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Archive for October, 2011

Pick a Pepper

By Jaret Foster, Senior Market Manager of Portland Farmers Market

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune of being invited to attend a sweet pepper tasting conducted by my friend Lane Selman. Lane works with the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) cultivating, among other things, sweet pepper varieties on several Willamette Valley Farms. NOVIC is a joint project between Oregon State University, University of Wisconsin, Cornell University, the Organic Seed Alliance, the USDA and over 30 organic farms in Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and New York.

Through NOVIC, researchers, farmers, plant breeders and seed growers collaborate to breed and perform variety trials to select vegetable cultivars best adapted to organic growing conditions and with traits conducive to fresh markets with a focus on season extension.  A primary project goal is to increase the amount of organic seed available to farmers.  Access to quality organic seed is a challenge.  Currently, many certified organic farmers use conventional seed because their preferred varieties are not available organically.

The NOVIC breeding goals include developing an open-pollinated broccoli that can thrive in summer heat; a weed-competitive, cold-tolerant ‘Nantes’-type carrot; a disease-resistant, heat-tolerant stringless snap pea; a cold-tolerant, sugar-enhanced sweet corn and a butternut squash with good storability.  There is a sixth slot open as a “farmers’ choice” where collaborating farmers in each region chose a crop to work on; the Oregon region has chosen peppers.  The goal of the pepper trial is to find an early sweet or bell pepper as a substitute for the current standard variety.

Farmers and researchers collaboratively determine varieties (commercially-available varieties as well as those local breeders have developed) to be included in NOVIC trials.  Development of the evaluation criteria for each crop is also a collective effort.

Outreach goals of NOVIC include hosting field days, participatory organic plant breeding, on-farm variety improvement and organic seed production workshops, variety testing under organic conditions, and high-quality organic seed production.

In order to establish measures of marketability Lane brought together Portland chefs, food writers, myself and photographer Patrick Barber to taste, rate and discuss the properties of 13 different sweet peppers on a recent autumn day at Tabla restaurant. Chef Anthony Cafiero hosted the event and prepared each pepper whole, sliced, sautéed, and roasted.

Lane introduced us to the program goals of her work with NOVIC and Dr. Jim Myers, Professor and Plant Breeder at OSU. After a brief video piece featuring the farmers involved and describing the seed trials we were asked to rate each pepper on appearance, texture, flavor, color etc. Lane provided us with sheets and clipboards for collecting information and showed us to the table laden with the prepared samples.

In order to see statistically significant differences, we were asked to first taste all samples before assigning a “9” to our favorite and a “1” to our least preferred, then using the full scale for all those in between. This system of evaluation was used for each preparation (e.g. raw, sautéed, roasted). The idea being that the samples were judged against one another rather than against all peppers we had ever tasted in our lifetimes.

It was incredibly difficult to say which pepper was a favorite when they were all so tasty and beautiful, but as I went along and sampled each preparation I began to detect their subtle (and not so) differences. My overall favorite in the tasting was Joelene’s Red Italian. It had a succulent flesh with a subtle sweetness that won my 9 vote. Below are some photos of the day. Thanks to Patrick Barber for the generous use of his images. Enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Interested in more information?  Please contact:

Lane Selman
Research Associate
NOVIC Coordinator
OSU, Dept. of Horticulture
laneselman@gmail.com

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And that’s exactly what you can say to a pumpkin this Saturday at our PSU Market.Carver Stories

PFM’s annual pumpkin carving contest is this Saturday at 9am. We provide the squash for free – you provide the artistry. Between 9 and Noon – or while supplies last – pick a pumpkin, carve it up, compost the innards and enter the finished squash for judgment. Awards for 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place – 2 Categories; both adults and children under 13 have a chance to win. The fairest pumpkin of them all will go home with a Best in Show. Carve well friends, because this year’s prizes include family passes to the zoo & OMSI, and tickets to a Disney on Ice. Contest ends at high noon, the panel convenes and the prizes are awarded at 12:30. Only pumpkins carved on-site are eligible for prizes.

The City of Portland is teaming up with the Market this year to raise awareness about our new curbside “Include the Food” composting. This campaign launches a city-wide effort to compost food scrap by Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. In addition to composting pumpkin innards, information about curbside food composting will be available at the Include the Food information table during the event. For more details on food composting, please visit www.portlandcomposts.com.

Is your child more of a costume enthusiast than a cutter? The parade of children begins at noon at the information booth on the corner of Park & Montgomery. All costumed young’ uns are invited to participate in a march through the market – it’s like trick or treating but with oohs and aahs and iphone pictures instead of candy.horse and pumpkins Just the kind of reward that every child secretly wants more than sweets.

The PSU Market goes from 8:30 – 2 on Saturday. This Sunday is our last King Market of the year: 10 – 2 at NE 7th & Wygant, then we’re out until 2012 but you can join us at PSU Saturdays through December 17, that’s the Saturday before Christmas Eve. And we will have farm fresh goods in the darkest days of the year with our new Winter Market in January & February.

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Article by Miriam Garcia

In the course of the year, there are a few special days when ordinary social rules are turned upside-down for a brief spell. On Halloween, for example, normally mild-mannered citizens roam the streets at night. They threaten respectable householders with mean tricks. They gorge on normally forbidden foods. And that’s just the kids. Halloween is what folklorists call a holiday of ‘misrule.’

As with most days of misrule (think Mardi Gras, New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl), Halloween is truly a folk holiday. It is not sanctioned by any religion, state or other institutions, unless you count Hallmark and Hershey’s. It exists and persists simply because we want it to. Sort of like the Farmers Market, if you think about it.

There are other, even older, connections between Halloween and the Farmers Market and the farmlands that the market represents. At the very heart of the matter is the fact that Halloween is deeply rooted in the workings of the natural world. For the ancient Celts, October 31st was the most important day of the year. The holiday, which they called Samhain, was a major agricultural ‘marker,’ the date by which crops were to be harvested. And, as befits a time of dying light and dying vegetation, it was believed to be a night when the veil between our world and the underworld was lifted, so that the souls of the recently dead could cross over. Abundance and death together powered ancient Samhain, and the same two forces are still mixing it up in farm fields, orchards and forests, as well as in our Halloween traditions.

For example, consider your Jack O’ Lantern.

First, there’s the procurement of the pumpkin. For many people, this involves a pilgrimage from an urban area to a farm or to the Farmers Market. This is a symbolic return to nature in order to gather an emblem of the harvest; ye olde pumpkin.

Next, there’s the transformation of the pumpkin from a natural object (squash) into a spirit object (Jack O’Lantern). Like putting on a costume, turning a pumpkin into something else altogether seems to set the misrule into motion. It’s a way to step out of ordinary time.

Finally, there’s the big night… as we take on new personas in our costumes, our flickering lanterns assume other-worldly personas, too. The veil between the worlds does indeed seem thin as our symbols of the harvest and abundance, of death and mystery, of rule and misrule, all collide, slip sideways, and still, somehow, make sense.

At Samhain, the Celts lit bonfires, they feasted, they reveled, and they left gifts on their doorsteps to appease wandering spirits and tricksters. We may not live as close to nature as earlier generations, but at Halloween we feel the link to other times. We celebrate the turning of the season. We sense ancient truths burning in our Jack O’Lanterns’ eyes.

Miriam Garcia is a folklorist-foodie, freelance writer and guardian of a super-secret chicken soup recipe. You can contact her at Miriam_G@me.com

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Lazy Saturday

Photos & Article by Elizabeth Miller

I have decided to give in. The rain, the chilly nights, the fact that sunset creeps closer and closer to 5PM each day—I get it. It’s autumn. In what can only be called a completely unexpected move on my part, I have chosen to not dread the upcoming endless rains and nonexistent sunlight. It’s time to accept that summer is over, and I plan on doing so by turning to what I know best as a comfort: cooking. Winter squash and root vegetables, here I come.

Breaking up

The greatest part of cooking winter vegetables is being able to find them before winter actually hits. Most winter squash and root vegetables that are found at a grocery store during the winter have actually been out of the ground for months, stored in a cool place to retain their usability. When you buy an acorn squash from the farmers market in October, the opposite holds true. The perfect squash you hold in your hand? That baby just came off of the vine. Potatoes are fresh from the earth, and those carrots you just found piled into a gorgeous heap of pale yellow, purple, and bright orange? They’ve been waiting underground all summer to greet you when the temperature turns and the air gets chilly. For a season that is so closely aligned with the hibernation of all things living, it’s a delight to find food so fresh.

Another great thing about cooking cold weather foods? You get to keep the oven on for hours at a time, slow roasting some things while you leisurely stew others, all the while keeping your house comfortably warm and deliciously aromatic. After a trip to the farmers market last Saturday, there was no rush to my meal preparation as I casually peeled and chopped, then set things to slowly simmer on top of the stove and roast in the oven. After leaving the

kitchen to complete an hour or so of yard work, my autumn meal was nearly complete, and my house was filled with the alluring scent of foods that bring warmth, comfort, and satisfaction. It almost made me forget—and forgive—the

score

fact that we had just bid summer a long goodbye and opened our doors to the long, wet stretch of autumn.

Pear-Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash, halved and seeded

2 medium pears, cored and chopped into ½-inch chunks

½ large sweet onion, sliced into thin half moons

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch to ½-inch chunks

1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage, or 1 teaspoon dried sage

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans or hazelnuts

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Saute onions in olive oil until soft, golden brown, and just beginning to caramelize. Add carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes, until carrots are crisp tender. Add pears and cook for 2-3 minutes, until a few edges have just begun to brown. Remove pan from heat and add sage and chopped nuts. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Scoop roughly ½ cup of filling into the hollowed-out middle of each squash half. There is a lot of filling, so expect to mound up the filling on each squash. Place stuffed squash in a large baking dish or roasting pan, stuffing side up. Pour enough water into the baking dish or roasting pan to cover the bottom 1 inch of the squash. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 ½ hours, until the squash is soft when pierced with a fork.

oven ready

Kidney Bean and Sweet Potato Soup

2 quarts water

8 ounces dried beans (I was delighted to find pinto beans at the farmers market, but white beans or navy beans would also work)

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ large sweet onion, finely chopped

1 large sweet potato, about 1 ½ pounds, peeled and diced

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine water, dried beans, and bay leaf and simmer uncovered for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft.

When the beans are almost done, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the sweet potatoes and parsley and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the sweet potato mixture to the cooking beans. Stir to combine and cook for an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed.

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Food Day & PFM

This weekend you might hear talk about Food Day. This isn’t the FOODday, the one our friends at the Oregonian publish on Tuesdays, the one we contribute a bi-weekly article  called Market Watch to, this Food Day is like Earth Day, only for food.

On October 24, Food Day promoters encourage people to Eat Real. You can find out more about Food Day by visiting the organization’s website. While none of our Markets fall on the 24th, our Saturday Market at PSU is hosting Farmers Ending Hunger as part of the Food Day Celebration.

All Dressed Up, Ready to go to Food Day

This isn’t a serious polemic seminar*, Farmers Ending Hunger will be making Mr. Potato Heads from vegetables at the market (Technically, this is listed as a kid’s activity, but this looks totally cool & they’ll have to chase me away from the table).  At 10 a.m, Chef Michael Broderick from Trader Vic’s, will be doing a cooking demo using ingredients from a typical emergency food box. A brilliant idea that both informs people what comes emergency food box and reinforces the belief that food doesn’t have to be expensive to be good.

With 1,000s of local events being staged across the country, Food Day’s resemblance to Earth Day is no coincidence – event founder Michael Jacobson launched Food Day to raise awareness about, “the declining quality of the American diet.” And Food Day supporter Nora Pouillon, of Washington DC’s Restaurant Nora, co-wrote an essay with Susan Bass of of the Earth Day Network outlining the need for greater awareness of understanding where food comes from. Together they helped bridge the goals of Food Day and Farmers Markets:

Farmer’s markets, which are on the rise across the nation, offer a promising opportunity to help children connect the dots between the food on their plate, their personal welfare, and the sustainability of our planet. In selling locally grown, natural and organic produce and products, farmers have become small scale teachers and naturalists, educating consumers about the superior quality of their products and helping children and families recognize the relationship between food production and the earth’s seasons and ecosystems.

Well said. PSU Market is Saturday from 8:30-2. Our King Market is open on Sundays through October and if you are downtown on Wednesday, you can shop the last Shemanski Market of the year, 10-2, Park & Salmon (Psst – this will be the location to our Winter Market come January 2012).

*For something closer to a serious polemic seminar, check out Monday’s, Food Day’s, Food Policy Council’s (co-hosted along with City Club) panel discussion on health & equity.

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We heart Liz Crain at the Market. She is generous with her time, willing to dive in to any task, and a lover of food. What more do you want from a friend? Liz, Market vendor Dave Barber (Picklopolis & Bingo) and George Winborn have teamed up to organize this Thursday’s Fermentation Fest at Ecotrust. Earlier this year Liz stopped by our NW Market to talk about fermenting and food (watch the video below). As for now, she writes about how she will pretty much ferment anything that holds still.

Read on, visit Liz’s website, where you can load up on official Liz Crain merchandise or drop by Fermentation Fest this Thursday. It will be the wisest $5 bucks you ever spend.

Article by Liz Crain

When my boyfriend and I moved into our house in North Portland in 2006 (we lived in Southeast Portland prior) we got busy tilling the front and back yard and getting things in the ground. As a first-time home owner I’d dreamed of establishing a garden that I wouldn’t have to give up or break down a year or two down the road. Amongst other things, we planted a Bartlett pear and Brooks plum tree in the parking strip that first spring. Several weeks later we noticed the plum trees blossoming in our side yard. Yes, trees.  In our defense, they’re kind of difficult to identify since they’re very tall, crowded and have grown into almost a thicket.

So, lots and lots of plums pushed me in the direction of fermenting lots and lots of homemade plum wine. I’ve been fermenting

Thursday Fermentations

various foods for years thanks to Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation and I use his fruit and flower wine recipes every year as my jumping off point.

The first homemade wine I ever made was dandelion wine and now I make that with my friend and her daughter every spring. Fruit wines came later and began with plums, as you know, followed by  Black Tartarian cherries because our friend’s tree was

loaded with these Bing-like cherries two years ago. I love home fermented fruit wines because they’re super tasty – I use champagne yeast and ferment them until they’re a nice off-dry – and the perfect realization of whatever fruit they’re made from. Fruit + water + sugar + yeast + time. I usually ferment my homemade wines for nine months to a year.

Portland is heavy with fruit throughout the summer and fall but if you have a hard time getting your hands on enough for a few gallons of wine (I usually use 1 part fruit to 1.5 parts water) volunteer for a harvest party with Portland Fruit Tree Project. You’ll come home with a bunch of fruit that several months to a year later, after a few easy steps, you can toast with. If you love fermented food and drink as much as I do be sure to make it to this year’s third annual Portland Fermentation Festival on Thursday, October 20th from 6-8pm at Ecotrust where you can sample all sorts of homemade fruit and drink ferments!

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First Pears, Last Tears

Eternal Summer of the Bosc-less Mind

Article & Photos by Aaron Gilbreath

While picking Italian plums in a friend’s North Portland backyard recently, I angered some yellow jackets, climbed up a light pole, and eating the fruit as I picked instead of sorting and washing, I ingested part of what might have been insect larvae. Besides the rain and increasing cloud cover, the last urban plums provided one more sign that summer was over.

Remember summer?

Giant Hand or Small Plum?

I don’t have a problem with change. Although the end of things can make me sentimental sometimes – the end of romance, the end of a vacation – I don’t wallow in it. But for some reason, this year the end of summer really hit me hard. Why can’t we Portlanders live the golden dream referenced in that surf movie Endless Summer? I like pants as much as shorts, but do I really have to fish out my beanie already? As many wise people have said in numerous ways over the millennia, the end of one thing is the start of another thing, or something – close a door, open a window, etcetera – so I’m trying to remember that. Example A: the dwindling of peaches means the arrival of pears.

The markets have tons of pears right now. There are the bright, flavorful Starkrimson, and the tiny, super sweet Seckel. There’s the bodacious, curvy Comice, the variety which pairs so well with soft cheeses and that I always imagined would wear booty short were it bipedal (you’ve heard the term “apple bottom?”). There’s the aromatic red Anjou, so juicy and crisp and nice on a salad that I’ve actually woken up some mornings thinking of their taste. And there’s the boring old Bosc which I think of as a tree potato.

Despite my disdain for Boscs, I will eat any pear, but my love is not equal. (Will that make me a bad parent?) Starkrimson is one of my favorites. They have a floral aroma, and their smooth flesh contrasts nicely with their firm skin. They also just look gorgeous. That luscious red exterior is beautiful. Another favorite is the Forelle.

Not to try to be eccentric or feel superior to the uninitiated (my teenage self: “What? You haven’t heard this obscure 7-inch from this obscure band?”), but a few of the varieties that I think have the best flavors also aren’t the most widely available. Forelles are sort of the Northwest’s “secret” pear, which is unfortunate because they’re so good they should be dangling off trees in the middle of every American city. (Seriously, why is the Bosc the ubiquitous pear? Then again, why is white bread so popular?) For whatever reason – probably narrow growing requirements, poor insect or frost resistance, tendency to bruise in transport, and so on – their production is one of the most limited in the Northwest. Thankfully, you can find them around town between October and March.

Forelles are an old variety from Germany. Their name translates as trout, referring, mostly likely, to the way the pear’s freckled skin resembles that of a Rainbow trout’s. Forelles are tiny. They don’t have the Bartlett’s classic pear shape; they’re more of a bell. And their flavor is just what the pear snob in me wants in a pear: elegance, fragrance and texture without being too sweet. Maybe all I’m saying is is that there’s life beyond Bartletts. Just as I have to remind myself that there is life after summer and fruit

Pl-pl-pl-Pla-Plum

after peaches.

After an hour of picking in my friend’s backyard, I filled two plastic grocery bags with Italian plums. I considered turning them into jam, but I’m currently dedicated to marionberry jam, so I just ate them fresh. Also, it was obvious what I really wanted: to preserve the fruit in jars in order to prolong the season that produced them, the season I always tell myself that I love best. Then fall arrives and I remember, oh yeah, around here, every season’s good. Sunlight’s overrated.

Aaron Gilbreath is a burrito devotee who constantly corrects my word usage. Understandably so, he has written for places like the New York Times, Paris Review, Gastronomica, Portland Mercury,  and Alimentum.  Find him at http://aarongilbreath.wordpress.com/

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