1405 SW Vermont St.
Portland OR 97219
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Filtering by Tag: cherries

Vendor Spotlight: Baird Family Orchards

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. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

When it comes down to it, Trevor Baird is, unsurprisingly, a fruit geek. Traipsing around his family’s Dayton area orchard on a hot early June afternoon, his enthusiasm is palpable as he introduces us to his trees. Among the popular sellers like Honeycrisp apples and Suncrest peaches are many varieties you and I have probably never heard of.

“I’m an experimenter,” Trevor declares, a statement that encompasses both his business strategy as the successor, along with his sister, Jennifer, of his parents’ orchard, and his personal fascination with the fruit growing profession.

He stops in front of an apple tree called Firecracker with dark red fruits hung along its drooping branches like, well, firecrackers. When mature, the petite apples have pure crimson flesh and a tart bite that Trevor sells to chefs looking for something striking to put on their plates. There’s Goldrush, a yellow-skinned apple with remarkable disease resistance and dense, tangy flesh that ages well in storage. There’s Harken, a peach whose fruits are still fuzzy green marbles, that’s Trevor’s favorite for its quintessentially peachy flavor. And then there are the pluots, a super-tasty hybrid of plums and apricots whose trees are known for taking a long time to settle in and which have yet, in Trevor Baird’s orchard at least, to produce more than a handful of fruits.

Farming is tricky business, requiring the financial deftness necessary to navigate market fluctuations and evolving consumer tastes, all while taming the wild horse that is your chosen field: its weeds and weather, its abundance and shortages, its relentless demands on your energy and time. Nowhere is this more apparent than in an orchard, where the terms are dictated by a tree’s timeline, not a human’s.

Freshly planted fruit trees must be irrigated, fertilized, protected from pests and pathogens, and weeded for 3-5 years before they begin to produce a significant yield. And yields, even on healthy, mature trees, will vary from year to year due to fluctuations in pollination rates and simply how the spring weather played out. If it gets too warm too early, a tree may bloom prematurely, only to have its tender flowers blasted by frost a few days later.

“This year,” Trevor explained, “the mild winter didn’t provide enough chill hours for the Honeycrisp to set much fruit.”

All fruit trees, notably apples, wait to initiate their spring bloom until they’ve registered a prescribed number of hours (the exact number varies by variety) at around 45-degrees Fahrenheit. But what’s bad for one crop is good for another, which is why diversity is the name of the game at Baird Family Orchards. To survive poor yields and shifting consumer tastes, you need to have made decisions three years ago that meet today’s needs. The best way to do that is to give yourself a lot of options.


Purchased in 1984 by Trevor’s parents, Don and Kathy, the 40-acre parcel that now hosts dozens of stone and pome fruit varieties came planted in standard cherries—enormous trees whose upper branches were too difficult to harvest. The Bairds soon removed them, putting apples and a few Suncrest and Flamecrest peaches in their place. As was the case for many small apple orchards of the time, the Alar (a chemical growth regulator and suspected carcinogen) scare of the late 1980’s drove wholesale apple prices so low it no longer made sense to harvest their trees, challenging the Bairds to reconsider their plantings yet again.

It was around this time that Don Baird and his son Trevor had begun selling fruit directly to consumers at some of the area’s first farmers markets in Gresham and Beaverton. The peaches they’d planted on a whim turned out to be a big hit with market customers, inspiring the Bairds to transition their orchard to include more stone fruits—peaches, cherries, apricots, and plums—while keeping some of their best apple varieties.

As we move through the orchard, Trevor noting when he expects this or that to show up at market, it becomes clear that each variety has a specific, and often short, harvest window. Because they sell at so many markets in the Portland area (around fifteen at last count), and since most varieties are planted in modest quantities, not all varieties make it to every market. As Trevor admits with a chuckle, this level of diversification would be madness on a wholesale farm, but it lends much needed flexibility to their farmers-market-oriented harvest schedule, and appealing novelty to their offerings. No two weeks at Baird’s stand taste the same.

If diversity is Baird’s survival strategy, flavor is their most compelling selling point. Their fruits are known for impressive sweetness and the way they all seem to taste like the best version of themselves. This is not an accident. Don, Trevor, and a dedicated team of farmhands, take great care to cultivate optimum flavor through variety selection, smart horticultural management, and by allowing their fruit to ripen on the tree.

The same standard of quality applies to Baird’s leased orchard, operated by Dan and Ron Gunkel, who continue to farm land their father established in Goldendale, Washington in 1936. Don Baird struck up a partnership with the Gunkels twenty years ago that resulted in a block of the Gunkel orchard dedicated to growing fruit just for the Bairds.

The Gunkel block allows the Bairds room to expand the supply of some of their more popular varieties. When something from the Dayton orchard—where Trevor and Don have the freedom to trial new varieties for performance, flavor, and customer popularity—does particularly well, they plant it on the Gunkel’s property in numbers large enough to keep the market booth stocked for more than a couple of weeks. Like the Bairds, the Gunkels harvest all of their trees by hand, selecting only the ripest fruit, and packing it with care to preserve its delicate texture.

“It’s a perfect partnership,” Trevor tells me. “We all work really well together, which is why the fruit tastes so good.”

The last thing Trevor shows us a row of top-grafts put in this spring. Top-grafting is a shortcut of sorts, where part of a mature tree is lopped off and branches (called scions) from a different variety are wedged into the host tree’s cambium. The host tree has more energy reserves than does a newly planted tree, resulting in larger harvests after a shorter wait period. They strike me as a fitting metaphor for Trevor and Jennifer Baird: the next generation growing from the challenges and momentum of its predecessor with the enthusiasm of a fresh start.

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter July 21 2013

Sarah West


We will rise as the July's waxing gibbous moon sets over the Coast Range. With luck we will arrive at the parking lot at Wilson High School with a bit Ayers Creek to sell. The market bell rings at 10:00 AM.

This is our dreaded berry hole, when the early fruit have gone and the Chesters are offering only a few tantalizing specks of ripening. We will have some red currants and gooseberries. We are beginning to catch up after that wet spell in early June. The fenugreek went to flower in the high heat, but a new planting went in last Saturday and is sprouting nicely. Next week, we plant our chicories so we are thinking of winter as much as summer these days. Here is what we will have tomorrow:

Grains & Pulses: Frikeh, cornmeal, popcorn, black turtle and Dutch bullet beans.

Greens: Purslane, and a mixture of orache and amaranth.

Tart Cherries - Once again, we failed at cherry geography. Apparently cherries are not grown on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They are further south in the area around Traverse City, an area we have dubbed "Transpeninsula." They claim the mantle of "Cherry Capitol of the World." Lucky this is the last week for cherries as we have yet to fully explore our ignorance of cherry geography.  

We made our deliveries Friday and walked into a restaurant with the wrong invoice. When the staff saw it was for Lovely's 50/50, they regaled us with how delicious Sarah's tart cherry ice cream is and how she uses the cherry pits to flavor it, giving it hint of bitter almond essence. The next stop was at Lovely's and Sarah's mother greeted us with a tub of the ice cream. The ice cream is made from the Balatons. The next batch will use the Montmorency cherries. If you are in Mississippi area, more specifically 4039 N Mississippi Avenue, stop in and try the Balaton cherry ice cream. It is worth a trek across town. Then return to try the Montmorency flavor when that's ready. We have this geography right because we actually travel that area a bit.

Prunes - The stone fruits have three separate layers surrounding the seed and are what botanists call a drupe. The layers are the skin (exocarp), the pulpy flesh (mesocarp) and the hard layer surrounding the seed (endocarp) that the laity call the stone or pit. These three layers are derived from the mother plant's tissues, whereas the seed inside is the result of the sexual union of the sperm produced by the pollen and the mother plant's egg. The various stone fruit have characteristically shaped endocarps. Cherries have round ones, peaches have a large pitted version, almonds have a softer corky endocarp, and the plums have a very hard asymmetric pit. The seeds have a characteristic bitter almond flavor, and some are toxic when eaten in large quantities. The Boutards have long eaten the seeds of stone fruit without apparent ill effects. In many parts of Europe, it is customary to include some pits to flavor preserves and eau de vies made from stone fruit, just as Sarah does with her ice cream.

The plums are the most diverse of the stone fruits in terms of types and flavor. This week, we start with a prune bearing the regal name of Imperial Epineuse. The prunes are a class of related plums with a very high solid content of sugars and fiber, which allows them to dry well. They are prunes no matter whether they are fresh or dried. The commerce in dried prunes originated in Hungary in 16th century and spread westwards into France and Germany. The original seedling of Imperial Epineuse was found in an old monastery near Clairac, France. It was introduced to Oregon in the waning days of the 19th century as a dessert prune under the name of Clairac Mammoth, but never gained a following here. Not sure why, as it is easy to grow and more reliable than any of our other stone fruit. A steady cropper as the Brits would say. The texture is very fine, and pomologists have suggested that it may have a bit of damson in its background. The skin provides a pleasing and contrasting acidic note.

If you have an over-productive prune in your backyard, you can pick the very young fruit in the spring, before the pit has hardened, and cure them just as you would olives. The whole fruit is edible, no need to pit them, and you them in the dishes as you would olives. We crack the fruits with a mallet and put them in a jar with water, changing it daily until they turn olive green. Last year, we cured them in lye. The cured plums look no different than cured olives; the lye cured plums are dark just like lye cured olives. Publication 8267 from UC Davis give good directions (http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8267.pdf). We got the idea for curing plums from a visiting Chicago Chef, Paul Kahan, who served up a dish with green peaches cured in the same manner. Greg Higgins and his staff cured gage plums and seasoned them with a Tunisian accent. That is the great part of having visitors to the farm, they always leave a new idea or two as they leave.

We look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.

Anthony & Carol Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter June 14 2013

Sarah West

We are back again at Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday. The market is located near Wilson High School. Opens at 10:00 AM sharp.

Sour Cherries: Among these cherries, there are varieties with dark juice, generally classified as Morellos, Montmorency Cherriesand varieties with clear juice, classified as Amarelles. This week, we have the Amarelle called Montmorency. Equally satisfying, but a distinct flavor from the dark-juiced Hungarians of last week. In our preserves, we also include about 15% English Morello with its pleasing bitterness, along with Montmorency and the Hungarians.

The Amarelle cherries are particularly popular in France and England, as well as the United States. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Oregon's Willamette Valley are the two important American tart cherry regions. It is commonly asserted that Montmorency cherries are too sour to eat out hand. That is largely a matter of growers picking them when they are still on the acidic side of ripening. Though they have a tannic edge, the cherries this week are running over 16° BRIX, which higher than any of the cane fruit.  

One of the benefits of growing sour cherries is the fact that birds have a tough time pulling them off the tree. Moreover, the limbs are so willowy they cannot peck away at the fruit as they do with Prunus avium, bird (sweet) cherries. Robins, starlings and orioles like them but only as an occasional treat; they soon tire of the task and go back to eating insects. So they are an avian dessert, rather than a main course.

The spotted-winged drosophila or vinegar fly thrives on Montmorency cherries so we have to be careful harvesting the fruit. We have been working with staff on harvesting so we avoid the cherries with larvae. If you all run into a larva, and it is likely, the only thing we can say is that it is natural verification of our gentle approach towards other creatures on the farm. For the most part, the spiders in the orchard, along with the dragon flies, keep the vinegar fly populations at bay. And our restraint keeps the native bee populations and other interesting insect populations robust because we don't use the neonicotinoids and the rest of the arsenal of insecticides recommended for control of the fruit fly. The neonicotinoids are particularly nasty because they are generally applied to the soil and are absorbed into the plant tissues. The fruit is never sprayed, allowing for a plausible "no spray" claim. Many of our native bees are ground nesters, so they get it coming and going. An occasional fruit fly larva among the cherries means there is a bumble bee larva also developing safely underneath the tree.

Correction: Last week, a sharp-eyed reader alerted us to the fact that Lake Balaton is not part of the Danube drainage. More mortifying, Balaton in in the region known as Transdanubia, the woody hinterlands beyond the Danube Valleys. The comeuppance is not total because in the mix of Hungarian cherries last week was another variety called Danube, also introduced by Amy Iezzoni of Michigan State. So there was a bit of the Danube among the Balatons, even if it is not geographically accurate. Interestingly, a third Iezzoni introduction, Jubilleum, bore no fruit this year. It flowered during a brief frosty period which killed the bloom. When we purchased the trees from Cummins Nursery, we paid a royalty which is returned to the Hungarians for further agricultural research.

Soft Fruit: We are in that paradox of high diversity distinguished by general scarcity: a lot of little and mostly unpredictable. We harvest during the day Saturday for Sunday's market, so all of the fruit is in top shape. This is the advantage of buying from a farm that sells at a single market. We are not putting out fruit that didn't sell at Saturday's market. But it also means we are clueless as to the exact nature of the harvest until Saturday evening, long after you have received this.

Unfortunately, the black currants were so badly scorched by the hot spell, we won't have any more this summer. It is not simply aesthetic. The sunburn turns them bitter. There is a lilting song by Sondheim that sums up the bitterness of beauty burned by the summer sun. We will have some purple raspberries, the baby crop from last year's planting. Next year, they will be abundant. They also suffer from the touch of sun, but excel when exposed to a bit heat on the stove, which brings out the complex flavor. Purples are a hybrid between the red and black raspberries.

Greens: Our summer greens program is always an afterthought because our emphasis is on fruit, pulses and grains. Consequently, our greens production is a bit ad hoc. We grow what we crave and can't find from Gathering Together Farm, our primary outside source of greens. This week we will have some purslane, and a mixture of amaranth and orach.

Purslane can be chopped and added raw to yoghurt for a refreshing salad. Mostly we saute it quickly in pan drippings or olive oil. It is more accessible when cooked or pickled, losing its sharp edge. It doesn't sell well, so we eat and pickle what is left over when we return from the market. We pickle the tops with a bit of salt, garlic cloves, peppercorns and diluted vinegar (40 - 50% vinegar). Around the globe purslane is a treasured pot green, but in the United States here is little interest in this nourishing plant, so it is more often treated with herbicides than respect.  Enough grousing. By next week, the weevils will render the planting unsaleable.

Grains & Pulses: Frikeh, cornmeal, popcorn, chickpeas, black turtle and Dutch bullet beans.

We will see you all tomorrow,

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter July 7 2013

Sarah West

For Immediate Release
Gaston, Oregon, USA
6 July 2013

The Oregon Chapter of the Frikeh Producers' Council (FPC) announced today that mild, dry weather, and improved efficiency, assured a record frikeh harvest of the highest quality.

Most of us are familiar with grains in their mature, dry state, which allows them to be stored for many years. However, in many places in the world, grains are also enjoyed in their immature (green) state as a seasonal delicacy. Throughout the middle east, from Egypt to Turkey, immature wheat is harvested, burned and threshed to produce frikeh (frik, firik, freekeh). Erroneously called an "ancient grain," frikeh is actually a way of processing wheat, not a different grain at all. Claims of its ancient status are dubious; what is certain is its delicious flavor.

The parching of emmer in caldrons was documented in Roman times by Cato the Censor around 200 BC, and in parts of southern Germany, unripe spelt is still treated this way to make grünkern. Frikeh is very different in that it is exposed to an open flame. There is scant documentation of this method of preparing wheat, and most of it from the 50 years. Some authors have speculated that it was originally produced using barley straw, but that makes no sense as the straw's flame is not hot enough. Anyway the straw was very valuable as bedding and packing material, and would not be wasted burning wheat. Possibly small branches from orchard and olive groves were used. Like our fellow frikeh makers in the Middle East today, we use propane torches, which are easier and safer to use.

The harvest of frikeh is done during the brief interval between the “milk stage” when endosperm is still liquid and the “soft dough” stage when the endosperm is solidifying. Too early and the grains shrivel; too late and the grains are no longer dark green and develop a starch quality. Frikeh of the best character is produced during a three day window in the ripening process. The wheat is cut and the sheaves are stacked on corrugated metal and the heads are lightly roasted. In addition to imparting a smoky flavor to the grain, the heating also stops the maturation of the endosperm. The sweet fragrance of the roasting wheat wafts through the valley. The charred heads are then fed into a thresher to separate out the grain. The grain is cleaned and then dried on shallow trays.

The finished frikeh is rinsed a couple of times and cooked for approximately an hour. Any remaining chaff and stems should be skimmed off during the rinsing or cooking. Frikeh may be used in any recipe that uses rice or bulgar wheat. It is traditionally served with lamb or chicken. The smoky, nutty quality of the grain adds a unique and new dimension to vegetarian dishes. The simplest is as a tabbouleh styled salad, perfumed with lemon and mint.

FPC spokesperson, Carol Boutard, notes that frikeh has different nutritional qualities than mature wheat. It is higher in minerals, especially potassium, calcium, iron and zinc, higher in dietary fiber, and low in phytic acid. Frikeh will be available at the Hillsdale Farmers Market this Sunday, 7 July. The market starts at 10:00 am.

We will also bring the following:

Tart Hungarian Cherries: Balaton, named for the large lake on the Danube.

Dry legumes: chickpeas and beans

Fenugreek and Purslane

Soft berries: In very limited quantities, been horrendous weather for these fruits.

Ribes: gooseberries and black currants


We look forward to seeing you all at Hillsdale tomorrow,

Carol & Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter July 22 2012 Market

Sarah West

Opening Bell at Ayers Creek FarmFor some crazy reason, the allure of getting up at 5:00 AM, loading stacks of berries and other produce into the van, harvesting some summer squash and blossoms at the last minute, a gentle word to Tito, driving into Portland, setting up the tent and tables, unloading the vegetables and berries, and then reversing the process after 2:00 PM, remains alive. Perhaps it is because Tito is so happy to have us home ten hours after his sad-eyed goodbye. Whatever the reason, we will be there when the Hillsdale Farmers' Market opens. 
Vermont Street will be closed on Sunday after 11:00 AM as part of the Portland Sunday Parkways program. This will make parking a bit of a challenge. Eamon will try to ring the "ten o'clock bell" close to 9:30, after all of the vendors are set up.

Hillsdale is the only farmers' market we attend, so all of the fruits and vegetables are harvested for Saturday just for you. If you fail to show up or are off fresh produce for some reason, no worry, any that are left over are donated to the gleaner from Neighborhood House. We appreciate the volunteers and staff who put that program together. It gives us the pleasure of over-harvesting a bit knowing that the food will go to good use.
This newsletter goes out on a very simple and primitive system called a 56K dial-up modem. Technology from the last century, problems occur and, like the old cars of Havana, modem access no longer has reliable support. It works well, but increasingly it hiccups, sending two copies instead of one, doubling the number of missing articles you have to add. For the past five years Verizon, then Frontier, has been just six months away from providing DSL on this stretch of Spring Hill. So in six months perhaps the problem will resolve itself  .  .  . 
With that disclaimer out of the way, here is what we will have this week:

π Cherries - We will have a lot this week, and they will be the last of the season. Many Montmorency and Hungarian in lesser quantities.

Boysenberries - They are peaking this week. We may have a dribs and drabs of other caneberries.

Summer squash - Costata Romanesco, handsome and delicious. 

Greens - Lettuce, leaf chard and the amaranth/orach mix.

Aromatics - As last week, dill, fenugreek and a bit tarragon.


Garlics and shallots

About eight years ago we received a call from a young couple who asked if the could grow their garlic at the farm. It was early autumn and they just moved out to Oregon and had an extensive garlic collection they needed to plant immediately. The situation was dire, so we agreed to consider their request. Farm land is either rented for cash or a share of the crop. Cash rent is the most common arrangement, but sharecropping offers some advantages. A few years ago, we agreed to a share in wheat that was grown on the farm. We earned considerably more with this arrangement, but we had to wait longer for the money. He stored the wheat for two years and the price went up nicely. The share is typically a third of the crop for the landowner. 
When Josh and Sarah approached us, we were bulking up on crops for the winter market and it made sense for us to take a share of the actual crop. They would need us to do tractor work, irrigation and other odds and ends, making any sort cash arrangement difficult to calculate. We settled upon a one fifth share for us. It was generous to them, but we also benefitted because it allowed us to share in a very diverse collection of garlics. They had been featured in the New York Times food section, and we referred to them as the Famous Garlic Farmers in earlier newsletters. After four years, they found a place of their own and still grow garlic. Josh also works in the produce department of the Cedar Hills New Seasons store. So we will see him over the next few weeks while delivering the Chesters.
Somehow or another, this stinking lily bulb composed of fat storage leaves has built up a fair measure of mystique. Talking about garlic, things can get complicated pretty quickly. If you are only growing garlic, that's fine, but we have too many things swirling around to tolerate much nuance. Early on and endearingly earnest, we labelled every variety sold at the market and kept them separate for planting. The market labels lasted just a couple of weeks; they disappeared when people starting asking what variety we would recommend for fish or aioli. With our forestry and natural history backgrounds, we are inclined to think in terms of populations rather than narrowly drawn varieties. Now we select about 100 pounds of the best garlics and plant them. Eliminating the organizational demands allows us to plant more and harvest faster.  The harvest took more than a week early on, and now two of us have everything dug, bundled and hanging in two days, with a help from Sylvia, Carol's sister.
There are two major types of garlic, hard neck and soft neck. The hard necks are the most flavorful but do not store for a long time. These are the bulbs we are bringing to the market now. The soft necks are less complex in their flavors but remain in good condition well into the springtime. We will sell these when the hard necks are all sold, typically starting in December. As you use our garlic, you will still see traces of the diverse collection brought to our farm by Sarah and Josh. On the other hand, the conditions and character of Ayers Creek Farm and its owners are shaping the population as well. If you consider the wonderful names of garlic varieties, they almost always indicate a region of origin. Over time, this population of garlic will be tightly linked to the soils and management conditions of Gaston, just as 'Creole Red', 'German White' or 'Georgian Crystal' are linked to their regions. Maybe it's time to call the hard neck 'Wapato Wed'.
We will see you all tomorrow,
Carol & Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm