Northwest Fresh Seafood, Lentil Underground, Cuvee Weekend

February 25th, 2015

Still tickets left!

There are three tasty events coming up — two of which I’m directly involved in — that I want to tell you about. I also want to acknowledge that I do realize that I haven’t done a Yard Fresh installment in far too long. One excuse, over the summer and early fall I got my kitchen remodeled by my amazingly talented friends at St. Johns Design Build (see some photos of my kitchen remodel here!), beyond that life has been full. Anyway, I haven’t forgotten about that series and I’ll add to it again soon enough. For now, here are some upcoming food/drink events I’m hoping that you might come to and if not that you will help spread the word about. Thanks!

Saturday, March 7 @ 2-6pm at Northwest Fresh Seafood
Newberg, Oregon
BUBBLES & BOOKS

A month ago Zach Elliott of the Newberg seafood market Northwest Fresh Seafood asked John Gorham and me if we’d come out to the market for a spring food/drink/books event and we agreed right away. John and I are both seafood lovers and always up for a fun excuse to get out to Oregon wine country. The result is an afternoon and evening event hosted by these great folks with oysters, bubbles, signed copies of Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. AND Food Lover’s Guide to Portland, live music by Kent Smith and a Q&A with John and I ALL for $65. I hope you’ll come out for it and even if you can’t I hope that you might help spread the word. It’s going to be great. Tickets are available here.

Monday, March 9 @ 7pm at Powell’s
Portland, Oregon
Liz Carlisle, author of Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America READING

Working as a book publicist at Hawthorne Books, and having covered food and food books since 2003, review copies often come my way. They’re usually from Chelsea Green, which is one of my favorite publishing houses, but sometimes they’re from other publishers — in this case Gotham Books. Liz Carlisle is coming to Portland mid-March for a reading for her book Lentil Underground and if you care about food as much as I do I think you’re going to want to go to this Powell’s City of Books reading. I’ve only begun reading it and I’m inspired by the depth of Carlisle’s research into renegade farmers and sustainable agriculture as well as the tenacity of her subjects and their dedication to new ag. business and cropping systems and a sustainable ag. future. GENTLE PORTLAND LENTILS, please pick up a copy of the book and come out for Carlisle’s Powell’s reading and become a part of the Lentil Underground! If my endorsement isn’t enough…

“What does it take to farm sustainably–and make a living? Liz Carlisle tells the engrossing story of the ‘audacity rich, but capital poor’ Montana farmers who thought lentils were the answer and stuck with them until proved right. Anyone who dreams of starting a farm or wants to know how organic farmers can overcome the obstacles they face will be inspired by this book.” –Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

Look at that fuzzy gentle lentil behind the book! Rubin is my favorite photo bomber.

Saturday, March 21st @ Noon at The Allison Inn & Spa
Newberg, Oregon
Cuvee Weekend PANEL

In celebration of Women’s History Month The Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg is hosting an inaugural Cuvee Weekend on the weekend of March 21st. Couples are invited to purchase weekend packages and attend everything from a cooking demo. by Kristen Murray of Portland’s Maurice and a 4-course winemakers’ dinner with Tamara Murphy of Seattle’s Terra Plata to a guided vineyard tour and a panel discussion on women in food on Saturday, the 21st with me, Kristen Murray, Tamara Murphy and Veronica Vaga of Deschutes Brewery. Please help spread the word!

The Allison Inn & Spa rated #1 Hotel Spa in the Continental US by Travel + Leisure.

Zenger Farm CSA Accepts Food Stamps

April 1st, 2013

SNAP recipient Jennifer Dynes and her daughter, Annie, picking up their Zenger Farm Share. Photo courtesy of Zenger Farm.

There are so many great food events in Portland and lately I haven’t had time to go to many. One of my favorites of the past several year’s has been Friends of Family Farmers’ free and open to the public InFARMations held at Holocene every second Tuesday night of the month. The last one held featured Zenger Farm’s new SNAP for CSA toolkit and I wish I could have gone and learned more about it. Here’s the gist straight from the source:

Zenger Farm is launching a new toolkit to help Oregon CSA farmers begin accepting SNAP dollars (formerly known as Food Stamps) for their member shares. This is a key component in the fight for better access to good food for all.

Fast facts:

• SNAP brings more than $1 billion in federal food money to Oregon each year.
• Zenger Farm Shares was one of the first Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) in Oregon to accept SNAP.
• While the traditional CSA model supports farmers by assisting with the upfront costs of farming, that same upfront capital investment is often a barrier for households on limited incomes.
• In 2011, Zenger Farm received a grant to develop a toolkit to help Oregon CSA farmers begin accepting SNAP dollars. This toolkit will be rolled out at community meetings and conferences across the state, as well as through online webinars in 2013.

More info about the toolkit and program
More about Zenger Farm Shares

Oregon Mint Pt. 4

January 30th, 2012

If you aren't in the Portland area or visiting anytime soon you can buy Steven Smith Tea online here.

This is my last installment for the Oregon mint story. This section was going to be a sidebar for the print version…

Peppermint isn’t the only mint…

Sure, peppermint takes the cake in Oregon, but spearmint is a close second in terms of in-state cultivation. Two main differences between the mints are that peppermint plants are taller with bigger leaves, and peppermint has a stronger flavor and aroma than the sweeter, lighter tasting and smelling spearmint.

Steven Smith of Steven Smith Teamaker, a boutique tea company specializing in full leaf, small batch tea with a retail shop on Northwest Thurman, has been working with the same local spearmint growers since the mid-1970s — Don, Monty and Marvin Mills of Mills Mint Farm in Stanfield, Oregon in Northeastern Oregon. The Mills family was amongst the first in Oregon to cultivate spearmint and peppermint.

In the mid-70s Smith was a co-owner of Stash Tea before it was sold in 1993 to Yamamotoyama in Japan. At that time Smith and the other Stash owners and employees purchased field run mint (unprocessed mint directly from the farm) from the Mills family and cleaned it in what is now !Oba! Restaurante but which was then Stash Tea headquarters. They used the mint for their tea and also sold mint to Lipton Tea and Celestial Seasonings.

Says Smith, “We cleaned mint there and stored some of it across the street in the Maddox Transfer building before they called the area the Pearl district – I think it should have been named the Mint District for the way it smelled back then.”

After selling Stash in the early 1990s Smith started Tazo Tea in his home kitchen which he sold to Starbucks in 1999 and continued to work for until 2006. In late 2009, Smith opened his newest tea endeavor — Steven Smith Teamaker — in the brick building next to the former Carlyle Restaurant on Northwest Thurman Street.

All of Smith’s spearmint to this day comes from Mills Mint Farm which cultivates 400 acres of spearmint annually with minimal inputs thanks to regular crop rotation (corn, wheat and peas) and intensive hand weeding. If you’d like to try Mills’ local leaves they are blended in Smith’s Fez tea — a combination of Mao Feng China green tea, Oregon spearmint and Australian lemon myrtle leaves.

When asked why Smith still works with Mills Mint Farm he answers succinctly, “Flavor, appearance, aroma, overall approach to business, and long standing relationship.”

Who can argue with that?

Steven Smith Teamaker
1626 NW Thurman St.
Portland, OR
503.719.8752
www.smithtea.com

Read Pt. 1 Oregon Mint
Read Pt. 2 Oregon Mint
Read Pt. 3 Oregon Mint

Oregon Mint Pt. 3

January 16th, 2012

Butler Farms peppermint oil packs a punch.

Peppermint oil distillation takes place immediately after mint harvest at Butler Farms. The diesel powered boiler is the heart of the operation. It creates the steam that travels through the manifold and stainless steel lines into the just harvested mint hay tubs. The mint oil is extracted by the steam and channeled through stainless pipes to the condenser. As the steam cools in the condenser it liquefies and collects in the receding cans. Then by virtue of the fact that oil is lighter than water the oil naturally separates and is poured off into barrels.

For every acre of peppermint that the Butlers cultivate, they process roughly 90 to 100 pounds of peppermint oil, which translates to 40,000 pounds of peppermint oil a year. It takes a mere pound of the extremely potent oil to flavor 55,000 sticks of gum.

There are currently 21,000 acres devoted to mint oil production in Oregon grown by 150 farms, according to Bryan Ostlund of the Oregon Mint Commission. Nearly 70 percent of all peppermint grown in-state, in fact, is distilled into peppermint oil. That’s a lot of gum.

Tim Butler with a tiny jar of the mint oil that his farm produces and distills...

Of course, it doesn’t all become an ingredient in gum. Flavor houses purchase Butler Farms’ peppermint oil from a handler, and in turn sell it to oral care, candy and medical companies such as Colgate, Wrigley, Procter & Gamble and Pfizer.

Ostlund says that the recent history of Oregon mint oil production isn’t entirely rosy. Due to rapid changes in the retail business in the 1990s, “the pressure was on, and still is on, to cheapen products,” he notes. According to Ostlund, many of the older flavor house dependent companies continue to value high quality oil, especially with their older products particularly food and candy products. But, he adds, “Companies with new products coming into production, generally are not putting as high of a priority on quality ingredients. That’s usually when cheaper and inferior foreign mint oil comes into the equation. Essentially, companies are dumbing down their ingredients.”

Where Butler farms peppermint turns into peppermint oil.

The Willamette Valley has the highest flavor profile quality of peppermint oil in state. It is exceptionally bright and distinct with a nice level of menthofuran (a potent component of mint oil) which is why companies such as Atkinson Candy Company in Lufkin, Texas use it almost exclusively. Other Oregon mint production regions generally produce mint that doesn’t stand alone and requires blending.

Peppermint oil from India, China and South America is often significantly cheaper than domestic peppermint oil but that is of inferior quality. Says Butler, “It all comes down to the consumer. The consumer tells the Wrigleys and Wal-Marts and Costcos what they want; and the superstores tell the flavor houses what they want. Sure they want quality but they also want it cheap. That’s the way it is with all agricultural commodities.”

Despite this sort of cost-cutting and disregard for quality Butler Farms has no plans to slow down its mint oil production. And why should they? According to Bruce Pokarney, director of communication for Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon is the second leading US producer of peppermint and peppermint is ranked #15 of all Oregon commodities in value. Tim Butler is proud to cultivate such an important Oregon commodity. If in upcoming years we as a state can find a way to market Oregon-grown mint oil as a stand alone ingredient these numbers and percentages will likely grow. Maybe we’ll even become the number one peppermint producer in the country.

Stay tuned for the last installment of this story.
Read Pt. 1 Oregon Mint
Read Pt. 2 Oregon Mint

Oregon Mint Pt. 2

December 26th, 2011

Butler Farms in Stayton, Oregon in December 2010.

Although peppermint grows easily in Oregon it has its problems, like most crops, when cultivated on a large scale. Butler Farms wages a continuous battle with pests–everything from spider mites, cutworm, crane fly and nemotodes to symphylans, mint rust and verticillium wilt. One year, they lost 25 percent of their peppermint crop to mint rust. Mint rust, a fungus that blisters and destroys mint leaves, took Butler Farms from profitable to breakeven in one short week.

In other words, says Butler, “You don’t just throw it out there and hope for the best, because there wouldn’t be much.”

In the Willamette Valley, peppermint is perennial. It awakens from its winter dormancy in late January to early February. At that point, Tim Butler goes out into his fields with a winter herbicide spray to keep the weeds at bay.

By the first of March, the peppermint shoots are visible and growing quickly but Butler’s first fertilizer and fungicide applications don’t happen until several weeks later in mid-April. Butler then crosses his fingers, hoping that insecticide application isn’t necessary.

Throughout the year the Butlers monitor their fields with integrated pest management. An agronomy professional scouts the farm testing for nemotodes and other detrimental insects. Depending on the results, some fields get insecticide application while others don’t.

From April on, the peppermint is hungry and thirsty as it grows at breakneck speed. In the summer it’s irrigated with roughly an inch to an inch and a half of water weekly and fertilized heavily as well.

Early-to-mid-August at Butler Farms means peppermint harvest. They swath it, put it in rows, chop it, and pick it up with a harvester (similar to alfalfa, clover and corn harvest). From the field the mint goes into eight- to nine-ton mint hay tubs which are taken to the mint still by truck.

Stay tuned for the next two installments of this story.

Stay tuned for the next two installments of this story.
Read Pt. 1 Oregon Mint
Read Pt. 3 Oregon Mint