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Fat of The Land - Like Pepper for Pepper

Sarah West

Most people who went to grade school in the United States know that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. As I remember it, he was hired by the king of Spain to sail farther west than anyone before him had (anyone, that is, on 15th Century Europe’s radar) and to settle, once and for all, the age-old argument over whether the earth was round or flat. In third grade, that logic was good enough for me. And, becoming something of a Columbus Day protestor in my teenage years (after my brother read a book called, Lies My Teacher Told Me, that detailed all the atrocities Columbus unleashed upon the New World), I put the whole story on the back shelf.

Years later, I picked up a library book on the spice trade (Spice: The History of a Temptation, by Jack Turner), where I promptly learned that Columbus headed west not to solve some existential puzzle, but for the very practical reason of securing a more direct trade route to import black pepper from India. He did it for two reasons that sound jarringly familiar to our contemporary minds: money and ego.

Pepper, that uber-ordinary seasoning we take completely for granted, was as precious as gold in Columbus’ day—a sign of wealth, a highly valued commodity in very short supply, a craze. Men lost their lives fetching pepper, and everyone thought it was worth it. With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Silk Road became too dangerous for commerce, so the Portuguese (who monopolized the spice trade at the time) took to the sea, rounding the horn of Africa in order to reach the pepper-producing coast of southern India. Spain was looking to outdo their northern rival by finding a shortcut.

When Columbus landed in the Bahamas, he thought it was (or close enough to) the East Indies. And when, in keeping with his plan, he looked for black pepper, he came upon chiles. Of those arresting fruits he and his fellow explorers found in such profusion, one crewmember wrote: “In those islands there are also bushes like rose bushes, which make fruit as long as cinnamon, full of small grains as biting as [Asian] pepper; those Caribs and the Indians eat that fruit like we eat apples.”

Our modern palates separate the two peppers by a wide margin—black pepper is floral, pleasantly bitter, stinging the tongue with a quick zing only when eaten in excess; chile peppers are fruity, acidic, sour, often sweet, with a sensation we call heat that ranges from a mild tingle to something akin to the mind-altering hammer of a white-hot brand. Europeans had trouble with chiles (and still do), though hot peppers found a home at the margins—Eastern Europe’s paprika, Southern Europe’s spicy sauces and cured meats.

Where it’s hard to imagine that chile peppers were only introduced a mere 500 years ago is nearly everyplace else: Korea, India, Thailand, Ethiopia, China, and Senegal, to name a few famously spicy Diasporas. These cultures quickly adopted the chile pepper as their own, exploring its wealth of genetic traits and producing a mind-boggling collection of new varieties (one that continues to grow today). At a recent count, there were 79 distinct varieties passing under the umbrella of “Thai pepper,” a barometer that helps to translate the enormity of chile pepper diversity.

Then, of course, there is Mexico—the chile’s homeland and where its role in the cuisine is still, arguably, the most refined. Believed to be one of the first domesticated plants, chiles, along with corn and squash, constituted a mainstay of the Central American diet. From my own quasi-European perspective (averse, I hesitate to admit, to all but modest chili pepper heat), I’ve never thought of chiles as more than a seasoning. Like the black pepper they are named for, chiles unquestionably add dimension to a dish, but not substance, not weight. I did try to make myself more tolerant of them once, devoting an entire summer to cooking progressively spicier dishes until the persistent heartburn and other unpleasant side effects forced me to admit defeat. But even then, they were an addition, an adornment, a very small percentage of a dish’s overall volume; not at all, as that Spanish sailor reported, like apples.

But he (and the sophisticated cuisine he observed) was right. The first time I fully appreciated chiles in their own rite was when I watched friends make red mole from scratch. The pile of dried chiles and their seeds—toasted separately and ground together with water, warming spices, and nuts; thickened by hours of stirring and simmering; and at the very end, finished with dark chocolate—was, to my eyes, overwhelming. While process was beautiful and ritualistic, I wasn’t entirely sure I would be able to eat the results. But the sauce, only mildly spicy, exuded a graceful, effortless richness that compelled me to keep spooning it into my mouth, that fed both my simple, daily hunger and the one that no apple has ever quite quenched: the hunger for enchantment, for transformation, for food that drops an anchor and lingers, warmly, long after the meal is finished.

Sarah West is a gardener, eater and admirer of the agricultural arts. She gladly spends her Sundays as assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market, basking in the richness of its producers’ bounty and its community’s energy. Find archives and more at http://thefatofthelandblog.wordpress.com.

2015 Tomato Mania! Guide

Sarah West

by Sarah West

Each year at the height of tomato season, the market hosts one of our most popular events: Tomato Mania! Volunteers gather the day’s tomato selection from market vendors, slice them up, and spread them out with labels that state the variety name and the vendor that supplied it—comparison shopping at it’s finest! Take a moment out of your market day to explore the range of tomato flavor, savoring old favorites and discovering new ones. Below is a preview of some of the varieties we expect to be sampling this Sunday.

Cherry Tomatoes: Sweet, bite-sized, and available in a rainbow of colors, the cherry tomato category also broadly includes pear tomatoes (shaped like their namesake fruit), grape tomatoes (larger than a typical cherry tomato), and currant tomatoes (smaller than a typical cherry tomato). Bright yellow-orange ‘Sungolds’ are one of the market’s most popular varieties—possibly the sweetest, most addictive cherry tomatoes you’ll ever taste! Cherry tomatoes are best eaten fresh: out of hand, topping salads, or folded into pasta just before serving.

Purple Calabash: Green shouldered, pleated fruits with a distinctive flatness. Their flesh is nearly true purple and offers full flavor and well-balanced acidity some liken to a fruity cabernet. Delicious fresh or cooked.

Striped Roman: One of the flashier tomatoes out there, this one has it all: sweet, rich flavor and fantastic color make ‘Striped Roman’ a marvelous fresh tomato for the salad plate. Like its cousin the red Roma, its meaty flesh cooks down easily into sauce—some say this variety makes the sweetest.

Aunt Ruby’s German Green: Green tomatoes are always a hard sell since our eyes are conditioned to seek out shades of red when it comes to tomato selection. This particular green tomato will wow you with the intensity of its flavor—rich, tart, and deeply sweet it can stand up to the best of the reds. A favorite slicer among tomato connosuers, it also makes a delicious salsa verde. Listed on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, a collection of heirloom seeds of exceptional quality, this is one beloved tomato. Look for those that are blushing a faint pink on the bottom—your cue that Aunt Ruby’s is ready for eating.

Chef’s Choice: An orange beefsteak-type, Chef’s Choice is a new hybrid tomato, an improvement on the popular heirloom, Amana Orange, which offers the same rich flavor with a quicker ripening period. A relatively new introduction, this variety was chosen as an All American Selection in 2013-2015 for its flavor and garden performance.

Cherokee Purple: This true heirloom (meaning it is not a recently developed cross of tomato characteristics but a strain whose seeds have been passed through generations of gardeners) plays up the savory side of tomato flavor: deep, rich, and earthy. Its purple skin fades to a saturated red in the tomato’s center. Curious about those green shoulders? Turns out they are a sign of superior flavor. The same genes that cause green shoulders in tomatoes are responsible for developing complexity and sweetness. The green parts may ripen much later than the rest of the tomato—don’t expect full ripening and peak flavor to coincide. Cut off the green and slice this heirloom favorite up for dinner!

Black Brandywine: The original pink ‘Brandywine’ tomato was once the poster child of heirloom tomatoes; these days it has a lot more company, but it’s still delicious! ‘Black Brandywine’ is a selection from the original strain: similar rich flavor with skin blushed purplish-brown. Great for fresh eating or cooking.

Yellow Brandywine: A yellow selection of the ‘Brandywine’ heirloom, revered for its surprisingly rich flavor and balance of sweetness and acidity. Best fresh, ‘Yellow Brandywine’ adds a lighter touch to sauces or salsas.

Rutgers: A New Jersey heirloom introduced in the 1930’s truck farming boom, Rutgers was bred as an improved field tomato: with more uniform ripening, richly flavored juice, small seed cavities, and good yields. Though it fell away from commercial popularity when firmness for shipping became the priority, Rutgers remains popular among home gardeners, who use it for fresh eating and preserving.

Orange Oxheart: Oxheart tomatoes have a reputation for offering the best of both worlds: firm, meaty flesh ideal for making salsa or sauce, along with the fragrant, acidic juiciness so coveted in a slicing tomato. This orange variety is the perfect slicer for sandwiches, fresh sauces, or pizza topping.

Pineapple: This carnival-striped tomato is what summer is all about—full-bodied tomato flavor, rich colors, and enough acidity to keep things interesting. Slice this giant to serve with anything that comes off the grill, or just eat wedges of it with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt and the juice dripping down your fingers.

Roma: A type of plum tomato, ‘Roma’ and similar varieties are the quintessential sauce tomato. Their drier flesh and smaller seed cavities concentrate into perfect sauce and are ideal for halving and slow roasting in a low-temperature oven. Synonymous with Italy, these are the home-preserver’s tomato of choice for canning whole and as sauces, ketchup, or pastes.

Vendor Profile: Olympia Provisions

Sarah West

By Sarah West

Olympia Provisions (formerly, Olympic Provisions) needs no introduction. Their cured salamis rose to national acclaim—by the likes of Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Oprah magazines—just a few brisk years after chef Elias Cairo began producing them in November of 2009. Opening a restaurant of the same name in southeast Portland with a team of chef-restaurateur partners, Elias was not alone in creating Olympia Provisions’ success, but he was the man behind the plan for the restaurant’s ambitious meat-curing facility, the first of its kind in Oregon to be USDA-certified.

Influenced by a five-year chef apprenticeship in Switzerland, Cairo experienced firsthand the meticulous process behind some of Europe’s famous cured meats. Raised by a first-generation Greek father who butchered his own animals and brought salami along on every family outing, Cairo was predisposed to appreciate good cured meat. And when the opportunity to partner on a new restaurant project came his way, he was game for trying to recreate some of the nuanced flavors he experienced abroad.

From the beginning, Cairo has insisted that virtuous salami can only be made by hands, not machines, and must be cold-fermented under a bloom of white mold that not only preserves the meat, but lends it an inimitable umami-tang. When he and his restaurant partners designed the original curing facility, they could not have foreseen the two major expansions that would follow in the next four years, scaling up their meat processing facility from 800 square feet to 40,000. While these expansions forced Olympia Provisions to move away from the small-batch artisanal production (done exclusively by Cairo himself) they had originally envisioned, they have maintained a strong focus on hand-production.

Machines now mix the 4,500 pounds of pork they process each day in 150-pound “small” batches which are blended with spices and hand-peeled garlic to order then stuffed into a natural hog casing and tied by a team of four dexterous salumieris. In addition to their charcuterie line of 12 salami flavors, capicola, and mortadella, a given week finds them smoking some combination of their famed frankfurters, kielbasa, chorizo, sweetheart ham, and bacon, as well as mixing and stuffing their fresh chorizo, bratwurst, Italian sausage, rillete, pate, and mousse. Ever the innovators, this summer the OP team is launching a new product. Invited by Martha Stewart and Triscuit to collaborate on a classic summer sausage, their take on the iconic American picnic sausage includes a mellow blend of garlic, chili powder, and mustard seeds. They’ve also launched a line of pickled vegetables based on combinations they’ve been serving for years at their two Portland restaurants.

While the inspiration for their line of Old World influenced American charcuterie was always rooted in their restaurants, farmers markets played a key role in promoting the salamis to a wider audience. Their 2009 booth at the Portland OHSU market allowed them to learn what flavors people most responded to and gave them an opportunity to educate potential customers about their continually expanding product line via samples and conversation.

“We really value market culture,” says Olympia Provisions’ market manager, Kendra Nelson, “because it gives us a chance to meet our customers face-to-face, and we get to see their reaction when they taste that perfect piece of salami.”

Over the years, OP has expanded to include fifteen Portland-area farmers markets at last count, joining Hillsdale in 2010.

Olympia Provisions sells at Hillsdale Farmers Market year-round, offering a selection of their cured salamis, sausages, and smoked meats. Nelson suggests that market shoppers get to her booth before noon, as, “All the best things (including our summer sausage and kielbasa) sell out early!”

As for what to do with that perfect piece of salami, the possibilities are endless, but Nelson highly recommends this Hillsdale-Market-inspired combination:
“One of my favorite market snacks is an open-face sandwich with Fraga Farm chevre, thin slices of our finocchiona (our Italian salami with fennel), thick slabs of the prettiest and most colorful tomatoes I can find, olive oil, and Jacobsen sea salt.” How about putting that on a slice of wood-fired ciabatta from Tastebud for bonus points?

Learn more about the Olympia Provisions line of artisanal meats, visit their shop (and send a piece of Portland food culture to distant friends and family), and peruse their restaurants’ menus at olympiaprovisions.com.

Hillsdale Farmers' Market is Volunteer Powered!

Sarah West

Love coming to the market? Wondering how to get more involved? Volunteering at Hillsdale Farmers Market is a great way for shoppers of all ages to enrich their neighborhood community while spending time outside, learning more about our vendors and their products, meeting new people, and having a great time.

Our volunteers enrich the market with their talents, passions, and dedication to community. Some of the services our volunteers provide:

  • Setting up market infrastructure each market day morning
  • Selling market tokens and answering questions at the Information Booth
  • Planning and organizing market events
  • Staffing event booths (such as our Opening Day Plant Giveaway, Customer Appreciation Day chocolate covered strawberries, Tomato Mania market tomato sampling, Feed Me Fresh cooking demonstrations, and the Hillsdale Urban Fair)
  • Serving on the HFM Board of Directors.

We are in need of a few new volunteers this summer to help with market set-up (from 8-10am; ability to do some heavy lifting is useful but certainly not required), information booth (10am-12pm or 12-2pm) and special events, including the upcoming second annual Hillsdale Urban Fair on October 11, 2015. Find out more about volunteering at Hillsdale Farmers’ Market here: http://www.hillsdalefarmersmarket.com/volunteering/, or contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Sarah West at hillsdalemarketvolunteers@gmail.com for more information.

Please let us know if you have an idea for the market and would like to be a part of seeing your idea to fruition! We know there is a lot of untapped talent out there in Hillsdale and we look forward to hearing from you.

Vendor Profile: Obon

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Since moving to Portland in March of 2014, Fumiko Hozumi and Jason Duffany have made quick work of finding a unique voice in Portland’s crowded food industry. The couple met in San Fransisco, where Fumiko rolled sushi at a Castro District restaurant by night while completing a vet tech certification program by day, and Jason transitioned from computer engineering to cooking when he was hired to serve as the kitchen manager and chef for the deli of a small organic grocery store in Sausalito. Tiring of the Bay Area’s rising cost of living and increasing urban density, Jason and Fumiko began looking elsewhere for a place to settle down and try their hand at food entrepreneurship. After a brief scouting trip in early 2014 to Portland’s southeast neighborhoods, they were charmed by the city’s decentralized restaurant scene.

“Our brief stay led us to discover that downtown didn't fully represent this city,” Jason explained. “By late March we had moved into a small mother-in-law unit on the east face of Mt Tabor. Shortly afterward we founded Obon and signed a lease for a commercial kitchen.”

Menu Item #1: Kenchinjiru – A hearty stew with a ginger-flavored miso broth, seasonal root vegetables, mushrooms, and non-gmo tofu. This warming soup was a signature winter dish in Fumiko’s childhood home

Right from the start, they noticed a lack of vegan Japanese food in Portland and designed their business model to serve that niche market. Taking cues from traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine, Obon’s plant-based menu aims for authentic and healthful food that satisfies the adventurous tastes of eaters in a vibrant food city. At the recommendation of a friend, the couple purchased some basic equipment and applied to farmers markets. Billing Obon as a mobile food business and catering company with brick-and-mortar aspirations, they used the markets as an opportunity to practice ramping up their production capacity and introducing their unique products to a customer base already enthusiastic about fresh vegetables.

A Japanese native, Fumiko’s repertoire forms the foundation of Obon’s menu. Her recipes draw on a collection of flavors and techniques gleaned from childhood memories and dishes she and Jason discovered on visits to Japan. Tweaked and influenced by the seasonal availability of ingredients and Jason’s zest for exploring unconventional flavor combinations, Obon’s food is a playful blend of old and new.

Menu Item #2: Giant Tater Tots – Organic russet potatoes are mashed with seasonal vegetables and coated in Tabor Bread panko, fried in palm oil, and served with house-made carrot ketchup.

They gave Obon the tagline, “Feel good Japanese comfort food,” a phrase Jason describes as summing up what he and Fumiko appreciate about the plant-based Japanese cuisine their menu emulates.

“For us, Japanese comfort food has always been easier to digest [than its Western counterparts] & never leaves us feeling heavy or sick no matter how much we stuff our faces—which we often do.”

Menu Item #3: Karokke – This traditional fritter made of sweet potato or winter squash, organic raisins, and Japanese curry blend is a snack Fumiko fondly recalls purchasing as a child on her way home from school. Coated in Tabor Bread panko and fried in palm oil, Obon serves their karokke drizzled with tangy house-made Tamarind sauce.

 

Instead of relying on animal fats and dairy to flavor and enrich their dishes, Jason and Fumiko employ technique and the highest-quality ingredients they can source. Making connections with other farmers market vendors has been an unexpected but integral part of this process. Standing with them at their People’s Co-op Farmers Market stall on an early April Wednesday, Fumiko pointed across to the Tabor Bread booth and explained that they make all of the panko (breadcrumbs) for their tater tots and karokke from Tabor Bread loaves, a southeast Portland bakery known for its use of locally grown wheat and fermented wild yeast leavens.

“It was a game changer,” Jason added. “The flavor of those two items just got so much better.”

Another trick up their sleeve is tofu misozuke, a product they first tried at a restaurant in Onomichi, a small seaside town in Hiroshima Prefecture.

“We had it served on cucumber slices with micro-greens at an izakaya bar where we were sipping local sake. Due to its creaminess, we assumed it was a cheese product, but were corrected by one of the cooks working the front of the restaurant: It was fermented tofu, aged in miso for at least two weeks.”

Menu Item #4: Sprouted Brown Rice Onigiri – For this gluten-free treat, sprouted brown rice is blended with Japanese-style pickled organic vegetables, and filled with Obon’s signature tofu misozuke before being shaped and nestled into an organic nori wrapper. Onigiri are a classic Japanese lunch box staple, and a vehicle for each cook to showcase her own unique style.

Tofu misozuke is surprisingly creamy and smooth, with a mild, nutty flavor lent from the miso it ferments in and a brie-like richness that fills your mouth as fully as triple-cream cheese. After returning from their trip, Fumiko and Jason were determined to create their own.

"We found out about Rau Om, a company started by a couple in the Bay Area who had become just as intrigued as we had after their first taste of misozuke. When they stopped producing it commercially they posted their recipe online. We've combined some of their techniques with what we found in The Book of Miso, plus what we learned initially in Onomichi,” Jason told me, adding: “We eat it almost daily as a condiment for just about anything. At farmers markets, we serve it smoked inside our sprouted brown rice onigiri.”

Obon produces small batches of misozuke packaged for retail that are available for purchase at People’s Food Co-op and Food Front’s NW Thurman Street location. As its popularity grows, they hope to expand the product line with flavored misozuke spreads.

With their sharp curiosity and dedication to authentic Japanese preparations, Obon has already developed five recipes that stretch well beyond the sushi- and ramen-dominated boxes we’ve come to expect of Japanese food in the US. More than just vegan or health food, faithful to but not restricted by tradition, Obon’s first success has been to create Obon food, a menu as undeniably their own as it is uniquely alluring.

You’ll be able to sample Obon’s meticulously crafted delicacies every Sunday at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. Stay up to date with new menu items, products, and events (including a summer 2015 farm dinner hosted by HFM’s Naked Acres Farm) by visiting www.obonpdx.com and their Facebook page (link).

This article contains several corrections to the original piece published in the email version of the Grapevine sent on April 9, 2015.

Vendor Profile: Kookoolan Farm

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Hillsdale vendor since 2007, Kookoolan Farms has quickly built a name as the place to go for pasture-raised chickens and eggs in the Portland area. That same year, the farm was the first in Oregon to open a fully licensed on-site poultry slaughtering facility, allowing more vertical integration in an industry with notoriously low profit margins. Kookoolan has since expanded their product line to include pastured pork and lamb, grassfed beef, a vegetable CSA, and a year-round farm store. Oh, and for bonus points, they set up a kombucha and mead brewery, most recently opening their Mead Superstore and Tasting Room.

Just taking in all that is Kookoolan Farms requires a few deep breaths. The dynamic duo behind Kookoolan Farms, Chrissie and Koorosh Zaerpoor, met while working as program managers at Intel (Koorosh still works there). The couple married and began dreaming a world outside of Intel where they could work together on a project that integrated their engineering skills with more personal interests: Chrissie was an avid gardener and cook with a passion for home mead making, Koorosh still harbored dreams of becoming a farmer he’d hatched as a child in Iran helping out with his parents’ poultry flock.

While Chrissie’s first entrepreneurial aspiration was to open a meadery, the couple also saw a need for local, pasture-raised chicken and eggs in the area, and set to work building a farm to fill that niche. The road was not without pitfalls or unexpected turns, but, within two years of founding the farm, the persistent couple was able to accomplish something out of reach to most small-scale chicken farmers since the rise of industrial agriculture: the ability to legally process their own flock on their own farm for sale to farmers market customers, restaurants, and grocery stores alike.

This may seem like an obvious direction for a poultry farm to grow, but the reality of achieving it was far more difficult than the Zaerpoors initially realized. Though regulations have changed somewhat since Kookoolan’s 2005 startup (especially for farmers with fewer than a thousand birds), the USDA has strict codes that make it prohibitively expensive for small producers to operate their own slaughter facility. Kookoolan persevered and became the first farm of their size in Oregon to accomplish this feat. As their processing ability increased, they realized that the five-acre plot they purchased in 2005 would not be sufficient to produce the flock sizes required to build a sustainable business.

The Zaerpoors began to see their Carlton-Yamhill neighbors as potential partners, carefully selecting farms in their area willing to adhere to the same meticulous standards as they did in raising their chickens. With careful planning, Kookoolan Farms became a cooperative of ethical meat and poultry farmers, greatly expanding their product line, and distributing the labor to a network of specialists. Chrissie remains the hub of operations, coordinating the farm’s wholesale distribution, farmers market sales, and, of course, quality control. The cooperative model finally freed up some of the Zaerpoor’s time, allowing them to expand their vegetable garden into a summer CSA program and giving Chrissie time to get back into mead.

The original Kookoolan Farm site still houses a portion of the farm’s pastured chickens, their poultry processing facility, a serve-yourself farm store, the vegetable rows, a small plot of pinot noir grapes, and the new Mead Superstore.Visitors are welcome on weekends (or during the week, by appointment) to browse their selection of over 150 different meads and taste Kookoolan’s own farm-made Elegance Mead, kombucha, and Vin de Noix. What about those pinot noir grapes? Well, they may just show up in the Kookoolan lineup soon in the form of a pinot-mead blend known as pyment.

Though Kookoolan has been selling their chickens through New Seasons for a couple years, they recently decided to pull out of the arrangement. In the context of a grocery store meat counter (even a grocery store with a reputation for higher-income shoppers), local, pasture-raised chickens separated from their farmer’s story, sitting next to temptingly cheaper alternatives, are a tough sell. New Seasons requested birds under four pounds, but Kookoolan can’t make a profit raising such small chickens. They’ve decided to stick with direct-market sales here at Hillsdale and (on alternate Sundays) the Hillsboro/Orenco market. That’s a testament to the power of farmers market shoppers, who make a significant contribution to the viability of even the most outwardly successful small farm businesses.

Find out more at: www.kookoolanfarms.com

Note: A fire broke out on Kookoolan Farms on the evening of March 18th. Two outbuildings were lost in the fire. Read about the fire here (link).

Where Good Food Comes From: Vegetable Variety Trials

Sarah West

By Sarah West

This fall and winter, we will explore where good food comes from: the net of institutions, organizations, and activism that helps keep our local food community robust.

As farmers’ market shoppers, we’ve come to know many of our foods by name. Gone are the days when a tomato was just a tomato; now we want Brandywine, Purple Calabash, Oregon Star. Anonymous berries just won’t do anymore and we wait in line for Chesters, Triple Crowns, or Hoods. We make the effort to remember these names because we remember the flavors that come with them.

A marketplace of flavor—of vegetables with names—is infinitely more exciting than one that focuses on appearance or price point alone. Diversity brings depth and possibility, along with the thrill of new discovery. Home cooks and chefs alike are attracted to novelty, the next charismatic flavor to inform and enliven their craft. Small farmers and seed breeders help to provide and create that diversity. Behind every choice you make at a farmer’s booth, there are a hundred other choices that have already been made not only regarding how to best cultivate and harvest a high quality vegetable, but how to choose which of a myriad possible varieties to grow and how to select for traits that will attract both farmers and eaters.

Our local OSU agricultural research station, NWREC (North Wilammette Research and Extension Center), has recently restarted an old tradition of public vegetable variety trials. Unlike the secretive work of seed breeders developing new (often patentable) varieties, a public trial consists of varieties already released (or near release) and its purpose is to compare attributes of similar plants. I recently attended an open field day at NWREC with a group of area growers to have a look at the crops and taste the differences. The one-acre site is planted in a patchwork of varieties and doubles as a learning garden for the center’s educational programs (including the excellent Growing Farms course that helps landowners evaluate and develop their small ag ambitions).

This year’s trials focused primarily on the Asian specialty market, with Thai basil, leaf celery, cilantro, yu choi, and gailan. We also got to taste a selection of soon-to-be released beets from breeders at the University of Wisconsin, and still-in-development mild habaneros, a project of OSU breeder Jim Myers.

While the majority of the varieties we tasted and discussed are not the newest releases, most farmers don’t have the time to grow out test plots to compare which leaf celery or cilantro performs best in our local climate. When a public institution (or non-profit organization like the Organic Seed Alliance) invests the time and acreage into trials such as this, it provides local farmers with valuable information that allows them to more efficiently grow and bring to market the best in quality and flavor. Such meetings provide the secondary benefit of gathering farmers to share their experiences and resources about specific crops.

   

Vegetable trials like NWREC’s are open-ended, designed to create a pool of information rather than definitive conclusions. The outcome of such a trial is the experience of seeing varieties side-by-side, tasting them one after the other to pinpoint why one stands out among the crowd. If you have ever tried comparing a pool of samples with a group of friends or coworkers, you know that there is rarely a consensus. A public vegetable trial such as this allows farmers and chefs access to the resources they need to make their own decisions.

   

Doing the slow work of finding out what grows (and sells) best is part of a farmer’s job, and our country has a long tradition of assisting them with development and field testing. Though almost all publicly funded breeding work assists commodity agriculture (and associated big businesses), a small fraction of that work is returning to its roots as a vehicle to enhance local food systems. In a scenario where money and market share are usually the guiding principles, a test plot of Thai basil starts to seem like a good omen for the future.

Farmers markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. Weíre giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

 

It’s Time! Submit your entry to the 2014 Urban Fair

Sarah West

The Urban Fair is a new event hosted by Hillsdale Farmers’ Market. We need your homemade preserves to help make it a success. Each Sunday in September, we’ll be taking entries for the Preserves Showcase. Our version of a county fair, this is your opportunity to win an Urban Fair ribbon for your best home preserve. Who qualifies? You! We encourage preservers of all ages to submit their water-bath canned preparations. Bring two jars and a registration form to the market info booth between 10am and 2pm on September 7, 14, 21, or 28, 2014. Visit the info booth for more information, or follow this link to our website: http://www.hillsdalefarmersmarket.com/2014-urban-fair/

Entry Categories for the Preserves Showcase

Jam Preserves: Spreadable goodness, savory or sweet, single ingredient or blended combinations. Submit your best toast-topper to this category!

Pickled Preserves: Vinegar- or salt-brined; sour, spicy or sweet; classic or creative preparations. Submit your briny masterpiece to this category!

Nostalgic Preserves: This is an open category that could include jam, pickles, sauce, relish, or anything that came to you from your preservation elders. Think Grandpa’s tomato sauce, a pickle recipe your great Aunt was famous for, Mom’s amazing chutney. This category is a nod to the generations past that inspired you to preserve and whose flavors are worth carrying forward.

Ribbons will be awarded in each category for the following classifications:

Best Single Origin preparation: A preserve that best showcases a single fruit or vegetable ingredient, be it Hood strawberries, Chester blackberries, or Persian cucumbers.

Best Combined preparation: A preserve that skillfully harmonizes two or more main fruit and/or vegetable ingredients.

Best Appearance: A preserve that is worthy of displaying at the front of the shelf, whose colors and textures are an artful addition to any pantry. Only entries in smooth-sided jars will be considered for this prize category.

Best Young Preserver: The most outstanding preserve made by an entrant 18-years of age or younger.

Download the Urban Fair Handbook and Registration Form Here: http://www.hillsdalefarmersmarket.com/urban-fair-documents/

Each entrant will receive an Urban Fair souvenir as thanks for participating, and will be automatically added to a raffle for preservation-themed prizes. Raffle prizes will be awarded the day of the Urban Fair (you need not be present to win).

The Urban Fair is a celebration of local fruit and vegetables and we encourage participants to source the majority of their ingredients from market vendors, local farms, or their own garden.

Tomato (Mania!) Guide

Sarah West

Each year around the height of tomato season, the market hosts one of our most popular events: Tomato Mania. Volunteers gather tomatoes from market vendors, slice them into samples, and spread them out with labels that state the variety name and the vendor that supplied it. It’s a marvelous way to explore the range of tomatoes available at the market, savoring old favorites and finding new ones. Below is a preview of some of the varieties we expect to be sampling this Sunday.

Assorted Cherry Tomatoes: Sweet, bite-sized, and available in a rainbow of colors, the cherry tomato category also broadly includes pear tomatoes (shaped like their namesake fruit), grape tomatoes (larger than a typical cherry tomato), and currant tomatoes (smaller than a typical cherry tomato). Bright yellow-orange ‘Sungolds’ are one of the market’s most popular varieties—possibly the sweetest, most addictive cherry tomatoes you’ll ever taste! Cherry tomatoes are best eaten fresh: out of hand, topping salads, or folded into pasta just before serving.

Purple Calabash: Green shouldered, pleated fruits with a distinctive flatness. Their flesh is nearly true purple and offers full flavor and well-balanced acidity some liken to a fruity cabernet. Delicious fresh or cooked; a popular variety at last year’s Tomato Mania!

Striped Roman: One of the flashier tomatoes out there, this one has it all: sweet, rich flavor and fantastic color make ‘Striped Roman’ a marvelous fresh tomato for the salad plate. Like its cousin the red Roma, its meaty flesh cooks down easily into sauce—some say this variety makes the sweetest.

Oregon Star: A variety bred in the early 1990’s by Oregon State University, ‘Oregon Star’ is like a large, nearly seedless paste tomato. Its dense, flavorful flesh is perfect for simmering into a quick sauce, and the low ratio of skin to tomato flesh cuts down on prep work for larger sauce batches. ‘Oregon Star’ tomatoes are juicy and flavorful eaten fresh: they make a great tabbouleh  or salsa tomato, and are perfect for salads and sandwiches. Another customer favorite from previous Tomato Manias!

Copia: Sweet and juicy, ‘Copia’ are a cross between ‘Green Zebra’ and ‘Marvel Stripe’ that was developed in Napa, CA with chefs in mind. It’s red and yellow striping extends to the interior flesh, resulting in gorgeous marbling when sliced. Selected for flavor as well as beauty, ‘Copia’ are perfect for any occasion you want a show-stopping tomato to take center stage.

Cherokee Purple: This true heirloom (meaning it is not a recently developed cross of tomato characteristics but a strain whose seeds have been passed through generations of gardeners) plays up the savory side of tomato flavor: deep, rich, and earthy. Its purple skin fades to a saturated red in the tomato’s center. Curious about those green shoulders? Turns out they are a sign of superior flavor. The same genes that cause green shoulders in tomatoes are responsible for developing complexity and sweetness. The green parts may ripen much later than the rest of the tomato—don’t expect full ripening and peak flavor to coincide. Cut off the green and slice this heirloom favorite up for dinner!

Black Brandywine: The original pink ‘Brandywine’ tomato was once the poster child of heirloom tomatoes; these days it has a lot more company, but it’s still delicious! ‘Black Brandywine’ is a selection from the original strain: similar rich flavor with skin blushed purplish-brown. Great for fresh eating or cooking.

Yellow Brandywine: A yellow selection of the ‘Brandywine’ heirloom, revered for its surprisingly rich flavor and balance of sweetness and acidity. Best fresh, ‘Yellow Brandywine’ adds a lighter touch to sauces or salsas.



Beefsteak: More a category of tomato than a specific variety, beefsteak tomatoes are all the name implies: large, meaty, full-flavored, and perfect for serving in thick slabs just like a steak. These are the classic sandwich slicers. ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Cherokee Purple’ fall into the beefsteak category. Red varieties are often labeled as beefsteak tomatoes rather than by the cultivar name because it is a more recognizable label.

Roma: A type of plum tomato, ‘Roma’ and similar varieties are the quintessential sauce tomato. Their drier flesh and smaller seed cavities concentrate into perfect sauce and are ideal for halving and slow roasting in a low temperature oven. Synonymous with Italy, these are the home-preserver’s tomato of choice for canning whole and as sauces, ketchup, or pastes.

Vendor Profile-Unger Farm

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West


Strawberry season doesn’t hit fever-pitch at the market until Unger Farms returns with their flats of perfect Hood strawberries, those ephemeral poster children synonymous with June, Oregon, and delicious. Long lines of shoppers wait for the opening bell to ring, eager to take a half-flat home to freeze, can, or simply snack on this early summer treat.

By August, summer in Oregon has settled into fields of golden-hued grass, hazy skies, and copious dust. The Hoods are hunkered down in the heat, waiting for a fall mowing and their lush return with winter’s rain. Albion, a workhorse strawberry with sweetness and a touch of acidity—if not the Hood’s grand perfume—has taken the Hood’s place and will bear through October if the weather holds. August at Unger Farms is ruled by raspberries and blackberries, of which they grow ten varieties.


Matt and Kathy Unger bought the 140-acre farm a little over 30 years ago, continuing an Unger family tradition: Matt grew up farming strawberries on his family’s land, just over the hill from their farm, and Kathy worked on her future in-law’s farm after moving to the area from north Portland while still in high school. The two struck off on their own venture in 1984, growing berries and cucumbers, and selling their harvests to local canneries.

They soon realized that cannery prices were not able to keep the farm afloat, despite how efficiently they ran their operation. In the late 80’s, they decided to try opening a booth at the Hillsboro Farmers Market and the farm has never been the same since. Over two decades, they grew their fresh market business to comprise over 80% of farm income, reviving a tenuous young farm and becoming a cornerstone vendor of many Portland area markets.


The Ungers specialize in berries, and have maintained a focused operation, always striving to produce the best product they can, carefully selecting varieties with good flavor and size, and utilizing sustainable farming practices to minimize their operation’s impact on their land and surrounding environment. Their careful farming is evident in the tidy, well-managed berry and grape rows rotated among the farm to keep soil pathogens from building in any one spot, to the flats of plump, shining berries picked each morning and cooled in the farm’s storage cooler for markets and deliveries the next day.


This year, Unger Farms is selling at fifteen area markets, a handful of farm stands, and New Seasons grocery stores, as well as their own fledgling farm store located on an annexed property purchased after a neighboring nursery operation left. They built the farm store four years ago with public interaction in mind, including nearby U-pick fields of flowers and berries, a café and bakery with patio seating that looks over the farm’s pond and distant berry fields, and impressive displays of fresh vegetables, berries, and other local food products. This year, the farm store added an OLCC license, allowing them to sell beer and wine, and launch a new series of wine, beer and music events on select evenings through the summer.


The Ungers have recently added a CSA component to their farm model as well, growing a couple acres of vegetables along with the berries for families wanting a weekly box of farm-fresh vegetables and fruits. This year, Matt enthusiastically planted 18 varieties of potatoes, a crop he also grew up tending, and the store will feature these plus a host of fall vegetables and berries until they shut down for winter. Start a weekend drive through the country with a waffle breakfast from the farm’s Berry Café, or come for a Savor the Summer evening event and sip wine on the patio with views of rolling farmland and live music. Find the farm store hours and more at: http://ungerfarms.com.

Vendor Profile: Sun Gold Farm

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Not too many years ago, the bend in Dairy Creek where 135 acres of Sun Gold Farm sit under their celestial namesake, there was, not surprisingly, a dairy. Charlie and Vicki Hertel, the owners and operators of Sun Gold Farm, ran that dairy (originally bought by Vicki’s parents in the 1930’s) for 22 years. Both Charlie and Vicki were raised on dairy farms, and both thought dairy would be their lifelong career. That is, until the late 90’s, when environmental concerns about runoff pollution from their manure pile forced the Hertels to make some difficult choices.

Rather than pay the exorbitant price of moving much of the dairy’s infrastructure up slope from the river, they chose to sell their cows and began to transition their land to vegetables. Though Vicki had been selling extras from the family’s kitchen garden through a consignment booth at the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market, they knew little about managing row crops or diverse vegetable production systems.

“Jack of all trades, master of none,” Charlie said of his operation on a recent tour of the farm. Looking out over the culmination of a 17-year learning curve, it’s hard to fully agree with him. Their operation works like a well-conducted orchestra: autumn-spread horse manure and lime, cover crops, and crop rotation account for their soil management and fertilization program. No pesticides or herbicides are used on the farm; instead, natural predators like coyotes and birds are encouraged to visit the farm and a profusion of wildflowers (some may wrongly call them weeds) attract beneficial insects. A four-person crew (three of them seasonal) assists Charlie and Vicki with planting, weeding, irrigation and harvest, and their two children, Chris and Stephanie, returned to the farm after post-high-school time away, contributing their business and marketing skills to growing the farm’s profit margin.

Starting in late winter, Vicki fills five of their unheated greenhouses with nursery starts and hanging baskets of flowering annuals, which they sell at their spring markets. Early summer is busy with planting and weeding 25 acres of vegetables, cutting and bailing 80 acres of Timothy hay, which they rotates around the farm to make use of resting vegetable fields, and ramping up for peak market season. By now, the crew is working hard to manage a dizzying number of succession plantings of their 160 vegetable varieties in order to supply a 500-member CSA and eight weekly markets. Though it is still the height of summer, farmers’ must think far in advance, and the Sun Gold crew already has a field of fall brassicas planted, with more going in soon for overwintering.

Fifteen years ago, not long after they transitioned to vegetable farming, the Hertels were trialing new tomato varieties for the Logan-Zenner Seed Company and ended up with sungold cherry tomatoes in their batch. The variety was a standout at the farm (and internationally!), so much so the Hertel’s changed their farm’s name, inspired by the delicious new tomato and the clever ring to its name. They’ve been selling pints of sungolds ever since, and the rest of the farm’s sun gold—a rich assortment of year-round fresh vegetables, fruits and storage crops like dry beans, potatoes and winter squash—continues to feed hundreds of lucky Oregon families twelve months a year.

Sun Gold Farm was the 2014 Edible Portland Local Hero Award in the Farm category. Find out more at: http://edibleportland.com/2014/04/farm-sun-gold-farm/. Learn about their CSA program, including their unique, one-time Thanksgiving share, on their website, http://www.sungoldfarm.com.

Summer Salad Greens

Sarah West

By Sarah West

As summer starts to hit its stride, confronting garden rows with dryness and heat, head lettuces tend to make like a Parisian and go out of town for the month of August. While it is entirely possible to grow head lettuces through the summer, performance is often lackluster and frustrating once the temperatures rise—without abundant irrigation and steady fertility, head lettuces tend to suffer stunted growth then bolt in the blink of an eye.

Luckily, summer offers its own assortment of heat-loving greens and the selection in local markets and seed catalogs seems to get better each year. Below is a guide to some off-season greens that we’ve seen from time to time at market. Add new dimension to your salad repertoire, take advantage of the unusually dense nutrients some of them offer, and keep the fresh greens flowing in the heart of grilling season.

baby salad greensBaby Greens Mix While it is challenging to grow mature lettuces in the peak of summer’s heat, baby lettuces, kales and mustards make a delicious and quick salad crop. Scatter seeds in a new 2-4 square foot patch every two weeks for a continuous supply and water regularly, or let your market farmers do the growing for you!

lambsquartersLambsquarters Cousin to spinach and beets, lambsquarters (also called goosefoot and pigweed) is a weed of cultivated ground, appearing in gardens and among agricultural crops in profusion. Their young leaves are succulent and tender and make delicious salad greens with a nutty and rich mineral greenness. Lambsquarters is one of the most nutritious salad greens, high in protein, calcium, iron and vitamin-A, as well as many trace minerals of which it is an excellent scavenger. Sautéed, lambsquarters easily stand in for spinach or even surpass it if you appreciate a concentration of smooth spinach flavor. Try laying roasted zucchini on a bed of lightly dressed lambsquarters to slightly wilt them and complement zucchini’s mild, sweet flavor with lambsquarters’ rich base.

quinoa leavesQuinoa Leaves Close relative to lambsquarters, quinoa has a fleshier leaf and more versatility in the garden. As a salad green, quinoa is best harvested before it starts to set its flower stalk. Similar to lambsquarters, quinoa is a nutritional goldmine wrapped up in vegetal spinach flavor. In the garden, quinoa does triple duty as salad green, ornamental, and seed crop. As quinoa seed heads mature, they take on electric hues of pink, orange, burgundy and green that add interest and bold color to the vegetable patch or ornamental border. As a food source, quinoa seeds are a high-protein grain-like food that, when cooked, have a texture similar to couscous. Get the best of all three growth stages by harvesting raw greens from juvenile plants, then letting them grow to produce seed. Leaves from mature plants may still be eaten, though are better cooked at that stage.

purslanePurslane Succulent and strange to our flat-leaf-oriented tastes, purslane is an anomaly of a salad ingredient. Wild native of the Mediterranean, northern Africa, Middle East and India, purslane has an extensive catalog of uses in salads, soups, porridges, stews, pickles and even as a pastry filling. As a salad green, think Mediterranean flavors: toss with tomatoes, feta, cucumber, oregano, and a robust vinaigrette. We would all do well to embrace purslane’s briny lemon-and-pepper juiciness, for it contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other green vegetable, along with calcium, potassium and vitamin-A. Purslane’s stalk is too fibrous to eat raw; remove its leaves by pinching the base and running your fingers along the length of the stem to release them. The most challenging aspect of purslane is its mucilaginous texture. Start with purslane as an accent before making it a summer salad base.

orachOrach Another spinach tribe salad green, orach is a soft-leaved, scarcely domesticated green with handsome arrowhead-shaped leaves available in a dazzling variety of colors. Garden orach, the most domesticated edible variety, got it’s name from the French word arroche, derived from the Latin word for ‘golden,’ a nod to the golden green leaves some garden varieties sport. Gardeners throughout orach’s wide natural range have always reveled in its spectral genetics, and renewed interest in orach as a garden green has helped continue the tradition of selecting for vibrant pigments: magenta, purple with fuchsia-pink veins, burgundy red, and eggplant. Turn your salad into a party by seeding a mix of orach varieties. Though orach’s greens hold longer than spinach’s in summer’s heat, orach will eventually bolt and performs best as a food crop when sown in succession into moist, rich soil. Harvest leaves until the plants reach 18-inches, then let it go to seed; its ornamental bracts are as lovely in the vase as they are in the flower garden.

fresh herbsFresh Herbs We tend to think of herbs solely as a seasoning agent—concentrations of aromatic flavor, we use them more sparingly than not in our cooking. Rich in vitamin A, flat leaf parsley has a pleasing combination of sweet and bitter notes, with a backbone of celery aroma. Young leaves are tender and make a delicious salad green, chopped finely and tossed with cooked grains, as in tabbouleh, or simply tossed with oil and something acidic like lemon juice or pickled onions. Try adding a handful of basil, dill, parsley or cilantro leaves to your salad mix. Keeping the leaves whole means their volatile oils won’t begin to dissipate before you take a bite.

Volunteer Profile: Mike Ponder

Sarah West

Hillsdale Farmers Market couldn’t function without the work done by a dedicated group of volunteers. Board members, market assemblers, token sellers, smile givers, community creators: our volunteer force has always been the secret ingredient to our success. We’re celebrating their unique contributions to the market by sharing part of their story.

Mike Ponder in front of mural

This Sunday as you stroll through the market, you will be offered a dish of vanilla ice cream topped with fresh market berries, and a sincere “thank you” for being a market customer. July ushers in one of the market’s most anticipated summer events, aptly named the Red, White and Blueberry Sundaes fundraiser. But this event serves up more than a refreshing treat; since its inception, the Sundae event has been a volunteer-driven effort to gather donations for Neighborhood House and their emergency food box program.
 
Communities are built on this sort of thing—a pancake breakfast here, a farmers’ market there, movies in the park, dedicated local businesses, strong community services, conversations, connections, and families who stay and invest in their neighborhood. Long-time market volunteer Mike Ponder is one such community member. A resident of Hillsdale since 1980, Mike and his then wife, Dianna, were early supporters of Hillsdale Farmers’ Market and were quick to become frequent volunteers. The couple initiated the Sundae event on July 4, 2004 with the idea that ice cream could be a persuasive way to solicit donations.
 
“With my Stanford Food Service Ice Cream scooping skills and Dianna's organizational prowess, it was a good event for us to champion,” Mike told me. And champion the event they did, continuing to scoop out sundaes each market around the 4th of July, serving as regular volunteers throughout the market year, and, in Dianna’s case, acting as board president, until her sudden passing in the summer of 2010.

Mike and Dianna

Mike resumed the event in 2011, this time as a memorial to Dianna and her commitment to the market, and it continues each year with the help of Neighborhood House executive director, Rick Nitti, and board president, Ellen Singer.
 
As an industrial engineer, Mike enjoys the planning side of the event. Have you ever wondered what it takes to serve sundaes to 600 market shoppers? After ten years of scooping, Mike’s recipe has settled at: four 3-gal tubs of ice cream, 8 half-flats of strawberries, 4 half-flats of blueberries, and 4 half-flats of raspberries with 6 cans of whipped cream and 2 jugs of chocolate syrup. Now in its 11th year, this annual event (and Mike and Dianna’s efforts) have raised over $5,000 in benefit of Neighborhood House.
 
When I asked Mike what stands out about Hillsdale Farmers’ Market in a city with so many great markets, his answer, like many of our volunteers’, is that it crystallizes so many things he loves about his community:
 
“Hillsdale has a sense of place and sense of purpose that permeates the mindset of everyone involved with the market and makes it a wonderful gathering place to hang out with friends and neighbors and connect with the community. The market was initiated as a way to capture the spirit of the Annual Pancake Breakfast, so the vibe was strong and attracted the activist in all of us. The market started during the early days of the Iraq War, and we used to end the day with a Peace Walk to Multnomah Village and back, complete with signs and placards. I was once called an old hippie by one of the few who disagreed with our views and I still consider it high praise.”
 
Mike’s commitment to the market and the community were honored in 2012 when a friend commissioned to have him included in the “Faces of Hillsdale” mural. Mike is pictured handing out sundaes and wearing his market apron. Across the street outside of Food Front, Mike sponsored a bench at the bike plaza as a memorial to Dianna.
 
Retired and newly married, Mike and his wife Bea have been traveling the region, “promoting,” said Mike, “the wonders of Oregon to a long-time Santa Fe resident (Bea) who is enamored with flowers and water.” When at home, the two enjoy weekly bouquets from Herr Family Farms and lots of summer berries, taste testing in anticipation of this year’s Sundae event.

Feeling inspired?  Want to try your hand at market volunteering or just want to know more about what is involved?  Find us every Sunday at the market information booth (Capitol Hwy entrance) or email Sarah at hillsdalemarketvolunteers@gmail.com.

Vendor Profile: Petal Heads

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Petal Heads, a West Linn based nursery owned and operated by Dave and Annilese Doolittle, has been selling at local area farmers’ markets and garden fairs since they launched their backyard business in 2008. Both come from horticultural backgrounds—Dave currently works as the Director of Marketing at Terra Nova Nurseries, a local nursery with international notoriety for their distinctive breeding work (you may have one of their Heuchera or Echinacea introductions in your own garden), and Annilese earned a degree in horticulture from the University of Illinois.

Petal HeadsGrowing up in Illinois, Annilese got a taste for entrepreneurial plant propagation, potting up sports from her mother’s Hosta garden that she sold at her local farmers’ market. A move to Oregon and marriage to a fellow plant-enthusiast later, Annilese is still sharing her passion for the plants she loves, and propagating them in the driveway of their home in West Linn.

I visited recently for one of their weekend open houses. Though Petal Heads does not keep regular hours, they do host occasional sales, an opportunity to browse and buy from their entire plant collection. (Visit their website, portlandpetalheads.com, or email them at portlandpetalheads@gmail.com for information on upcoming sales.)

Sisyrinchium at PetalHeadsAs true plant collectors, Dave and Annilese have an infectious enthusiasm for the unique and unusual. I found their nursery (like their stall at the market) stocked with a pleasing mix of the familiar and the exotic. Two blooming flats of Sisyrinchium (blue-eyed grass)—one of the top-sellers at the market, according to Annilese—were the anomaly. Most of the plant varieties on display had only a handful of representatives, making for a highly diverse and doted-after assortment.

HelleboreDave’s work at Terra Nova gives him the opportunity to learn about plants, such as the work of Eugene-based Hellebore breeder Marietta O’Byrne. Her recent series of double-flowered Hellebores add new color and zest to the winter garden, and rank among Dave and Annilese’s personal favorites.

Terra Nova’s Heucheras are also well represented in Petal Heads’ collection. The rainbow of foliage colors on offer can liven up shady spots, adding a refreshing pop of burgundy, lime green or peach to the undergrowth.

Foliage plants at PetalHeadsInteresting foliage plants permeated the nursery, including Mayapples, Epimediums, a gorgeous black-leaved Bugbane, white-veined niger Hellebores, holly ferns and Hostas, to name a few, all illustrating that a garden without showcase flowers can be as varied and interesting as its blooming counterpart.

FrondteenaJust before I left the nursery, Annilese brought out the official mascot, Frondteena, Belgian hare with fine features and coloring as rich as one of the Heucheras on display. It is Frondteena’s profile that they used to create their logo image. Alice followed a white rabbit into Wonderland; Frondteena beckons curious gardeners to Petal Heads’ wonderland of new and unusual plants.

Volunteer Profile - Joan Quinn

Sarah West



Joan QuinnYou were involved in getting Hillsdale Farmers' Market started. What drew you to that project? Why did you want to have a farmers' market in Hillsdale?
The great notion of community is what drew me. I've always worked on political campaigns (starting with Wayne Morse) and social issues. Then in 2000, in my retirement years, I worked a bit at OSPIRG and left the board at CUB (Citizen Utility Board). I wanted something to DO. The most immediate reason I got involved was that Ted Coonfield, Rick Seifert and Glenn Bridger were such inspiring community supporters. Who could resist?? All they wanted was money donations and people to form committees to get the market started. It was fun meeting on the second floor of the old Mexican restaurant, Poncho's [now Casa Colima], to get it all started.

How has the market changed since you got involved?
It's been quite an even course since the Market started, with a clean objective to support local farmers and share their produce with the community. The market’s leaders, including its first manager, Halli [Mittleman], made sure we kept to that standard. A few experiments didn't last long, such as caramel corn popped on site (Oh, the smell was awful), the clown who painted faces, or loud marimba music (darn it!) [Joan was a member of the marimba ensemble]. The main change was when we crossed the street in 2005. Until then, we carted everything—tents and tables—up the stairs of Poncho's restaurant to the attic for storage. What a chore! But, to their credit, Poncho's gave us water and electricity too.

What makes Hillsdale Farmers’ Market unique compared to other Portland markets?
I think the vendors consider our Market pretty much THEIR market, even though they sell elsewhere in the area. That's because our management is clearly there for them, listening to their needs, adapting, responsive and fair. They trust that our Market Manager has their welfare as a priority. It's definitely a neighborhood market. When we started the volunteer booth and my friend Sally McLaughlin set up the volunteer computer list, I went to the Hollywood Market because they were 7 years ahead of us and a neighborhood market to see what kind of signs they used and how they did the volunteering.

What is one of your favorite market volunteer duties?
It used to be the Kids' Table in the summer but we don't do that now. Another favorite is seeing if vendors need any help (water, hand warmers, or a break). Or when something unusual comes up, like three summers ago when a young couple showed up with a rabbit who they'd given a Mohawk haircut and didn't really want anymore. I found that Norma and Roger's (of Springwater Farm) daughter was an expert at caring for rabbits and agreed to raise him.

What keeps you coming back as a volunteer?
My experiences at the Market have enhanced my feeling of community. I love it because of all the neighbors, friends, and strangers who are enjoying themselves as I am. That's the reason I come back each week.

What is your favorite item to buy at the market right now?
Right now my two favorite things to buy at the market are Charlie's (of Sun Gold Farm) walnuts and Gathering Together's parsley...top notch!!

Interview by Sarah West