1405 SW Vermont St.
Portland OR 97219
United States

503-475-6555

Articles5

Filtering by Tag: popcorn

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter December 7 2014 Market

Sarah West

Back as a couple, we will return to that quaint hamlet of Hillsdale this Sunday, ready to meet some of your many late autumn needs when the market bell rings at 10:00 AM.

We will have our gift boxes of preserves. This year, the mix is raspberry, loganberry, green gage and Veepie grape, along with a biographical sketch of each fruit.

If the prospect of crating and mailing preserves is daunting, you can pass the job off to the expert hands of Gwen Vilches at Give Portland Gifts or Rebecca and Fred Gerandasy at Cooking up a Story. Links are:

giveportlandgifts.com
cookingupastory.com/store

We will have popcorn, corn & lime for preparing hominy, cornmeal, cayennes, dry beans, frikeh and hulless barley. We will also bring spuds, sweet potatoes, squash, onions, fennel, knob celery, black radish, horseradish and perhaps some other morsels.

_________________________________________

Myrtha Foradori studied in southwestern Germany for two years. During that time she signed up for a weekly produce box that provided, among other vegetables, black radishes. Made aware of our insecurity with respect to cooking black radishes, she mentioned how much she enjoyed a simple soup prepared using the root. Myrtha kindly sent along the recipe.

Potato - Black Radish soup

4-5 medium sized potatoes, chopped in cubes
half of a big black radish, thinly sliced
1 big yellow onion, chopped
some garlic, minced
olive oil
about a glass of white wine
enough vegetable or chicken broth to cover while simmering
optional: sour cream

Heat the olive oil, sauté onions and garlic. Add the potatoes and stir on medium heat. Add white wine and after it evaporated cover the potatoes with a fair amount of broth. Cover with a lid and let cook on medium heat. When the potatoes are almost done, add the black radish and cook for a short time until tender. Purée and season with salt and pepper. Serve with some sour cream.

The farm chef, Linda Colwell, prepared the soup today substituting butter and leeks, reflecting her northern European orientation. We sprinkled grated horseradish over the top. It is a very fine soup and, with specks of black skin from the radish, very attractive as well. Recommended. (printable recipe here (link).)

Tasting our grapes hanging in storage, Myrtha recounted how her mother loved to go into the family's attic where they hung their grapes for winter use and enjoy the intensely flavored, half shriveled fruit. We will have some at market this week, thanks to our patient brother-in-law who took the time to hang the clusters when visiting us in October.

________________________________________________

Escape from Vineland

The late Lon Rombaugh was amiably acquisitive when it came to fruit, especially grapes. Parsing his 2006 catalogue, we noticed he highlighted a new entry called 'Veepie', a quirky name that captured our eye. Veepie was not in his book on grape growing and he had not suggested it when he advised us on our vineyard selections. The entry noted that it is a "tart grape especially for pies." All this and a quirky name, too. We purchased 15 cuttings and rooted them. At the lower end of the vineyard, they grew with little attention for a few years.

Table grapes have an elven quality; we savor them at the moment, tarrying in the vineyard on a late afternoon enjoying the range of flavors that breeders have teased forth. Wine grapes are tasty with subtle differences, but their character develops after living underground in a dwarfish fashion, deprived of the sun for a long spate. Missing in the modern mix of commercially available varieties is the hafling, or hobbit, of grapes, a culinary fruit domestic in character, whose flavor opens up with the heat and knife of the kitchen. At one time, these grapes were an essential part of the kitchen garden. For example, John Evelyn notes that a special grape was used for verjus. Recipes from the Middle East, Persia and the Caucasus specify sour grapes as a matter of course. Yes, unripe table or wine grapes are sour, but they lack the flavor gained in the ripening process. Veepie is one of the few grapes, at least on this side of the Atlantic, that is a true culinary grape, tartly ripe and conveniently seedless.

There is a parallel here with apples. Cox's Orange Pippin or Spitzenburg are great dessert apples overwhelmed in a pie, whereas no one could ever relish the bitter, tannic cider apples such as Kingston Black or Yarlington Mill outside of the barrel. On the other hand, Rhode Island Greening, Northern Spy and Reinette Gris are excellent culinary apples for pies, tarts and sauces, yet on the tart side for enjoying out of the hand. Notably, people do not select an unripe apple for a pie, and thus it should be with grapes.

Veepie is officially 52131, a numbered seedling originating from a cross pollination made in 1952 by Oliver A. Bradt at the Vineland Experiment Station in Ontario, Canada. The mother plant was Seibel 8357, also known as Colobel. It is a teiturier, a type of grape with intense pigmentation used in small quantities to strengthen the color of wine. Albert Seibel was a French grape breeder who developed a large number high quality hybrids between American and the European wine grapes, seeking resistance to a pest called Phylloxera that had devastated the vineyards of Europe. The pollen-bearing parent was Bronx Seedless, a highly regarded but temperamental table grape prone to splitting, that is still cultivated in California. Bronx is also a hybrid with a seed parent of American lineage and Thompson seedless, a raisin grape dating back to the Ottoman Empire, also known as Sultanina.

The resulting grape has the intense pigmentation from its teiturier ancestor combined with the seedless trait and propensity for splitting, albeit much attenuated, from its pollen parent. It produces unfilled seeds which confer an additional pleasant component to its texture. As you look at the preserves, you will notice the little brown seedlets. The berry's tartness is it defining characteristic. Sugars and other soluble solids are measured using a refractometer, yielding a number given in degrees Brix (°Brix). When we harvested the grape for preserves this year, it measured 11° fully ripe. The Canadice grapes harvested at the same time for fresh eating were at 26°. As a reference, a lemon is around 8°. In its flavor, the European ancestry is evident. Bradt, as well as Seibel, selected against the "foxiness" that marked grapes with pure American lineage.

Vineland formally released numerous varieties resulting from Bradt's work. Public breeding programs used to have their own naming protocols, a custom that has faded recently. In the case of Vineland, their releases usually started with a V, such as Veeport, Vivant, Vanessa, and Vincent, with Festivee as a consistent variation on the theme. Selection 52131 survived the culling process, yet was never officially released. The vine somehow hung around long enough to catch the attention of the station's biochemist, Tibor Fukei Tibor Fuleki. He saw the grape's culinary potential for pies and preserves.

The late D. C. Paschke, a grape and chrysanthemum farmer from North East, Pennsylvania, was an insatiable collector of grapes and mum varieties. He tracked the breeding programs at Geneva (Cornell) and Vineland, and acquired a large collection of varieties. The farm was also known far and wide for his wife's grape pies, and it is likely Fukeli tipped him off to the exceptional qualities of 52131, over a slice of pie we hope, and it slipped into the vineyard at North East. With two champions in its court, the grape informally acquired the name Veepie, consistent with the naming style of the station. Rombaugh and Paschke knew each other from their shared interest in grapes, and at some point 52131 ended up in Oregon as Veepie. Instead of being released, Veepie managed to slip away from Vineland in the nick of time disguised as a release, escaping the flaming pyre reserved for seedlings deemed unworthy for release. Apparently no living trace of it remains at the station today. The numbered seedling that escapes is unusual, but SIUS 68-6-17 accomplished the same feat. That unnamed blackberry evaded the bulldozers that leveled the fields of Carbondale in 1973 by hitching a ride and hiding out in the Zych family's backyard until 1985. That is the year when it was finally released as our most beloved "Chester Thornless."

With its two primary champions dead, this hafling grape, perched between a number and a name, has attached itself to our farm. Like Fukeli, Paschke and Rombaugh, we think it is a singular grape that belongs in any well-rounded vineyard. Personally, we wish there were a greater diversity of culinary grapes, but 52131 is a good start. It certainly deserves a formal release someday.

Dr. K. Helen Fisher, Bradt's successor at Vineland, helped us sort out this story. We appreciate her willingness to provide the history of the grape, allowing us to acknowledge Bradt's role in developing it, and Fukeli as its advocate at the station. Thank you Helen. That said, any errors or flights of fancy in the above account are ours alone. We hope you all enjoy the Veepie Grape preserves.

Until Sunday,
Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

The original post misspelled Tibor Fuleki's last name. That error has been corrected. 

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 28 2014 Market

Sarah West

Verification I:

On the 18th of April our organic certifier visited the Ayers Creek for our annual inspection. Arriving at 9:30, he inspected our farm and our records without pause, finishing his closing interview at 2:15. Even though we have been through the process 15 times since 1999, it remains an intense experience. The application, submitted in March, articulated our organic farm management plan. After it was reviewed, an inspection was scheduled. The week before inspection, we make sure all of the records, seed packages, certifications and invoices are pulled together. All of the buildings, machines and fields must be open to inspection. The inspection fee is paid on the clock, so we try to make it as efficient as possible. No chit chat or lost keys, and niceties kept to the barest minimum. It is a serious matter because a cavalier decision or mistaken use of a substance will mean loss of certification of the crop or even the land for three years. By the time 2:15 rolled around, we were hungry and tired with a sense of evisceration. To our daughter who goes through the process at their Italy Hill Farm, we can say confidently that it never gets easier or smoother. We never talked to you about Santa either, did we?

Passing the review, inspection and audit allows us to carry the term "certified organic" on our labels and signs. Our second very important review and inspection comes when you all visit the farm on the ramble. We take it as seriously, and fret over details the week before. We are cognizant of the fact that if you are not satisfied with the way we farm, we could lose you as a customer. However, this inspection is much more comfortable because we can digress from the topic at hand and digest Linda Colwell's excellent food. This year's ramble will take place on the 12th of October, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. Bring friends and family, along with sturdy shoes and a bee sting kit if you are allergic.  

As a reminder, in our irrational New England Blue Law rectitude, we have kept the ramble strictly noncommercial. We won't be selling anything. Please don't try to lead us astray, just enjoy the stay.

__________________________

This Sunday marks our last market at Hillsdale until the 16th of November. By design, our fresh produce kind of peters out by the end of September and we need to spend the next month planting grains and garlics, subsoiling the berry fields and orchard as time permits, moving the irrigation pumps up from the floodplain, and pulling in the corn, sweet potatoes and squash. When the bell rings at 10:00 AM, here is what we will have.

More legumes: Borlotto Gaston, zolfino, purgatorio, Dutch bullet, tarbesque, chickpeas and favas.

Grains: frikeh, hulless barley, popcorn and cornmeal.

Some greens, tomatillos and onions again. With rain, tomatoes are iffy, but we will do our best.

A nice haul of table grapes, and maybe some prunes.

Preserves. Finishing up the 2013 run. (When we return on November 16th, we will have close to a full complement, with some gift boxes as well.)

 

 

____________________________

Verification II:

This year, we will take a little over a ton of fruit, mix it with some sugar and fresh lemon, cook it up and put it into thousands of jars. Both Federal and Oregon laws mandate that we put a label on each individual jar. The law dictates what we put on the label and, as certified organic producers, we meet an additional set of label requirements under the National Organic Program. Labeling of processed food is neither optional nor voluntary. As really dinky players in the processing market, our labels cost more than the food giants, about 20 cents each, or around 3% of the jar's retail price. And it doesn't matter what we print on the label, the price per label mandated by law is the same. A simple fact.

This November, we will be voting for Measure 92 which adds the requirement that processors who use genetically modified ingredients must include that information on the already mandatory label. Same old label, just a bit more information. If it passes, processors like us will have a year to use up our old labels and print new ones that comply with the law. If, like us, they don't use genetically modified ingredients, nothing changes and we can use the old labels. Either way, adding a bit of text will not change the price of the label, nor the price of the food. 

The state's shrinking tabloid of record managed to get into a lather over Measure 92. Shamelessly cribbing from the industry's talking points, and without a shred of critical thinking, the editorial board repeats the notion that this is a mandatory label. No, it is an additional bit of information on an already mandatory label. They also repeat the industry's claim that it will confuse consumers and increase food prices. Obviously, if an ingredient is from a genetically modified crop and the label says so, it is hard to see how the consumer is confused. The hysteria in the larger food industry has nothing to do with consumer confusion; it is the fact that they fear consumers will use that label information to select products made with non-genetically modified ingredients, and that it will force down the price of products labelled as genetically modified. Certainly, as we noted above, adding that language to the label will not add to its cost in and of itself.

Proponents of genetic engineering hold out the promise of crops that will grow nutritious food with little or no water, or fertilizer, offering up a seductive cornucopia of environmental and nutritional benefits. If that were reality, the food companies would be tripping over themselves with extravagant green claims on their labels, touting their genetic prowess in solving the world's problems. The promises have failed to materialize, as the most recent effort shows. Last week, the USDA approved the use of crops that are genetically engineered to survive the application of one of the first commercially available herbicides, 2,4-D, released in the 1940s. Why? Because farmers have sloshed so much glyphosate (Round-Up) across the nation's farmland that weeds have become resistant to the herbicide, so they are bringing back an old herbicide in hopes of stemming the tide. This is dirty old chemistry, and that is why the companies are horrified at the thought of a label underscoring this sad reality. They will slosh a cocktail of the chemicals over the farmland and then come back asking for approval of another herbicide resistance factor.

So you are narrowing your eyes and getting ready to dismiss us as working in our self-interest as organic farmers. Quite to the contrary, the status quo benefits us directly because we have the USDA seal of approval for our GMO-free status. When you see the NOP sticker or "Certified Organic" on a label, that means our seeds are not genetically modified, and that claim is backed-up with inspections and audits through the chain of custody. On the face of it, our support of Measure 92 runs against our self-interest. However if people want to know if their food is grown from genetically modified plants and animals, why not tell them so? 

We will see you all Sunday, or for the Ramble on the 12th.

Carol & Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 14 2014

Sarah West

The bean harvest is now in full gear, and it will be the year of bean. Chicories and other winter greens are growing at a good pace. We will take a few hours off to stand about at Hillsdale Farmers Market. Hope you all come and keep us company.

No beans until next week, they still need cleaning and another few days to dry completely, but we will have good food otherwise.

Here is what we will have:
Tomatoes: Astianas for sauce and Striped German for slicers. With this warm weather, we will again have a good supply of the Astianas. Our fashionable new lugs arrived which will make it easier to haul your tomatoes from the market. Oh yes, Striped Germans will be on this week's menu.
Tomatillos - purple
Grains: Frikeh, barley and Amish Butter popcorn.
Fenugreek
Plums: German and Croatian prunes, mirabelle and golden gages.
Grapes: a mixture of celibate and fecund sorts. We will have Price, A Grape with No Name, Interlaken. The latter make very good raisins.
Preserves and, as usual, some other odds and ends.

Michael Abelman and his son Aaron stopped by Ayers Creek for a few days in late July 2004 as part of his Fields of Plenty project. Rereading the profile a decade later, it is striking how much things have changed, though fundamentally we are the same farm. The profile celebrated the summer here, but we already had one winter market season under our belt. That spring we learned that the combination of spring break, Easter and Passover can kill a market. Lowest gross we have ever had; when vendors leave their cash box unattended there is not much to say for the day. Also learned that we should grow horseradish. Somehow, black radish does not have the same allure as a bitter herb for the seder, much as we tried laud its many virtues. Our first planting of Roy's Calais flint corn was in the ground, and we were planning our orchard and vineyard.

After leaving Gaston, Michael visited Jennifer Greene's Windborne Farm in Scott Valley. There he fell in love with her old Allis Chalmers All Crop. It is a small combine pulled by a farm tractor. A combine gets its name because it combines the formerly separate tasks of cutting, threshing, and winnowing seed crops, including legumes and grains.

A couple months later he located a pair for sale in Canby, one apparently almost running and a decrepit example for parts. We went to see them with him, and it was clear the rose's bloom was withering as he paced around the two dusty, rusty hunks of machinery with their frayed belts, broken reel bats and rotting tires. We shared his reservations, even as he clung to the memory of Jennifer's machine and all it could do. The challenge of transporting the machines to Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island and repairing them dislodged the yearning.

Apparently, the pathos of the bedraggled machines and their potential gnawed at us. Not sure what exactly happened to dislodge us from our rational frame of mind, but we purchased them. The machine is boxy with most of its drives on the outside. Like Han Solo's Millennium Falcon, it is meant to be repaired on the fly with materials at hand. Not sleek or elegant, just enough of it to carry out the task well. Perhaps the idea opening up the list of crops we grow had some influence.

Other farmers with big machines speak admiringly of the All Crop, with its mixture of flexibility, simplicity and economy. Encouraging the endeavor, not emulating it, mind you. They take their old combines to the Banks demolition derby, not the shop. They are quite comfortable in their modern air-conditioned cabs with stereo and computer controls. In less than an hour, they can harvest more grain than the All Crop can in a day. However, their machines take a full day to clean between crops, and the All Crop is clean and greased in less than an hour.

Drawn to the machine, we forgot the first rule of purchasing equipment; turn over the engine to make sure it is operable. Apparently, someone tried to start the engine by using a lot of starter fluid (ether) which cleaned all the oil off the cylinder walls and the engine corroded solid. Neither Marvel Mystery Oil nor grease pumped into the cylinder would dislodge the corroded pistons. Perhaps we would have purchased it anyway, but it threw a disappointing money wrench into the works. The All Crop took a backseat to other projects until our daughter married Jonathan Hunt. In March 2008, he visited and helped strip down the machine. Later he found us an old driveshaft to replace the engine. Relentlessly, he peeled away the excuses for delaying and pushed us to get it running.

Restoring farm equipment as a show piece is very different from a functional restoration. We want the machine to operate for thousands of more hours reliably, so pulleys, shafts and bearings need cleaning and, if necessary, replaced. Rubber and wood parts likewise. Tom Yasnowski specializes in locating or replicating obsolete Allis Chalmers parts, supplying us with the belts and rubber parts that had disintegrated over the decades. The cylinder and concave chamber where the threshing of the seeds takes place needed a complete overhaul. Yasnowski supplied replacement rubber-faced bars for the cylinder and Dave Naumann at Ernst Hardware in St. Paul helped us locate a shop where the cylinder was balanced. It spins at high speed and balanced with modern equipment it runs as smooth as silk. Being an old piece of machinery, we deemed it acceptable to keep the bullet holes that appear when machines are unattended for a while in rural America.

We replaced upwards of 100 corroded bolts holding together the 10-foot long straw rack, and saturated the dry wood with linseed oil. The adjustable cleaning shoe is where the seed is separated from the chaff, the winnowing task. It had corroded in place making adjustments impossible, requiring several days of careful cleaning and lubrication, and a layer of linseed oil on the wooden parts.

A couple of weeks ago, Jon took his place on the bagger's platform where the seeds drop into sacks. We put in a couple of hours figuring out the fine points of combining chickpeas. As we tried to communicate over the roar of the tractor, the rattling of grain conveying chains, and the thrashing cylinder, I might have well have been communicating with a wookiee. It was great to see the patina of a working machine return, that fragrant, short-lived gloss from the resins of the plants. Some of you may have picked up on the fragrance in the barley, and it will be present in the chickpeas as well. There was a Queen Ann's Lace growing in the field, giving the grain a hint of wild carrot aroma. Thanks, Jon.

Carol

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 7 2014

Sarah West


Looks like fair weather for Sunday's Hillsdale farmers' Market. The bell rings at 10:00 AM.

Here is what we will have:

Tomatoes: Astianas for sauce and Striped German for slicers. With this warm weather, we will have a good supply of the Astianas.

Tomatillos - purple

Grains: Frikeh, barley and Amish Butter popcorn. If you want to make hominy from the Amish Butter for a pozole verde, we will have pickling lime available.

Fenugreek: this fragrant green (methi) is used for aloo methi and Persian green stews.

Plums: mirabelle and golden gages.

Grapes: a mixture of celibate and fecund sorts. We will have Price, A Grape with No Name, Interlaken and Jupiter. An incredible range of flavors.

Preserves, and probably some other odds and ends.
___________________________________________________________

"Ecce Edwardus Ursus scalis nunc tump-tump-tump occipite gradus pulsante post Christophorum Robinum descendens."

And so begins the story of Winnie-the-Pooh in the tongue of Virgil and Ovid, as translated by Alexander Lenard (E.P. Dutton 1960). As hard as it is to imagine anything but a living, vital language telling the tale of a stuffed bear, the faithful were challenged when Vatican II recommended delivering the Mass in the vernacular instead of Latin just five years after publication of Winnie Ille Pu. With Latin on the verge of dying, solace was found in the fact that new plant species were still described in Latin. That final bastion of life for the ancient language is now under siege, with some taxonomists proposing the use of English for botanical descriptions.

The language of the Mass must deal with love and hate, suffering and bliss, betrayal and redemption. Consequently its Latin is heavily salted with words derived from Greek, a language that handles those subjects well. Latin is the language of laws and strategy. In that respect, it is a fine language for the sciences. Botanical Latin is descriptive and of the present tense. Little need to worry about verbs anyway as the specimen is dry and taped to a herbarium sheet. Nonetheless, the naming of organisms can get a bit litigious. In a form of scientific primogeniture, the person who first publishes an account correctly describing and naming a plant prevails, no matter how wonderful, familiar, pertinent or worthy subsequent names are. So there is a breed of scientists who make it life's work to shake up the existing order.

Such is the case of the tomatillo. The great French scientist, Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamark published a description of the plant, naming it Physalis pennsylvanica. His Portuguese contemporary, Félix de Avelar Brotero gave it the name Physalis ixocarpa at approximately the same time. Both names have been used over time, but Brotero was a nose too late in the opinion of the modern publications department. So this lovely fruit, essential to Central American cooking and largely ignored in the Northeastern United States, is named after a state where it has no substantive connection. With such a fancy name, your would think the Chevalier would have been a bit more creative. An essential part of Mexican cooking is stuck with the name of the cheesesteak's home.

Brotero's epithet, ixocarpa, on the other hand, is an intriguing fusion of Greek and Latin. Most cookbook authors and gardeners dully repeat that it means "sticky fruit" without further inquiry. In Latin, carpa means fruit, that's true. The ixo is a bit more of a puzzle. In neither Latin nor Greek, does it correspond to the word "sticky." In fact, the letter x is not a Roman letter per se; it is a number. In our alphabet, it can represent one of two Greek letters, xi or chi. Brotero's x works both ways.

Using the Greek character xi, it is the prefix to a complex of words referring to birdlime. This sticky substance was rendered from the bark of holly or the berries of mistletoe, and smeared on the branch of trees where birds roosted. They were then captured by the likes of Mozart's bird catcher, Papageno, and sold for food or ornament. The name comes obliquely to sticky, but arrives well.

If we treat it as the character chi instead, the word is a prefix to a complex of words referring to fish, notably dried fish skin, or a basket for carrying fish or trapping fish. The husk is certainly reminiscent of dried fish skin, and when the soft tissue of the husk and fruit rot away, leaving just the vascular tissue, it forms a basket containing the seeds that look just like so many fish in a carrying basket or fish tap. The wind blows these little baskets around the farm and, as they roll about, the seeds drop out bit by bit.

The husk develops from the base of the sepals. When the flower is pollinated, the yellow petals fall off and a special growth tissue, or meristem, at the base of the sepals starts to grow. It keeps pace with the developing fruit inside until just before ripening. The ripe fruit tears through the husk, at which point it is ripe. Zenón refers to it as taking its shirt off, and that is when they are best harvested. If they fall to the ground, they are deemed ripe as well. As he puts it, the fruit is essentially sharp-flavored, but it should have a distinct sweetness along side the acidity.

Having tried the Brand X tomatillos and being fundamentally New Englanders, we were leery of the fruit initially. With staff's expert guidance, we now feel comfortable with tomatillos. For sauces, we use tomatillos both raw and cooked. They are a basic ingredient in a pozole verde, and we roast them with other vegetables. Staff have a strong preference for the purple types which are more flavorful. That's helped assuage our leeriness as well. They also taught us to keep the fruits in a dry place, where they will last in good shape until March. In fact, purple fruits that last until March are the two primary selection criteria for seed production.

Both born in 1744, Lamarck and Brotero contributed a great deal to science. Lamarck is worth a special note because he was one of the earliest scientists to question the immutability of species, and suggest that organisms could change over time, a process later called evolution. His proposed mechanism was mocked and ultimately dismissed in favor of Darwin's theory of natural selection. As we understand the evolutionary process better, Lamarck's ideas have gained greater respect. Nonetheless he will still have the albatross of naming a great Mexican fruit after the America's cheesesteak capitol hanging around his neck.

We will see you all Sunday,

Carol and Anthony Boutard