Monday, August 13, 2018

Urban Foraging: Figs from a Neighbor

The combination of dogs and a walkable neighborhood gives me the perfect excuse to go on reconnaissance missions around my neighborhood, looking—some might call it snooping—on parking strips and in front yards for fruit trees. Having older dogs that, like toddlers, are more interested in process than destination, I've taken the opportunity to note the plum, Italian prune, fig, pear, apple, cherry and persimmon trees on our various routes.

Some are gnarly old things that predate the bungalows built in the 1920s, the only surviving remnants of the orchards and farms that used to dot the countryside between the small towns like Sellwood, Albina, Multnomah, Kenton, Lents and St. Johns that were eventually annexed by Portland. Others were planted as street trees in the intervening years, though I wonder if the hapless homeowner who planted the giant walnut tree in his front yard thought about the terminal velocity of ripe walnuts when they drop 60 feet onto his car (or his head).

In any case, just around the corner from us is a fig tree that was planted around seven or eight years ago that the homeowners had tried to espalier along a short retaining wall. The scent of the leaves was intoxicating on warm summer nights, but it never bore fruit until the house sold and the new owners neglected to trim it back. The next year there were big, dark brown figs dangling from its branches and I began stalking the house, hoping to strike up a friendly, if self-serving, conversation with the new owners.

A couple of months ago I finally—aha!—caught the guy raking in his yard and casually asked if perchance they ever used the figs or would…ahem…mind sharing some of them. He scowled and indicated his girlfriend had tried making jam the previous year but ended up throwing most of it out, and he'd be happy if someone picked them so they wouldn't litter his sidewalk.

Score one for persistence!

So last week, shopping bag in hand, I walked over and plucked three or so pounds. They were delicious for eating out of hand, and I made the rest into a stellar jam using a recipe from Martha Rose Shulman as a guide, though I doubled her recipe and used a bit less sugar than she called for.

Fig Jam
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman

2 1/2 lbs. ripe figs, roughly chopped
4 1/2 c. sugar
5 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice, strained
4 tsp. balsamic vinegar

In a large bowl, toss together chopped figs and half the sugar. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Transfer figs and sugar to a medium-sized saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. When mixture comes to a boil, scrape back into bowl and cover with plastic. Let cool and refrigerate overnight.

Scrape fig mixture back into the saucepan. Place a small plate in the freezer to use for checking the thickness of the jam as it cooks. Bring the fruit back to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. When the mixture comes to a boil, stir in the remaining sugar, the lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar. Boil, stirring, until mixture is thick but not too concentrated, 10 to 15 minutes. Skim off any foam that accumulates. I also skimmed off some of the seeds that cluster at the surface, though it's not necessary to skim off all of them.

To test for doneness, remove the plate from the freezer and place a spoonful of the jam on it. Wait about 20 seconds and tilt the plate. The jam should only run slightly, and fairly slowly. Boil a little longer if it seems too runny, but take care not to cook it until too thick. It needs to be spreadable.

Transfer the jam to clean jars, wipe the rims and place canning lids on top. Place canning bands over the lids but don't tighten bands more than finger tight. Allow to cool, tighten the bands, then refrigerate or freeze.

Check out the fascinating history of the Italian prune trees found around the city and get a recipe for a Prune (or Plum) Tart!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Two Thousand Five Hundred Posts? Really?


A little more than a dozen years ago this blog began, and 2,500 posts seems like a good time to pause for a moment and reflect on that significant milestone. I had not a clue at the time I wrote my first post what Good Stuff NW would become, or how many passionate people I would meet, people who would let me tell their stories and show me what a truly vibrant, equitable and accessible food system could look like, as well as how we could achieve it by working toward that goal together.

I'd like to thank the many contributors and guest essayists, particularly Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm, who've added their voices to this effort, and helped to expand it beyond my "I'm just one person" scope. And a big shout-out to the sponsors who have seen fit to contribute their support in so many ways to making Good Stuff NW the success it is.

Lastly, thanks to all of you readers for your support. Your feedback and participation has made this journey so very worthwhile.

Going forward, look for more reporting from the fields, profiles of farmers and producers, recipes for delicious food to serve those you love and, always, in-depth posts on food policy and politics you can act on. As Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer always says in closing, "Courage!"

Corn Salad: Distillation of Late Summer

It was going to be a perfect summer evening, I just knew it. There was an invitation from friends for a dinner on their patio, along with a demonstration after the meal of their newly installed gas fire pit. Grilled pork loin with a guajillo chile sauce was the focus, and when I asked what we could contribute, our host requested a vegetable side dish.

Sweet corn has been on my mind lately, and I pondered the possibilities. A corn pudding, perhaps? But a quinoa salad was already on the menu, so no. But a corn salad? Now there was something to chew on. Recently my brother had a made a salad to go with a grilled paella—albacore, raw corn sliced fresh off the cob and lettuce dressed with light vinaigrette—that had entranced me. And so many of the Mexican dishes that caught my eye while browsing my collection of Diana Kennedy's cookbooks had combinations of right-from-the-field vegetables caught at their peak of ripeness.

So I hit the market and bought whatever seemed to be almost jumping off the tables and into my basket, begging me to bring them home. Again, a simple spritz of lime juice, a splash of olive oil and a showering of salt was all they needed to shine, plus a super-simple avocado crema to serve alongside adding a certain sumptuousness, and my vegetable side was good to go.

Despite a last-minute (but welcome) rain shower just before we arrived, the evening was perfection. And the fire pit? Worked like a charm as we sipped our dessert wine and watched Jupiter transit the twilight sky over the Coast Range.

Corn Salad with Avocado Crema

For the corn salad:
1 15-1/2 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 ears corn, kernels sliced fresh off the cob
1/2 red onion, halved lengthwise and slivered crosswise
1/2 large cucumber, seeded and diced, or two small Persian cucumbers, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, chopped (about 2 c.)
1 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt to taste

For the avocado crema:
1 c. milk
1 clove garlic
2 avocados
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 c. sour cream
Salt to taste

In a large mixing bowl combine the black beans, corn kernels, onion, cucumber and tomato. Pour in the lime juice and olive oil and stir gently to mix.

In the bowl of a food processor pour in the milk and add the garlic, avocados and lime juice. Process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary to incorporate all the ingredients. Add sour cream and pulse until just mixed, then add salt to taste.

The crema makes almost four cups, which is more than enough to serve a small amount alongside the salad, but it is also spectacular as a dip for chips or in tacos or burritos. It'll keep for at least a week stored in the fridge, so don't be afraid to make the whole batch. (It can also be halved if you don't want to make the whole amount.)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Hopworks Celebrates Tenth Anniversary with Salmon-Safe IPA Festival

This post was developed in collaboration with Hopworks Urban Brewery, a supporter of Good Stuff NW.

How does a fantastically successful Portland brewery celebrate its 10th anniversary?

Well, if its founder is Christian Ettinger, it takes a whole year to do it justice. It started with an event in April when he looked back at his roots as a homebrewer, getting his first job as the head brewer of what would become Laurelwood Brewing Company, then, finally, establishing his own Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland in 2008.

Brewmaster and founder Christian Ettinger.

At that time, his passion for sustainability and the environment was behind the decision to rehab an old industrial building on a moribund strip of a major eastside thoroughfare. It involved rethinking the building's mechanical systems, electrical systems and storm drainage systems from its roof and parking lots, as well as the use of water, the main ingredient in making beer. Critical to its function but a source of much waste in the industry, Hopworks now only uses 3.39 gallons of water per gallon of its finished product, compared with an industry average of more than seven gallons per gallon of beer.

This focus on systems led Ettinger in 2015 to seek out certification as a B-Corp, a designation that “uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” Hopworks became only the seventh brewery in the world to earn that designation. Later that same year, Hopworks was the first brewery site in the country to achieve Salmon-Safe certification, an eco-label based on an assessment that considered the site’s stormwater management, water use, chemical and pesticide reduction, water quality protection and enhancement of urban ecological function.

Which leads to the second part of the year-long celebration, the first annual Salmon-Safe IPA Festival being held at the brewery on Saturday, August 25th.

The festival began taking shape when Hopworks issued a challenge to 35 craft breweries across the country to make an IPA-style beer using only Salmon-Safe certified ingredients. More than 20 breweries from some of the largest in the country to some of the smallest accepted and were given a list of farmers who produce beer-related ingredients.

“We’re excited to be able to use our skills as brewers to bring attention to what’s going to be the single greatest issue facing humanity in the next decade,” Ettinger said.

“We want to really inspire brewers to ask the questions and make the move toward sustainable sourcing,” he continued. “Salmon-Safe is a first step for sustainable farming, and it’s a gateway to organics.”

Dan Kent, co-founder and Executive Director of Salmon-Safe, said the festival is also a celebration of the hop growers and malt producers who have worked hard to ensure that their farming practices use water efficiently and don’t negatively affect nearby waterways. He said the craft beer industry became a focus for his organization when it found that 90 percent of all hops grown in the United States comes from two salmon watersheds—one in the Willamette Valley and the other in central Washington near Yakima.

“Hopworks has been the champion for Salmon-Safe in the region,” Kent said, and he’s excited at the prospect of working with breweries that may not have been aware of the certification previously.

Gayle Goschie in the hopyard at Goschie Farms.

That appreciation of Hopworks extends to many of the growers who have worked with Ettinger over the years, including Gayle Goschie of Goschie Farms, the first hop grower in the country to be certified as Salmon-Safe.

“From day one I have been impressed with Hopworks’ focus on sustainability and the lightness of its footprint,” Goschie said. She has found that awareness of the availability and quality of Salmon-Safe ingredients has grown from those early days to the point that now brewers are requesting certified hops to use in their beers.

For Ettinger, his involvement with Salmon-Safe and clean water goes back to his childhood growing up in the Willamette Valley.

Chinook salmon from the Willamette.

“I spent a ton of time as a kid swimming in the Willamette and the Tualatin [rivers] and you tried not to open your mouth when you jumped in,” he said. He remembers asking himself why it was so gross, eventually coming to the realization that agriculture and industry had thoroughly ruined these waterways.

“Here we’ve got this abundance of water,” he said, “And in the last hundred years man’s done a pretty good job of destroying this most precious natural resource, and it’s up to us to reverse that.”

“I’m honored to use the power of beer to propel the message,” Ettinger said of his reason for having the festival as part of Hopworks’ anniversary celebration. “Beer is fun, it’s social, it’s light. It’s our task to keep the storytelling simple and meet people where they’re at, make the resources available for them to take the deep dive. But what more fun space to shake the tree and get a little more environmentally aware than over a beer?”

But his not-so-secret agenda?

“This is the world’s first ever Salmon-Safe invitational beer festival with the sole subject being how do we change the world through water and through responsible sourcing,” he said.

Cheers to that.

Purchase tickets for the Salmon Safe IPA Festival on Saturday, August 25.

Photo of Gayle Goschie from USDA "Women in Ag" interview. Photo of Chinook salmon from Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Guest Essay: Time to Zero in on the Farm Bill

This opinion piece from Congressman Earl Blumenauer, released on June 14, 2018, states that both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill—both have since passed their respective versions—maintain a deeply flawed status quo and weaken support for healthy food and sustainable farming. Blumenauer believes there is a better path forward. Please consider contacting your representatives in the Senate and the House regarding this issue.

Health care, climate change, economic development, and jobs are some of the major issues at the heart of current American politics. And there’s major legislation making its way through Congress right now that impacts all of these areas and every American who eats. Yet, most people know nothing about it.

Bigger isn't better.

The farm bill has flown under the radar for too long, with large agribusinesses and their lobbyists exercising an outsized influence on our nation’s food and farm policy while the rest of the country is left fighting for crumbs. That is, unless more people raise their voices.

As Congress works to reauthorize a new farm bill by September 30 [of 2018], it’s time for everyone to wake up and get involved.

Sadly, our current food and farm policies fail to meet the needs of the American people. We pay too much to the wrong people to grow the wrong food in the wrong places. The federal government spends an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars to help the wealthiest and most powerful agriculture operations get bigger and more profitable. Recent data shows that the bill’s high dollar farm subsidy programs paid the same 28,000 farmers $19 billion for 32 straight years.

Family farms mean business.

Meanwhile, small and medium-sized farmers and ranchers, the environment, and American families receive too little attention, too little concern, and too little help. This is unacceptable.

This Congress, unfortunately, only promises more of the same, and in some cases it has been working to make the situation worse.

In May, Republican leadership tried to force its farm bill through the House of Representatives. The legislation failed in a highly partisan, dramatic vote on the floor of the House. Several far-right Republicans, who want draconian changes to U.S. immigration policy, voted no. And every Democrat was unified in opposition to the bill’s blatant attack on those in need.

Everyone wins when everyone has access to good food.

The controversial bill drastically cuts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, enacts burdensome requirements for recipients, and forces them to attend an untested, unproven job-training program with strict penalties. While these cruel policies alone should be enough to defeat the House Republican farm bill, they are only the most obvious of many egregious provisions in the bill.

The House bill takes the “savings” from cutting programs benefiting the neediest Americans and puts much of it in the hands of corporate farms, helping them get even richer, all in the name of the farm “safety net.” But current farm subsidy programs are less of a safety net and more of a corporate welfare program. The House bill doubled down by creating new loopholes for those who don’t need more help. For example, a farmer’s nieces, nephews, or cousins who do not even live or work on the farm would become eligible for additional farm subsidies.

Sustainable farms benefit our health, our communities and our environment.

Rather than investing in family farmers who grow real and healthy foods, the legislation helps large operations grow six commodity crops—many of which we already have in excess and are made into unhealthy processed foods. The bill also shortchanges farmers’ markets and local food promotion programs. All of this together puts Americans at greater risk of health problems, such as diabetes and obesity. We are subsidizing a diet that is literally making Americans sick.

The House bill also threatens our environment by further removing incentives for farmers to protect sensitive land. It puts wildlife habitat and water quality at risk. Rather than offering meaningful reforms such as rewarding performance-based conservation, the bill instead proposes drastic cuts to urgently needed conservation programs while failing to do enough for sustainable farming practices.

One of the most outrageous provisions in the bill is the King amendment, which guts consumer, environmental, and animal welfare protections and allows any state with strong standards to be undercut by states with weaker protections. The Harvard Law School’s analysis of the provision should be deeply disturbing for those who want states to have the power to protect their residents.

Read the rest of the article posted on Civil Eats.

[Since Rep. Blumenauer wrote this, the deeply misguided House version described above passed on June 21, 2018, by a razor-thin margin of 213 to 211. The Senate version passed on June 28, 2018. Both houses of Congress need to vote on a final reconciled version by Sept. 30th. Please consider sharing your opinion on this critical legislation with your representatives in the Senate and the House.

Read Rep. Blumenauer's follow-up statement on the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill. For an explanation of the provisions of each version of the Farm Bill and what is required for passage, read the National Journal's excellent explainer.

Read my interview with Rep. Blumenauer on his solutions to the challenges facing Oregon and the nation's food system.

Posted with permission.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Tapas Tips: Albacore-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

I was torn. Vacillating. Perplexed, even. My brother was making his first paella on the grill for a group of friends and he'd asked the invited guests to contribute a tapa to serve before the main event.

Bruce working the grill like a boss.

Like visions of sugarplums, the many possibilities danced through my head. Mussels or clams with chorizo in a broth of rosé? A classic potato-and-egg tortilla Española? Maybe deviled eggs with anchovy-stuffed green olives? Or how about those fab albacore-and-caper-filled piquillo peppers I'd made for a previous gathering at his place?

See what I mean? A veritable embarrassment of riches to choose from, especially at the height of the summer harvest season. What to do?

A masterpiece!

That's when I happened to read my friend Cynthia Nims's ode to her favorite egg salad, a mint-and-egg combo with green onion, olive oil and lemon juice as the only additions. So I thought to myself, what about combining flaked albacore with chopped hard-boiled egg, the aforementioned green olives, and throw in some green onion and a drizzle of olive oil, then using that to fill what are rapidly becoming my favorite roasted peppers? (Piquillos, in case I lost you back there.)

The result? Turned out to be what may be, at least until I try Cynthia's version, my new favorite egg salad!

Piquillo Peppers Stuffed With Albacore, Hardboiled Eggs and Olives

12 roasted piquillo peppers, drained and patted dry
6.5 oz. albacore tuna (I like the no-salt, line-caught Sweet Creek Foods in its own juice)
10 anchovy-stuffed Spanish olives, finely chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. slivered green onions (green part only)
2 cloves garlic (pressed in a garlic press or smashed with a knife and minced)
2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt to taste

Flake the tuna and add its juice in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Add more olive oil to help bind it if necessary. Add salt to taste. Using a fork, fill peppers with the tuna mixture but don't overstuff.

This makes a great sandwich, too, if you have leftover filling. Just mix in some finely chopped piquillo peppers, a dollop of mayonnaise to moisten, and enjoy!

Check out this recipe for a mildly piquant piquillo pepper sauce. And here's my recipe for an easy paella on the grill.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Lost Valley Farm Still Operating While Court Cases Pending

The headline that ran in the Oregonian is a good introduction to the latest news on the situation at Lost Valley Farm: "U.S. Department of Justice wants to take over mega-dairy over gambling, meth, money management."

Apparently the feds are taking a narrow view of Lost Valley owner Greg te Velde's withdrawals of more money from dairy accounts than is allowed by the bankruptcy court, as well as his use of some of the money for weekly gambling junkets, according the article. It goes on to say that the Justice Department is seeking to have a trustee take over the bankruptcy proceedings to prevent te Velde from siphoning funds for his own pursuits whenever he feels like it.

"According to court documents, te Velde said he spends $2,000 and $7,000 a month gambling at the Tachi Palace Casino and Hotel in Lemoore, California," the article states. "The 60-year-old dairyman also said he continues to smoke methamphetamine, a habit he said he picked up in college, including in the two days before his July 13 bankruptcy interview with creditors."

Milk cows at Lost Valley standing in overflowing manure from leaking lagoons.

In early July the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), which had issued an operating permit for Lost Valley Farm just over a year ago despite te Velde beginning construction without proper permitting and never completing construction of the required manure lagoons to protect the area's groundwater, has asked a judge to impose criminal contempt of court charges against te Velde and issue remedial sanctions that would effectively shut down the dairy within 60 days, according to an article in the Salem Statesman-Journal.

I spoke with Wym Mathews, Program Manager for the ODA's Confined Animal Feeding Operations, who said that the contempt hearing was held on July 27th and will be continued on August 24th, at which time the ODA is hoping for a decision from the judge in the case on te Velde's violation of the stipulated judgement to clean up the facility. The ODA had issued a revocation of the dairy's waste management permit in late June due to contamination it said had been seeping into the soil in an area where groundwater is endangered and legally protected, among many other problems cited at the dairy.

Aerial photo shows half-mile long barns at Lost Valley.

Though the stipulated judgement initially indicated that ODA inspectors would be monitoring Lost Valley on a weekly basis to monitor operations and make sure the requirements of the judgement were followed, Matthews said that inspectors are only able to be on premises on a semi-weekly basis. He said that once the court charges te Velde with contempt, that starts a 60-day clock for te Velde to either clean up or shut down the dairy. He added that a complete shutdown would still require te Velde to remove the accumulated waste from the property and clean out all the facilities.

At last count on July 25th, Matthews estimates that just under 7,000 cows were still being milked at the facility, and that Tillamook Creamery's processing plant in Boardman is still buying the milk from the dairy. That is despite Tillamook's claims in bankruptcy hearings in June that the milk from Lost Valley violated their testing standards for safe levels of bacteria on at least 60 occasions.

Milk cows laying in manure from leaking lagoons at Lost Valley.

So it looks like Lost Valley will continue operating until at least late October, assuming the 60-day clock to clean up or shut down the mega-dairy starts ticking on August 24th. Which means it will continue spewing toxic pollutants into our state's air and water and placing the health of the people in nearby communities at risk. Let's hope Oregon's legislators and the ODA learn a lesson and pass sensible permitting rules in the next session of the legislature so that this sort of disastrous situation can't happen again.

I contacted the Tillamook County Creamery Association to confirm that they are still buying milk from Lost Valley, but they had not returned my call by the time of posting.

* * *

Read the series of posts outlining the long history of problems at Lost Valley Farm since it opened just a year ago, including cows standing in manure from overflowing lagoons and a leak in a tank containing dead cows, as well as groundwater pollution, lawsuits from the state of Oregon and creditors, and te Velde's own arrest for soliciting a prostitute and possession of methamphetamine in Benton County, Washington.

My article Big Milk, Big Issues for Local Communities reports on the issues mega-dairies pose to Oregon's air, water, environment and communities. You can also find out Why I'm Quitting Tillamook Cheese and read other coverage about factory farms in Oregon.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Got Tomatoes? Get Gazpacho!

In tomato season, a big pitcher of gazpacho on a sweltering day served with a thick slice of crusty artisan bread (the better for sopping) is my idea of the perfect no-cook meal. Here's contributor Jim Dixon's recipe that I made just the other day.

Gazpacho Sevillano

Julia Moskin's article a few years ago about the gazpacho of Seville appeared in the New York Times when the temperature here in Portland was bumping up to triple digits. I probably wasn't the only one who connected a tall glass of cold tomato goodness with the overloaded plants in my backyard. I've made her Seville-style gazpacho a couple of times since, and it's not just great a good way to use up an abundant harvest; it's delicious. Drink it on its own or serve a piece of grilled fish in a pool of the creamy gazpacho.

Follow her recipe if you like, or just wing it. This much will make a full blender: five to six medium tomatoes; one small cucumber, peeled if it has a thick, waxy peel [I like the small Persian cukes that you can chop and throw in whole. - KAB]; one poblano, Anaheim or similar green pepper (not a green bell); half a medium onion; two cloves garlic. Cut into rough chunks, put in the tomatoes first (they'll liquify quickly and pull in the the other stuff); add a shot of good vinegar (Katz apple cider, sparkling wine, or red wine), a few pinches of sea salt, and blitz until very smooth. Then add a lot (a half cup at least) of extra virgin olive oil while the motor is running. Chill or serve with ice, and add a little water if it's too thick to drink easily.

Moskin calls for straining out any solids, but don't bother. You want all that fiber, and it's just another thing to clean. And while a blender works best, your food processor can do the job.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Guest Essay: Key Fisheries Act Under Attack

The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), a bipartisan law created to regulate and protect fisheries, was enacted on April 13, 1976. New provisions were added in the 1996 and 2006 reauthorizations that added new provisions strengthening the MSA to address overfishing, rebuilding stocks and reducing bycatch, tough decisions that affected fishermen, fishing communities and many other components of the fishing industry and were critical to maintaining the overall sustainability of the resource. Lyf Gildersleeve, owner of Flying Fish Company in Portland, is a vocal advocate for sustainable national fisheries policy. Links to contact your Senators is at the end of this post.

I don’t want to leave my kids with less; I want to give my kids the same opportunities as I have to enjoy nature, fishing, and a healthy environment to live in. The earth is a precious place. All we have to do is protect it, and it will continue to provide endless, replenishable resources.

We thought we had seen it all this year when national monuments were taken away, trade wars were initiated, and science research funding was nearly cut. But now the House of Representatives has passed a potentially dangerous fisheries bill. This bill threatens our marine fish stocks and reduces accountability of the anglers, fishermen and businesses involved.

On July 11th, the House of Representatives narrowly passed HR 200 [a bill] introduced by Don Young (R-AK). This bill threatens the health and abundance of marine fish and seeks to amend and reauthorize our national fisheries management law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA).

I was only a twinkle in my parents’ eyes when this national resource management law was adopted over 40 years ago with bipartisan support. It has been reauthorized with bipartisan support almost every 10 years since then. After the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act amended the MSA, the law created a strong conservation foundation for fisheries management. HR 200—which has growing bipartisan opposition—compromises this foundation by gutting key conservation provisions. The bill proposes relaxing the requirements on setting science-based annual catch limits for some fisheries. These science-based mandates ensure we don’t take fish faster than they can reproduce and would allow fisheries managers to delay the rebuilding of overfished or depleted fish stocks instead of setting firm deadlines in rebuilding plans.

Our coastal communities depend on healthy oceans and abundant fish populations. Thriving and healthy fish stocks are the foundation of an everlasting population of our last wild-harvested resource. Since 2000, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported that 44 commercial and recreational fish stocks have been rebuilt to healthy population levels. The MSA has adopted new technology and fundamentally evolved over the last 40 years, including taking steps toward adopting ecosystem-based management. This approach manages the ecosystem as a whole instead of just managing single species, backing up the latest studies showing that the interactions between species are essential to maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems.

In order to support coastal communities, we need legislation and fisheries policy that is designed to help communities thrive. It’s not only important to have fish in the water, it’s also important to have a framework in place to help small local fishermen succeed, like affordable access to permits, fuel, bait and ice, not to mention a waterfront that has a winch or lift to offload the fish from the boat. These needs seem simple and straightforward, but many working waterfronts have none or only some of these components, making it difficult for a small boat fisherman to succeed.

I look forward to working with our Senators to ensure that MSA reauthorization builds upon the successes of the current law, evolves to adapt to current and future environmental conditions, and also incorporates new ideas and technology that will better help us manage our precious resource for our kids and grandkids to enjoy in their lifetimes.

Please consider contacting your Senators about this important reauthorization, and let them know why you're against HR200. In Oregon:
Contact Senator Jeff Merkley.
Contact Senator Ron Wyden.
Find other US Senators here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Killing It: Camas Davis on Fresh Air

"I don't think we all sit on the exact same part of what I think of as the 'spectrum' of meat eating. And so it really depends on where you come from. On a basic level, I'm interested in a couple of things: How land is used to raise the animals that we eat for meat. ... I'm interested in ... pollution practices. I'm interested in resource management. And is the food safe for us? Do the animals have a good life? Do they have a good death? And then, on our end, when we're eating that meat, is it is it safe? Is it nutritious? Is it delicious? So all of those things play into this complicated puzzle that is ethical meat." - Camas Davis

In this interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Portland butcher, teacher and author Camas Davis discusses her new memoir, "Killing It: An Education," describing the turning point in her life that led her to leave magazine editing to pursue a career as a butcher and educator.

Davis speaks eloquently and with feeling about very difficult issues without preaching or sounding judgemental. This is an important interview that anyone who eats should listen to.

Read my story of Roger the pig and my journey as I watched him grow, witnessed his death, then butchered, cooked and ate him.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Farm Bulletin: It's Chester Time!

Everyone in the Willamette Valley who loves blackberries knows that if there's an Ayers Creek Farm label on the little green hallocks in the store display, they are in for some of the best-eating and cooking berries of the summer. These Chester blackberries are the hallmark of this organic farm's summer season, and it's best to get in while the getting's good, because the season isn't long and the demand is high. The following is the story of this iconic blackberry written by farmer and contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm.

* * *

But first an important announcement from Anthony:

We start harvesting the Chester Blackberries this week. On Wednesday, they will be available at Rubinette Produce, Barbur World Foods and both Food Front Co-op stores. They will also have the Imperial Epineuse prunes. The first week of August should see our berries in most New Seasons stores.

We will have an open day at the farm next weekend, the 28th and 29th of July, from 3-5 pm. We will be selling whole flats at that time. You can reserve flats by e-mailing the farm with the number of flats you want and what day you will pick them up. These are picked especially for you, assuring the freshest possible berries, so please warn us in advance if your plans change. We will have some other odds and ends available as well.

On Sunday, the 29th, we will give a tour of the fields starting at 2 pm. The address is 15219 SW Spring Hill Road in Gaston, about a 45 minute drive from Portland.

* * *

The Chester Story

In the Spring of 1968, Robert Skirvin, a student of the small fruit breeder, John Hull (left), emasculated blossoms on the blackberry selection SIUS 47, carefully removing all of the stamens to avoid self pollination.  The SIUS prefix indicated the plant is a product of the breeding program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Each breeding program has a specific prefix that helps keep track of a variety's ancestry. Later he dusted pollen from the blackberry variety 'Thornfree' onto the receptive stigmas. 'Thornfree' is a USDA selection of the legendary English blackberry 'Merton Thornless.' Unlike many early thornless varieties which were chimeric and unstable, the absence of thorns in 'Merton' was a stable trait and useful for breeding purposes.

After the fruits ripened, the seeds were extracted and planted. Out of the many dozens of 1968 seedlings, three were noteworthy for their flavor, yield and thornless canes. Two would be released as named varieties, and a third wound up as the maternal parent of a named variety. Skirvin completed his masters and then moved on to Purdue where he studied geraniums and earned his PhD.

In 1973, the Southern Illinois Fruit Station was closed. Hull had the most promising plants moved to other experiment stations. The blackberries were sent to Professor Zych who ran the small fruits program at University of Illinois, Urbana. Zych died shortly afterwards. Fortunately, Skirvin (right) joined the small fruits program at Urbana and discovered that the blackberries he had bred many years earlier were still growing and producing fruit. He decided SIUS 68-6-17 was worth releasing as a named variety.  As John Hull already has his name affixed to one of the 1968 progeny, 'Hull Thornless,' they decided to honor Professor Zych who acted as guardian of the berry. We were spared a berry named 'Zych Thornless' because the breeders had the good sense to use his first name, Chester. SIUS 68-6-17 was formally released in 1985 as 'Chester Thornless', and earned the honorific of "Outstanding Fruit Cultivar" in 2001.

Another selection from the 1968 breeding work of Hull and Skirvin was SIUS 68-2-5.  That plant was pollinated with a blackberry from Arkansas, AK 545, and one of the resulting seedlings was released as 'Triple Crown' in 1996. Its flavor bears the distinct signature of berries from the Arkansas program.

Southern Illinois Fruit Station operated from 1959-1973. During that short time, four named blackberry varieties were released from its breeding program, in addition to several other small fruits. "Black Satin," "Dirksen Thornless," "Hull Thornless" and "Chester Thornless" remain highly regarded blackberry varieties. The great Senator Everett Dirksen (left), the master of eloquent barbs, had picked berries as youth. Dirksen was a champion of the center, and it thrived under his patronage. When you hear people decry "pork barrel spending" and "earmarks," savor a fresh "Chester" and maybe that will soften any rising indignation.  

Over the years, we have told the "Chester" story many times, each time from a different angle. Plant breeding is a craft unto its own, and we greatly admire people who explore the range of qualities available in a crop. The best breeders have this innate sense of how to guide and nudge the plant's unseen genetic qualities. Like other artists, they need patient patrons, as well as inspiration.

Get Anthony and Carol's recipe for Blackberry Slump.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

In a Slump? Just Add Peaches!

On our first camping trip of the summer, Dave baked perfect blueberry scones in his giant, footed cast iron Dutch oven—I found out it's named "Ol' Dutch" from the masking tape stuck to its carrier—and hash browns and eggs over the open fire on his as-yet-unnamed Lodge griddle.

He also had plans to make a peach slump in yet another, smaller Dutch oven ("Li'l Dutch"?), for which we'd lugged it and the four-and-a-half pounds of Baird Family Orchards fruit on our second trip of the summer. Unfortunately fate intervened when I threw out my back, forcing us to return home a day early.

Adding the dumpling topping.

Undaunted, with peaches ripening rapidly and temperatures soaring into the high nineties, it was untenable to turn on the oven, so he fired up the campstove in the back yard. It was both a great dry run for the recipe, which he borrowed from Corey Schreiber and Julie Richardson's classic Rustic Fruit Desserts, and a chance to find out exactly what a "slump" is. (Though originally we had been perfectly willing to try it out our camp-mates, since we never shy away from experimenting on our friends.)

With peaches oozing out when served, it's divine.

A slump is defined by the authors as a "simple steamed pudding" similar to a cobbler but made on the stovetop rather than in the oven. In the case of this recipe, the fruit is mixed with sugar and cornstarch then cooked briefly to activate the cornstarch and thicken the mixture, then a very wet biscuit dough (resembling a batter) is spooned on top, covered and simmered. The result is a soft, dumpling-like top rather than the drier, browned biscuit-y topping on a cobbler, but this version has a lovely lightness to it that would pair well with cream or crème fraiche.

And yes, you can expect it to appear on some future outdoor excursion. Stay tuned!

Peach Slump
Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts

For the fruit:
4 1/2 lbs. peaches
3/4 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

For the topping:
1 c. all-purpose (AP) flour
1/2 c. unsifted cake flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 c. (1 cube) cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2" cubes
1 c. buttermilk or milk

Peel, pit and slice the peaches, making sure to do this over a large mixing bowl so you can collect all the juices. Separately, in a small bowl, mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt, then add to the peaches with the lemon juice. Scrape peach mixture into a 10-12" non-reactive skillet or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Let stand for 15 min.

Over medium-low heat, bring the mixture to a low simmer, gently stirring it occasionally to prevent sticking. Simmer for 2 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.

Mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom together in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and toss until evenly coated. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it is the size of peas. Add buttermilk or milk and stir until the mixture just comes together (it will be a wet dough).

With a large spoon or ladle, place the dough on top of the fruit in 8 or so portions, distributing it evenly over the fruit. Return to the stovetop and bring to a gentle simmer over low heat. Cover and simmer for another 18 to 20 minutes, or until the dough is puffy and cooked through when tested with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Remove from heat, uncover and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

If you want to make this on a camping trip, Dave recommends mixing the dry ingredients for the topping together and placing them in a gallon zip-lock bag, then taking the milk, butter, sugar, cornstarch and lemon (or lemon juice) separately, as well as pans, pastry blender, measuring spoons, mixing bowls, etc. As pictured in the photos, it's super easy to make on a two-burner camp stove.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Camp Stories: Sublimely Quiet Fourth on Mt. Hood

It was time for our annual pilgrimage to the Northwest's national forests over the Fourth of July, not to celebrate the birth of our nation or the gifts that we gave ourselves in setting aside these national treasures, but to get the heck out of Dodge (i.e. PDX) while it resembled the set of a blockbuster war movie starring Vin Diesel and The Rock striding through mortar fire and clouds of smoke. We leave our beloved city when it sheds its politically correct, tree-hugging, sustainably sourced coat and turns into an explosives-fueled version of the Amish "rumshpringa" where adolescents are allowed to run wild—the word apparently translates to "jumping or hopping around," which accurately describes the reactions of our panicked pets to the booms and pops.

Creek walkin' Corgis.

So rather than drugging them into a stupor for several days before and after the event, years ago we opted to head for the hills—literally—since fireworks are strictly banned in national parks, enforced by vigilant camp hosts, no doubt drilled with slide shows of last year's fireworks-ignited Eagle Creek fire, which burned for three months and destroyed more than 50,000 acres.

What was that about "roughing it"?

Our backpacking days long over, "car camping" has now morphed into "pickup camping" since dogs, gear, food, drink, people and several large pieces of cast iron cookware won't fit in the Mini Clubman-and-cartop-carrier, which had already been dubbed a clown car-like affair by friends who witnessed the amount of stuff that tumbled from it. So we pulled into our reserved site at Camp Creek campground just off the Mt. Hood highway past Zigzag, set for four nights of blissful, off-the-grid quiet.

Chillaxin' around the fire.

When we can, we like to choose a site along a stream, the better to provide hours of creekside reading, as well as white noise to drown out any sound from passing traffic. (In our experience, during the summer months even relatively isolated campgrounds can have a fair amount of this.) My "top sites" suggestion for this quiet campground is number 10 along the creek at the less-traveled end, or number 14 at the opposite end, with both sites large enough for two tents if, like us, you're camping with friends. Both also have good creek access, and if you have a three or four families camping together, I'd try to reserve sites 14 and 15, which can accomodate several tents and are open enough to each other to facilitate common activities.

Natural. Beauty.

We didn't do any crazy cooking experiments this trip, contenting ourselves with tried-and-true variations on my pork posole rojo, pasta with pea shoot pesto and some of Dave's campfire scones and griddled hash browns and eggs. He's jonesing to make a cobbler and brownies, though, so stay tuned for future posts containing those recipes.

Otherwise our time was taken up with walks in the woods, reading by the creek and long evenings with the only crackling and popping coming from the logs on the fire.

Read more Camp Stories featuring great Northwest campgrounds, recipes and hikes.

Chillin' in Summer: 15-Minute Ramen Salad

It looks like summer's heating up, which means the oven is getting a break and the stove is only turned on for a few minutes at a time, if at all. We'd just come back from a blessed few days off the grid camping on Mt. Hood and hadn't yet made a trip to the store, so I was rummaging through the leftovers from our cooler and peeking behind tubs in the fridge for something to make for dinner.

Fortunately our son, who was cat-sitting while we were gone, hadn't devoured all of the goodies I left in the fridge, so there was a box of fresh ramen noodles—my new favorites are Lola Milholland's Umi Organic—and a half jar of Choi's Kimchi. Adding a leftover Persian cucumber that still had plenty of crunch remaining, plus a delightful dressing using miso, again from a local producer, Jorinji Miso, and in about 20 minutes, dinner was in the bag. Or the bowl, as the case may be.

15-Minute Ramen Noodle Salad with Kimchi

For the dressing:
1/3 c. canola or peanut oil
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. garlic
2 tsp. tamari
2 Tbsp. white miso
1 tsp. gochugaru (optional)
1 tsp. roasted sesame oil

For the salad:
12 oz. fresh ramen noodles (not dried)
1/2 c. kimchi, chopped
1 Persian cucumber (can substitute 1/2 c. chopped English cucumber)
1 Tbsp. chopped chives for garnish

Bring a pot of water to rolling boil.

While the water is heating, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed until well puréed.

When the water comes to a boil, gently pull apart ramen noodles while adding them to the water. Tease the strands apart with chopsticks while the water returns to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally to keep noodles from clumping. When they're done, drain them in a colander and rinse in cold water to stop them from cooking further.

Chop kimchi into bite-sized pieces. Quarter the cucumber and slice crosswise into 1/8” slices. Place noodles, kimchi, cucumber and dressing in serving bowl and combine. Garnish with chives.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Farm Bulletin: A Welcome Update, a Busy Summer

It's an incredibly busy time at Ayers Creek Farm, but contributor Anthony Boutard takes a few moments to give us an update—along with his usual edifying elaboration—on the farm in summer.

Even when we were at Hillsdale [Farmers' Market], we went quiet for the spring, only surfacing after the 4th of July. About 15 years ago we created our farm plan to emphasize production from late summer through winter, and avoid the distraction of trying to be the first to harvest this and that. It is a very busy time for us. Ten hour or longer days for us and staff, and little room for errors. We are very grateful that the Joshes at Barbur World Foods and Rubinette Produce have kept our grains, &c. available.

Delivering Montmorency cherries to Nostrana.

We finished parching the wheat last week and it is in the drying racks. [Top photo taken after threshing and cleaning the parched wheat, a dirty job.] Fruit for preserves is coming in apace and we are aiming at an increase in the popular varieties which run out too soon. We will thresh the mustard seed next week, trying to stay ahead of the buntings, finches, sparrows and quail who fatten up on the seeds. They will be demoted to the status of gleaners. The fields are in very good shape. We have expanded the plantings of most crops, some substantially. For example, the chickpea planting has gone from 24 to 46 rows, and we have added an extra row of Astianas. Perhaps, with luck, some new, unheralded odds and ends should emerge at harvest.

Tomatillo flower and immature fruit.

There are the usual frustrations. Bad batch of potting mix did a number on the vigor of the tomatillos and cayenne peppers. The plants sat moribund for ten days and when we dug them up and looked at the roots, they had barely grown. Three days ago, in a “Hail Mary” play, we decided to lift every plant, knock off the bad potting mix, and reseat it in the ground. We will see if this works. Interestingly, when we described the problem to others, they had experienced similar disappointing results. We looked at the plants 48 hours later and they looked better already, or at least we convinced ourselves that the effort was worthwhile.

Frogs love prunes, too…who knew?

We are scrambling to clean up the orchard so we can harvest the gages and prunes later in the summer. It is nearly impenetrable at the moment. For various reason, that work was neglected for the last three years. Otherwise talented field people, our staff are absolutely bone lousy at pruning fruit trees. In the cane fields, vineyards and tomato plantings they move deftly with confidence and art, in the orchard they are timid and visionless, making matters worse. Anthony has about three more weeks of work in the orchard.

There is no biological reason to prune an orchard. Fruits trees have evolved to multiply and be fruitful without much intervention. Human introduction of insects and diseases, pruning tools that spread disease and our compulsion towards monocultures lead to most biological challenges in the orchard, not neglect. However, good pruning is essential operationally. We need to pass the tractor under the canopy and the limbs must be spaced so as to facilitate harvesting. The tractor will strip the fruit of a low limb, and the operator suffers bruises and scratches. Moreover, if the staff cannot see a perfectly ripe fruit, it does not exist and will go unpicked. Pruning makes it easier to exploit the best of the orchard. The plant’s architecture at harvest is critically important in tomatoes, grapes, berries and orchard fruit.

Just shy of two weeks from now, the next two generations [of Boutards] will be out visiting us. We are now insistent they visit when there are fruits and vegetables ripening, rather than based on some nonsensical mid-winter holiday grounded in paranoid pagan ritual when the Pacific gales roar. They are old enough to run a bit feral.

Chesters in situ…

We are planning to have an “Open Farm” weekend when the first Chesters ripen. We will have parched wheat, barley and popcorn available, as well as whatever fruit is ripe. We will schedule an informal farm walk as well.

The exact weekend is impossible to nail down. The Chesters are notorious for their erratic ripening schedule. We have started harvesting as early as the 18th of July and as late as the 20th of August. After 20 years working with the fruits, we know better than to suggest we have even a glimmer of insight as to when things will get rolling. Better than the offhanded familiarity begotten by an all-too-predictable behavior. As our grandson noted with his customary theater, “I prefer to grow difficult plants.”

Barn owlet "in her emine stole."

Regarding the other element of the farm’s productivity, our birds, bees and insects are doing well. The barn owls raised five chicks. They are now in their immature plumage. Happens quickly. In mid June, the youngest was covered in down and looked like a duchess in her ermine stole, with just its feathers bearing new plumage. Today, the down has been shed.

Our water feature, the swan, is still about, contentedly keeping company with the three families of young geese and an oh-so-elegant great egret.

Frugivorous acorn woodpecker.

A reminder that acorn woodpeckers are frugivores, fruit eaters, equally content with both the fruit of the oak, acorns, and our staff’s sweet cherries. The acorn woodpeckers also enjoy other fruits such as grain kernels (yes, they are fruit) and plums. Soon, we will hear the reedy calls of the young when they leave their nest that the colony excavated in a fir snag.

All photos by Anthony Boutard except for cherries at Nostrana (used with permission) and Chester blackberries.