard's missives from Ayers Creek Farm the last couple of months. It's a privilege to welcome him back, and we will continue to enjoy them as he and Carol finish up their tenure at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market (they are scheduled for the markets of Nov. 15th and 22nd and Dec. 6th and 20th). And I can testify from a day spent "helping"—they kindly let me come out occasionally and ineptly struggle through chores—that the escarole and chicories are, indeed, as magnificent as described below.

We buttoned up the harvest just a few days ago. In between, the wheat for next year's frikeh, the barley and favas were planted; all are emerging well. We finished our processing at Sweet Creek and now have the full range of preserves. The rhythm of the season is important, and this year it allowed us an easy gait through the fields and chores. Still some odds and ends left to finish, but we are happy albeit a little tired.

Blueberry, cherry tomato and escarole salad.

As the notation indicates, we approach tomorrow's market with a healthy measure of cheer even if the weather offers little comfort. It will be good to see you all again. The van will hold a full complement of beans and a lot of cornmeal, both Roy's Calais Flint and Amish Butter. We will also carry pickling lime and whole kernels for those wanting to make hominy. The popcorn needs several more weeks before it will pop, though. We will have pumpkin seeds and squash, sliced and whole.

This is the season for, and the year of, escarole (top photo). The best we have grown. This chicory is good for both salads and as a pot herb. The Portuguese make a traditional soup of white beans and escarole. Jacob Harth, chef at Nonna, treated us to a lovely version earlier this week. Also good in chicken soup. And any soup benefits from a bit of grated horseradish.

Creamed escarole with polenta.

Shortly after agreeing that marriage might work out, we took a trip with Cecil Boutard to introduce Carol to the various far flung members of the clan. It was early April and, on a whim, Cecil decided he wanted to swim in the Mediterranean because, apparently, all members of the family had done so before him. We drove from his brother's summer house in southern Switzerland, it was the ancient farmhouse where Lenin lived during his exile, down to Nice via Italy.

On the return we decided to travel through the southern French countryside and cross the Alps around Grenoble. The road to the resort area was well developed, and then it turned into a glorified goat path and very slow going in the dark drizzly spring weather. Late in the evening we stopped at a bar in small mountain village for a bite to eat. The owner brought out a plank of wood for each of us with two walnuts, a slab of bread, a chunk of cured sausage, a knife and an apple. The flavor and texture of that apple stayed with us. It had been in a cellar for nearly six months and its flavor was full and complex. In the The Anatomy of Dessert, Bunyard describes the contemplative joy of eating a really great apple, and that dingy little russet was of such pleasure that it lingers 39 years later.

For us, the plums were nowhere to be seen, but we have a good supply of russets. Growing apples for us is an indulgence rather than a commercial venture. We don't worry about the grubs or scab, and we prefer small fruit as the flavor is in the skin. This year, the apples received no irrigation. It was not due to some droughty virtue on our part, we just didn't have time to get the water to the orchard. We keep the apples in an unheated room and enjoy them through March. If you want more flavor from an apple, these russets might please, so long as you are willing to share with the occasional grub. After all, if a grub is not enticed by an apple, how good  can it really be? Certainly not the fodder for a 39-year-old memory.

Check out these delicious escarole recipes including Blueberry, Cherry Tomato and Escarole Salad; Creamed Escarole with Polenta; and Bean, Escarole and Polenta Soup.

Read the second installment in this series, 2. Vivace—Lively.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Cyril's Puts Meat on the Side

I was intrigued from the very first line of the e-mail. "We’re updating our menu and literally putting meat where we think it belongs: On the Side."

No wonder the subject of the message was "Courage!"

Which is why I took a few minutes on a recent morning to talk with owner Sasha Davies about her vision for her three-year-old bistro, Cyril's. The first thing she said was that this shift away from featuring meat at the center of every plate was no radical epiphany that descended on her from on high.

"This is the menu I always wanted to have," she said, which is more than evident in the "vision board" (left) that she created with her husband Michael Claypool before they'd even signed a lease on the Cyril's space.

"Meat is really easy," she said. It's got fat, that unctuous, umami-laden essence that oozes from it and makes it the star of every well-composed plate it appears on. And because meat has always had that diva's role on most restaurant plates, she believes it's difficult to convince people that a meal composed of mostly vegetables has the same value, never mind the flavor, of one that's focused on protein.

"One day it dawned on me that meat-oriented meals were about a thousand times easier to make delicious and satisfying than vegetarian ones," she wrote, "and that to be a terrific vegetarian cook actually required more skill and experience than it did to nail any braised pork shoulder recipe.

"Putting meat on the side is us being courageous enough to do what we’ve always wanted to do, which is commit to what we’ve secretly dreamed about becoming: a vegetable-oriented bistro. Call us ‘vegetarian-ish.'"

Deciding to take this leap coincided with a presentation she heard from Mark Canlis, owner with his brother Brian of Canlis restaurant in Seattle. At that talk Davies heard him speak about the broken nature of the industry he is part of, about "essentially [how] the hospitality business was severely limited in their capacity to serve others by their colossal failure to take care of their own," i.e. their workers, their families and their communities.

It struck Davies that "this other-centered (the opposite of self-centered) strategy that Canlis was talking about created a practical space for this deeply held belief I have that when people feel seen and heard they do better, in fact they thrive."

Will this shift in the direction of her restaurant gain acceptance? Or, on the contrary, will it be a tragic mistake, a fear that Canlis also admitted to in his presentation?

"I'm pumped, afraid, excited and uncomfortable," she said. "But if we don't do this, we'll always wonder."

Cajun Short Rib & Oxtail Gravy in Louisiana

I love it when my friend Jim Dixon of Real Good Food goes to New Orleans because he not only posts great photos of the food he finds (and eats), but gives us a taste of the cultural flavors of that special place. Here he shares some of New Orleans' food history along with his version of Cajun gravy.

We've been going to Louisiana since one of our kids moved to New Orleans eight years ago, and every time we're there I discover something I want to eat more often. The foodways of the Gulf Coast are simmered in a long history, sometimes dark and mostly forgotten. The contributions of Native Americans, enslaved Africans and displaced Acadians have been stirred together with flavors from the colonial past and perked up with Caribbean spices. In the last century waves of German, Irish, and Italian immigrants added their cooking traditions to the pot, and the food you eat in Louisiana today tastes of all those influences.

And while I love the more sophisticated food of New Orleans, I'm drawn to the cooking of the country. It's more like what I cooked before I ever went to Louisiana, simple and ingredient-driven, the everyday food of working people. But there's a lot of crossover from Creole to Cajun, and done right by good cooks the results are delicious no matter what they're called.

The first time we drove west from New Orleans toward Acadiana, I asked my friend Pableaux, a prairie Cajun from New Iberia, what I should eat if I really wanted to taste Cajun food. "Anything with gravy," he said. In southwestern Louisiana gravy isn't the pale stuff served on biscuits or the light brown sauce you might have with turkey. Cajun gravy is meaty and dark; served on rice, another Louisiana staple, it's a meal.

On this trip, we went to the Blackpot Festival just outside of Lafayette, a weekend celebration of local music and food that includes an amateur cooking competition. The categories were gumbo, jambalaya, cracklings, and gravy, and everything had to be cooked in a cast iron pot. I watched the cooks, asked a lot of questions, and tasted some good food. When I got back, I had to make some gravy.

Short Rib and Oxtail Gravy

Beef is used most often for traditional rice and gravy, but squirrels, quail and other game go in the pot, too. Cuts with a lot of connective tissue, often the cheapest, add collagen for a rich, velvety gravy. My favorite at Blackpot combined short ribs and oxtails, but round steak or stew meat work well, too. Start by browning about a pound of meat in extra virgin olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron pot or other heavy pan, turning often until it's well-browned on all sides. Season liberally with salt, black pepper and either a little cayenne or a Cajun spice blend like Slap Ya Mama or Tony Chachere's. Remove the meat from the pot and add a chopped onion.

Cook the onion until it's very dark, stirring regularly. More than one cook told me this was critical for good gravy. Add a couple of stalks of chopped celery and some chopped green bell pepper (or a jalapeno). Cook for another 10 minutes or so, then add the meat back into the pot, pour in a couple of cups of water (or stock), cover and simmer for a few hours or until the meat is very tender. If you want a thicker gravy, mix a tablespoon of flour with a little cold water to make a paste, then stir it in and cook for another half hour or so. Serve the gravy over Kokuho Rose brown rice with chopped green onions and some Crystal hot sauce.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Food News: Garden Educator for PDX School, Fresh Farmers, and Rebuilding Grasslands

One of the newest educators at Sabin Elementary School in Northeast Portland is rarely in the classroom, preferring instead to meet with his students outside, rain and shine. That's because Julian Dominic's job is to get kids excited about digging in the dirt of the school's edible garden, observing the life of the soil through its bugs and biology, as well as learning to cook some of the produce they grow.

A feature in the Sabin Community Association newsletter said that this winter Sabin's students will learn how soil is built by planting cover crops that put nitrogen back into the soil through succession planting.

"We'll start with a cover crop of nitrogen-fixing plants such as fava beans, buckwheat or rye on a third of the 14 raised beds," Dominic said. "Then we'll plant winter-hardy greens such as spinach, chard and kale in the other two-thirds of the beds. Those will be covered with a hoop house to nurture the spring plants."

The article said that Dominic, whose position is funded through the school's PTA, is coordinating the garden curriculum to match the themes that the school's teachers are covering in class.

There is a Taste of Thanksgiving fundraiser for the school's garden program on Thurs. Nov. 5th from 5 to 8 pm at Whole Foods on Northeast 15th and Fremont. Tickets are $5 for a full meal.

* * *

With the average age of Oregon's farmers nearing 60 years old, it's hard not to worry about who's going to be growing our food in ten years. Luckily, it looks like it's not too late to turn the tide, according to a recent article in the Capital Press.

Many programs are offering prospective farmers the opportunity to participate in what are being called "farm schools" where they can learn not only how to grow vegetables, but how to write a business plan, invest in the right equipment and market farm goods through farmers' markets, CSAs and value-added products. And those would-be farmers are flocking to attend workshops like the one-day small farm school sponsored by Oregon State University’s Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems and schools like the one at Greenbank Farm (photo above) on Whidbey Island in Washington.

"We have a generation of people in their twenties and thirties who are interested in going into farming as a business and as a statement of how they see the world," the article quotes Garry Stephenson, director of the OSU center, as saying. "One of the hopes we have is that they will eventually scale up and become medium-size farms."

* * *

Rotational grazing—the farming method that builds nutrient-rich soil by moving animals between pastures, allowing the land to rest between grazing periods—is helping to restore grasslands even in arid states like New Mexico. This method also helps the soil to retain more moisture during dry periods, according to an article by food writer and author Deborah Madison for the website Civil Eats.

It quotes rancher Nancy Ranney of Ranney Ranch in Central New Mexico as saying, “We don’t have to cut back so much on our herd count during deep drought, and we can build it back while other ranchers are still de-stocking.” Ranney added that rotational grazing has diversified the varieties of grasses growing on their land, which gives the cattle a wider range of nutrients in their diet.

"In three years we went from four to five species of native grasses to 30, without planting seed or irrigating. Among them were cool season grasses, which people said we couldn’t grow. But every year we see a new cool-season grass come up," she said.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

When Life Gives You Quince, Make Cake!

They're lumpy and hard as a rock, yellow as a golden delicious apple and with a floral fragrance that'll perfume your whole house. In fact, bowls of them were arrayed in homes in ancient Greece and Rome for just that purpose, and were given as gifts at Greek weddings in homage to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.


I'd been obsessing over quince for a couple of weeks when my friend Myrna mentioned they had a bumper crop on their trees and asked if I'd like to pick some.

Oh joy!

You see, I'd made a batch of quince-infused vodka a couple of years ago based on her husband Karl's recipe. It turned out terrifically, the only problem being that first attempt had taken a year to fully mature and I hadn't documented the process well.

Quince infusing in vodka.

So after peeling and chopping up a few pounds and stuffing the pieces into a gallon jar with a couple of bottles of Monopolowa vodka—our preferred brand for infusing since it's good quality and cheap—it went immediately into the basement for a couple of months' rest. The problem was, there were still about four pounds of fruit left.

I'd made quince sauce before, which is delicious, but in the spirit of exploration wanted to try something new. That's when I remembered my mother's recipe for applesauce cake, a moist little single-layer cake that she'd whip up when an after-school snack was called for. Since quince sauce is almost exactly the same texture, if a little denser, than applesauce, I figured it would make a good substitute.

The quince sauce added a complexity of flavor and aroma that belied the simplicity of the cake, especially with a little scoop of ice cream served alongside. You can easily substitute applesauce back into the recipe, and I heartily recommend topping each piece of cake with a spoonful of whichever sauce you choose to make it with.

Simple Quince Sauce Cake

For the quince sauce:
4 lbs. quince, the more fragrant the better
Sugar or mild honey, to taste
Juice of 2 lemons

For the cake:
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. butter or margarine (1 stick)
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. quince sauce (or applesauce)
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped fine (optional)

To make the quince sauce, coarsely chop the quince into large pieces, removing core and any bruises or brown spots. Place in large pot over medium heat and pour in a cup of water and lemon juice. Stir to combine. When water in bottom of pot begins to boil, reduce heat to low simmer and, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, cook until quince pieces are tender. Add sugar to taste (I like mine slightly tart, but it still takes a fair amount of sugar to get it to that stage). Allow to cool. If you want, you can mash it by hand or run it through a food mill to remove skins and make a smooth sauce.

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In a large mixing bowl or mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla together until soft and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add quince sauce and beat in thoroughly. Mix in dry ingredients a small amount at a time until just combined, but don't over mix. Add walnuts and stir them in by hand.

Grease (using butter or margarine) and lightly flour an 8" or 9" square cake pan. Pour cake batter into pan and bake for 40 minutes. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick or sharp skewer into the center. It is done when the pick comes out clean. Serve with a spoonful of quince sauce on top and a scoop of ice cream alongside.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Being a B Corp Brewery

In mid-October of this year, Portland was host to a gathering of certified B Corporations. The metro area currently boasts more than 40 businesses that have gone through the tough vetting process required for certification, out of a total of 55 in the entire state. To get an idea of how certification impacts businesses in one industry, I attended a panel featuring four craft breweries that have been certified by the organization. The breweries featured on the panel were employee-owned New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado; Beau's All Natural Brewing Company of Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Canada; Brewery Vivant of Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Hopworks Brewing Company of Portland (our fair city), Oregon. This post was developed in collaboration with advertiser Hopworks Urban Brewery, one of the B Corp-certified breweries featured on the panel.

First of all, what the heck is a B Corporation?

According to the website, B Corporations are "for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency."

In practice what it means is that each of these breweries chose to look critically at not just their business practices, but their use of resources, the way they treat their employees and their commitment to their communities. Perhaps because the founders of B Corporation were business guys, the focus on merging doing good while growing a business has helped these breweries commit to taking a long-term approach to recouping the costs of becoming more sustainable.

For Katie Wallace, the Assistant Director of Sustainability at New Belgium, that means the values-based ethics of her employee-owned business benefited from "putting into words what we've been doing since the company was founded." Steve Beauchesne of Beau's, a certified organic brewery, echoed Wallace's statement, saying that his family decided to go through the process because it was "better to be at the leading edge rather than trailing behind," baking sustainability into the DNA of the company rather than trying to retrofit. Plus, on a practical if not completely serious note, "the beer tastes better."

The process of certification, based on a scorecard and point scale, is flexible enough to accomodate different approaches depending on the focus of the business. For instance, initially Christian Ettinger of Hopworks said that his brewery focused on the resource side, like water use, electricity, sourcing of ingredients and the built environment of the brewery itself. A further step involved establishing a board of directors for the company, a move that B Corporation encourages as the best way to ensure that the values of the company are maintained over time, one that Ettinger feels has far-reaching benefits for the stability of the business going forward.

Two key areas for all of the breweries involved their employees and the public.

Kris Spaulding, co-owner of Brewery Vivant, said that they've worked to cultivate an ownership mentality in the culture of the brewery, like giving employees permission to put their passions to work through paid time off to do voluteer work in the community. Beauchesne said that even though, in his words, "beer is a big motivator," since getting certified he's seen Beau's employees make more of a personal connection to their work.

Ettinger said that Hopworks has even inserted sustainability into job descriptions, with every applicant being asked how they see sustainability fitting into their work. Panelists echoed the importance of having every worker become a champion of the sustainability goals, making the goals not just words on a piece of paper, but also another way of holding the company accountable to those goals.

As if dispensing terrific beer wasn't enough to make customers happy, B Corporation certification helps the breweries differentiate themselves from others in their respective areas, and the good will it generates "makes it an easy way to engage with their customers," according to Spaulding. Accountability also plays a part with the public, with an informed customer base encouraged to get involved and hold the business to its stated goals.

The bottom line is that certification is not a one-time achievement but an ongoing effort. Beauchesne said that for Beau's, "the most important part was going through the process," having goals for improvement via the evaluation the brewery received, with the scorecard helping them to focus on where to invest their energy and money in the future.

As Ettinger joked, "When we get to 200 points [on the scale], I can retire."

Watch a video of the entire panel discussion.

Top photo, l to r, Kris Spaulding of Brewery Vivant, Steve Beauchesne of Beau's All Natural Brewing Company, Katie Wallace of New Belgium Brewing and Christian Ettinger of Hopworks Brewing Company.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Marie Equi: Hero of Oregon's Radical Past

I first heard of Marie Equi, one of the first woman physicians in Oregon and a radical activist, from my friend Bette Sinclair, who lives in Equi's former home in the Goose Hollow neighborhood. Chagrined that I'd never heard of this incredibly accomplished and important figure in our state's history, and eager to find out more, I was glad to hear that a biography was being published by OSU Press. My friend, writer and editor Angie Jabine, recently wrote a review of the book for Oregon Arts Watch.

Born in 1872 to an East Coast, working-class immigrant family, Marie Diana Equi seemed destined to become just another New Bedford millworker. But by 1891 she was homesteading with her Wellesley-educated girlfriend near The Dalles, where she made national headlines after publicly horsewhipping a corrupt school superintendent.

A new biography of this remarkable Oregonian.

As one of Oregon’s first female physicians, Equi led an acclaimed relief mission to San Francisco in the wake of the 1906 earthquake and fire. She also performed then-illegal abortions, and she was arrested with Margaret Sanger in 1916 for distributing birth control pamphlets. She led workers’ protests and strikes and called herself a Radical Socialist and anarchist. She was convicted of sedition for opposing U.S. involvement in World War I and served nearly 10 months in San Quentin. On returning to Portland, she cohabited with the labor activist—and future Communist Party USA chairwoman—Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

Dr. Marie Equi.

You’d think a figure as memorable as Marie Equi would be at least as familiar to Oregon history lovers as, say, Sacajawea, John Reed, or Abigail Scott Duniway. One of Equi’s contemporaries called her “the most interesting woman that ever lived in this state, certainly the most fascinating, colorful, and flamboyant.” But up until now, she seems to have been erased from the record, her story primarily scattered among old newspaper clippings and unpublished oral histories by those who befriended her in her later years.

A vivid new biography from Oregon State University Press [titled Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions] ought to change all that. In a thoughtful yet page-turning account of Equi’s life and times, social historian Michael Helquist has portrayed not just a remarkably gutsy woman but also an era of street-level activism that makes today’s Occupy protests look like a barn dance.

Read the rest of this terrific review and find out how the U.S. Justice Department's surveillance of Equi's "seditious" activities became a main source for biographic information about her.

Photo at top is from the Oregon Historical Society that is captioned, in part, "Dr. Marie Equi and her adopted daughter Mary outside of the Federal Courthouse on the day of Dr. Equi's unsuccessful appeal, October, 1920."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hot! Hot! Harissa! (aka The Perfect Condiment)

I've been wanting to take another stab at making this anywhere-from-one-to-five-alarm sauce after making Jim Dixon's version using red bell peppers. Balanced, with a sweetness and depth of flavor from a combination of caraway and cumin, harissa also can have a searing heat depending on the type of peppers you use. I love using it to spike the sauce for my macaroni and cheese, to spice up a mild curry or to dot on top of deviled eggs.

Spanish espelette peppers.

Plus it's great on its own, served alongside eggs or stirred into dishes that could use a little kick, and is great for any family members who absolutely must have their favorite bottle of hot sauce at every meal (you know who you are…). Without the vinegary twang of hot sauces like tabasco or sriracha, it blends flavors, pulling their notes together like the background-singing heroes of the movie Twenty Feet From Stardom.

The perfect opportunity to try, try again came when I stopped in at Conserva, Manuel Recio and Leslie Lukas-Recio's outpost of the tastes of Spain. I was ogling some of the last of the fresh ezpeleta peppers from their Viridian Farms—the ones they dry and grind for their piment basquaise—when Leslie mentioned that they're terrific in harissa, more accurately representing the  flavor of the Spanish peppers that were brought to North Africa, where harissa originated.

More or less copying what I did before, I took a hint from a recipe by hot-in-his-own-right Yotam Ottolenghi and added just a touch of lemon (he used preserved lemon but, not having any in the pantry, I substituted lemon zest). Per Leslie's suggestion I lightly charred the peppers, which made peeling their very thick skins much easier, though if you use even mildly spicy peppers I'd highly recommend using rubber gloves when you're peeling and seeding them. It didn't occur to me until I'd nearly finished, and my hands were feeling hot for a couple of days afterwards even with repeated washings.

And I can't encourage you enough to talk with the farmer at the market or your retailer when you see a new ingredient that catches your attention. These peppers made a good hot sauce into a stellar one, and I'll be looking for more of them—and maybe even seeds for my garden—in the future.


8-10 ezpeleta peppers (or Spanish espelette peppers or red bell peppers)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Turn on the broiler in your oven. Lay the peppers on a sheet pan and put it under the broiler, a few inches below the flame. Watch carefully, turning the peppers with a pair of tongs when they start to blister. When skin is thoroughly blistered but not charred, remove the peppers to a small paper bag. Close it and leave the peppers to steam for at least ten minutes. Wearing rubber gloves, especially if the peppers are spicy, peel or rub them to remove most of the skin and remove the seeds and stems. (You can also use a paring knife to pull off stubborn sections of skin.)

Place peppers and remaining ingredients except for oil in the bowl of your blender or food processor. Turn on and drizzle in the oil, processing until it forms a smooth paste. Taste (careful, it's hot!) and adjust salt. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator. It should last at least two weeks.

Photo of espelette peppers from Wikimedia.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Matter of Balance

A meditative moment from the Zigzag River on Mt. Hood, brought to you by my brother, who built these rock cairns. Pretty cool!

Digging Our Roots: The Great Wapato Hunt

Indigenous people didn't have any problem finding sources of protein here in the moderate climate of the Northwest. After all, there were plenty of deer and fish, rabbits and crabs to be caught or hunted. And foraging for edible greens like fiddlehead ferns, sorrel and nettles, particularly in the moist river valleys and rainforests of the Coast Range, contributed to the diet of the region's earliest residents.


Starches, though, were a real problem, which my friend Hank Shaw pointed out as we were standing knee-deep in the mucky verges of the shallow lake at Ayers Creek Farm. Luckily there were starchy tubers to be found, like the ones we were looking for in the clay and mud beneath our feet. Lewis and Clark wrote that they stopped "to examine a root of which the natives had been digging great quantities in the bottoms" along the Deschutes River, and likened their appearance "to a small Irish potato."

Hank in his element.

A couple of years ago Hank had mentioned that he was pining to forage for wapato, also known as arrowhead or the duck potato (the Latin is Sagittaria latifolia), which is best found in October here in the Northwest. I remembered that Anthony Boutard had mentioned he'd seen arrowhead plants in the lake on the farm, and tucked the factoid away for future reference. When Hank announced he was coming up from Sacramento for a weekend event earlier this month, I immediately e-mailed Anthony and arranged a trip out to the farm. I also borrowing two pairs of waders, being as we didn't have the fortitude of those earlier foragers who would dig the tubers in their bare feet, wrangling them from the muck with their toes and collecting the rounded bulbs when they floated to the surface.

The harvest.

Anthony had flagged what he felt were promising spots, and though he didn't follow through with the threat of erecting a reviewing stand, the better to watch the impending man-vs.-muck competition, we waded out into the marshy shallows. Hank said that on previous expeditions he'd found the wapato with its green, arrow-shaped leaves standing alone, but here it was woven into a thick mat with other marsh grasses. The green leaves had turned brown and shriveled, leaving only the celery-like stalks standing. Fortunately they were easy to distinguish from the browned grasses around them, and it was fairly easy to reach down under the stalks and find the round, potato-y bulbs anchored in the mud.

Peeled wapato.

Ranging from the size of olives to that of tennis balls—it was thrilling to pull out one of those, let me tell you—the two of us managed to harvest almost five pounds in just 90 minutes of work, and that was in one patch about 12 feet in diameter. Which left plenty of bulbs to mature into future plants, not only in that spot but all around the perimeter of the lake.

Crispy, fried in duck fat.

Taking them back to the Boutards' house, we washed off the mud and peeled the bulbs with a paring knife, then Hank sliced them and fried them in duck fat from some breasts that we were having for lunch. The first bite? A crunchy, light French fry was my first thought, much less dense than a potato but with the same sweet, starchy flavor as its fellow tuber.

Most of them would be going home with Hank to be used in developing recipes for his blog, and he did offer to leave some of them for us, but I know where to find more—not just out in Gaston, but maybe someplace a little closer to home. After all, our own Sauvie Island was originally named by the Lewis and Clark expedition, which christened it "Wappetoe Island."

Photos of foraging in the field by Linda Colwell.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Food News: Bees Win One, Spanish Hotline, Factory Manager Appointed to Board of Ag

In a groundbreaking ruling, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the federal Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of a pesticide, sulfoxaflor, because the approval was "based on flawed and limited information." In an article in the Los Angeles Times, it said that "initial studies showed the insecticide was highly toxic to honey bees" and quotes one of the three-judge panel as writing that "bees are essential to pollinate important crops and in recent years have been dying at alarming rates."

The lawsuit challenging its approval was brought by a consortium of beekeepers and beekeeping organizations, which were represented by Earthjustice, an environmental group. The pesticide, a neonicotinoid made by Dow Agrosciences and sold under the brand names Closer and Transform, was registered for use on lettuce in California in 2014, but because the approval by the EPA was national, the ruling revokes its use nationwide.

The article quotes the ruling as concluding "given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it."

* * *

A toll-free hotline has been established in Oregon to help Spanish-speaking workers report mistreatment in the workplace, according to an article in The Oregonian by work life reporter George Rede. Part of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Education and Outreach alliance, EMPLEO (Spanish for employment) is "a program designed to help workers cut through red tape with a single phone call."

The article says that "in Oregon, workers are especially vulnerable in construction, restaurants and forestry jobs involving tree-planting and thinning" and quotes Juan Coria, deputy regional administrator of the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division office in San Francisco, as saying "we're seeing a lot of workers being exploited because they are unaware of their rights and resources."

The number? 1-877-552-AYUDA, Spanish for "help."

* * *

In a move that feels to Oregon's family farmers like a kick in the teeth, Governor Kate Brown has deliberately overlooked them in favor of appointing the manager of a powerful out-of-state factory farm to the State Board of Agriculture. The board, which advises the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) on policy issues, also develops recommendations on key agricultural issues, and provides advocacy of the state's agriculture industry in general.

Marty Myers, the governor's appointee, is general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms LLC (photo above), which opened a plant in Boardman on the Columbia River in 2001 and has been "at the center of several controversies, including labor violations and allegations of animal abuse," according to an article in the Capitol Press by Kendra Kimbirauskas.

Kimbirauskas said the plant in Boardman, which supplies milk to Tillamook Cheese, is licensed to expand to 90,000 cows in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), and that in 2005 it revealed it released 5.6 million pounds of ammonia into the air each year, a byproduct of decomposing liquefied manure. As a result, Threemile Canyon has been accused by the U.S. Forest Service as being "one of [the] two major sources of acid rain and haze in the Columbia Gorge."

So why did Governor Brown choose Myers to the 10-member Board of Agriculture rather than Jon Bansen, a 4th-generation dairyman in Monmouth, who also applied for the appointment? We may never know, because, as Kimbirauskas points out, the appointment process "allows the Department of Agriculture and the governor’s office to work in secrecy to secure the appointment of their preference without any public scrutiny. Further, the Board of Agriculture is exempt from Oregon Government Ethics requirements that public officials provide statements of economic interest to ensure financial conflicts of interest are disclosed and addressed."

With small to mid-size family farmers comprising close to 85% of Oregon's farm ownership, it seems Gov. Brown could have made a different choice.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Chefs & Farmers Team Up for More Flavor

It's incredible that no one had thought of it before: bringing chefs together with farmers and seed breeders to collaborate on growing more flavorful ingredients. Fortunately we have a visionary in Lane Selman, an agricultural researcher at Oregon State University, who had the idea to do just that. This is the second year she has organized the Culinary Breeding Network's Variety Showcase, a tasting and evaluation of new vegetables bred as a result of these collaborative efforts. Here is Slow Hand Farm owner and consultant Josh Volk's report on the evening. Photos courtesy of the incomparable Shawn Linehan.

Monday night was the Culinary Breeding Network's 2nd Annual Variety Showcase in Portland, Oregon. The event brings together seed breeders working on varieties for organic production, farmers and chefs to highlight the work that they are all doing to promote new and special vegetable varieties. Lane Selman, the organizer and force behind the Culinary Breeding Network, does an incredible job of bringing seed breeders from all over the country and pairing them with chefs who can prepare their vegetables and give a sense of their potential.

Farmer Josh Volk (r) with chef Andrew Mace, Le Pigeon.

The format for the event is pretty simple: seed breeders and/or farmers are paired with chefs who will work with the farmers' vegetables to prepare a tasting. On the night of the event, tables are set up with displays of the vegetables alongside raw samples, as well as samples that the chefs have prepared. Then the room fills with journalists, chefs, farmers and seed breeders. The big crowd of about 200 sampled the goods and talked with the chefs, breeders, farmers and each other about what they were tasting.

Samples of a sweet paprika and Hungarian Black pepper cross.

As a farmer, I’ve been working with Lane on vegetable projects for about ten years now and she’s always included tastings in the work that she’s involved with, not forgetting the importance of flavor when choosing varieties. We’ve worked together on countless crops, mostly doing trials under organic production methods to look at their potential for yields, disease resistance, storage, cold tolerance, etc., but always also looking at flavor. In all of these trials we’ve been comparing new plant material from seed breeders alongside commercially available seeds.

Andrew Still of Adaptive Seeds (l) and Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey.

About seven years ago she started inviting chefs to be a part of the conversation, and the synergy is incredible. Now, at the Variety Showcase, we have all three groups in the same room at the same time. As a farmer I’m able to talk to the breeders about what characteristics I’m looking for, and to the chefs about what they’re looking for. They also give me ideas about new crops, new techniques and new marketing avenues, and I get to see, touch, smell and taste the products right there. I had a great time catching up with friends from the food world and getting inspired by new crops and incredible preparations of old crops that give me new ideas.

Non-sweet vegetable corn from Bill Tracey, UW-Madison.

I was tabling with Andrew Mace from Le Pigeon and Shaina Bronstein from Vitalis Organic Seeds. With Our Table Cooperative I’ve been growing fennel trials so we had six to sample at the table, and Andrew had made a take on chips and dip with the fennel that was delicious. I didn’t have a chance to make it around to all of the other tables; every time I’d go out to try to see what was out there I’d run into someone I wanted to talk to and then spend all of my time on just one or two items, but I did get to see most of it. Plus I got to talk to a lot of people about fennel and what I’ve noticed while growing a dozen different varieties side by side this year. In the mix of crops being highlighted were carrot breeding lines, sweet corns—or perhaps more accurately vegetal corns which are sweet but also have amazing corn flavor and are meant for fresh harvest—really exciting work on American groundnut (Apios), winter squash, many different peppers and beans, winter melon, barley, wheat, shiso, parsley and probably a handful of others I either missed or didn’t get a chance to see.

This event in some ways is showing food at an exclusive craft level, but in typical Oregon style, it is anything but elitist. The emphasis is on featuring the vegetables and moving our food system forward using organic techniques, while celebrating the breeders who are making this possible and raising everyone’s level of understanding and creating positive connections.

To see more of the fun, check out Shawn's gallery of photos.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Tomatoes Ending…But Don't Toss 'Em!

If you're like me and your visits to the garden to check on your tomatoes are getting more infrequent, before you just give up and plow them under, grab a bowl or basket and pick those tired old bushes clean. I just went out to our back forty and picked enough ripe green Aunt Ruby tomatoes to roast and make two quarts that'll get bagged and frozen to use for something delicious later this winter.

You could also just toss the chopped up unripe tomatoes into a pot, cook them down and run them through a food mill for sauce. Freeze them as is, or put them in the oven at 200° for a few hours to make a paste to flavor all kinds of dishes.

And if I don't get too lazy and remember to do it, I'll make one more trip out before the rains come this weekend. Maybe I can even get Dave to make a green tomato sorbet with some…

Monday, October 05, 2015

Hank Shaw's Guide to Cooking "Antlered Things"

On a weekend at the beach I started reading Hank Shaw's first book, Hunt, Gather, Cook, and was moved to write this:

"After reading the first couple of chapters, my usual single-minded march to the beach turned into a completely different experience. I slowed down and started scanning those patches of green with different eyes, wondering what that blooming shrub might be, whether its bell-shaped blossoms would turn into berries in the next few weeks and if they might be edible. What would I make with them?"

Yes, I'd foraged mushrooms and knew the names of a few edible plants, but Hank's way of writing about the landscape made it come alive in a way that I hadn't experienced before. And that's what makes his new book on hunting and cooking "deer, elk antelope, moose and other antlered things" so intriguing. You see, I'm not a hunter. But I have been gifted with a few care packages of venison in my day, and I know that Hank's advice on pulling the maximum amount of flavor from the meat, while not burying it under a mound of cheffy acrobatics, is going to make that next gift package—hint, hint, all you hunters—a meal to remember.

And even if those care packages are few and far between (sniff!) I know I'll gain a unique perspective I'd never get any other way, from a humane, thoughtful and, to my mind, incomparable writer on the natural world. So watch the video above if you care to, but please consider a donation to make this book a reality. You'll be supporting a great cook and writer in his effort to teach people more about their food and where it comes from, a mission I can totally get behind.

* * *

Update from Hank:

Floored. Astonished. Gobsmacked. In less than 13 hours, we made our initial goal - the one that determines whether Buck, Buck, Moose will live or die. Not sure if we set a Kickstarter speed record, but it must be close. I am not an emotional man, but I gotta say I am genuinely choked up at the outpouring of support for Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and this venison cookbook.

Your efforts are a loud and forceful message to anyone who cares to listen about where the real priorities of North American hunters lie: Our trophies are at the table. Food is why we hunt, and your support of this book can be no louder affirmation of that fact. I salute you.

Now what?

The initial $30,000 goal makes Buck, Buck, Moose a reality. Every dollar spent beyond that goal helps us print more books, pay our subcontractors, save money for a second print run and to market the book when it comes out - without a big-name publisher to do that, we're on our own. And PR ain't cheap.

Finally, if we do really well, I'll squirrel away some cash to fund my book tour, which will start around Labor Day 2016. Every dollar chipped in now allows me to come to your town when the book is released next year. Visiting you was the highlight of my tour for Duck, Duck, Goose. Let me do it one more time!

So keep spreading the word. There are more than 14 million deer hunters in the US and Canada. We have a long road ahead of us to reach them. But it all starts with you telling your deer-hunting friends about Buck, Buck, Moose.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

~ Hank