Monday, July 2, 2007

The Countdown to Pears

A solstice walk through Eagle Creek Orchard and the countdown to juicy pears, peaches and apples begins.

I spent the first day of summer with Robert and Linda Cordtz at ECO after driving through the most amazing tthunderstorm I've ever experienced. Near Hole in the Wall the water was so deep on Hwy 86 that it literally curled off of my front tires like a boat - and the wind was gusting so fiercely that it created waves along the roadway.

Simply amazing to watch Mother Nature in action and even sweeter to arrive in Richland and see the Red Anjou pears, ruby red already and yet still defying gravity. The orchardis healthy and lush; the soil has loved the good intentions that Robert and Linda have tended the orchard with and it even smells like it's thriving. The dandelion leaves were over 2 feet tall and actually did look 'good enough to eat'! Spring frosts took more than their share of Asian Pears and Apricots, but the Asian Pear trees look like laurel hedges, they are so thick and the leaves just shine! The pears remaining, although not great in number, will probably harvest at over a pound a piece.

The drought in eastern Oregon has brought out armies of tiny little "sugar ants" and the xerascape gardens all look like they need a drink but the market basket of Richland has been putting food on the table for a couple of months already. The Baker City Farmers market season has begun and it is thrilling to see so much available from local growers.

It is part of our mission to help support the resurgence of "farm to market" agriculture in eastern Oregon. As our culture moved away from the farm and industry dictated where food was grown, it's very satisfying to be a part of bring local foods to local eaters once again. More important even than organic product is sustainable agriculture - food grown near consumers is far more nutrutious and uses less petroleum to get to the table.

Dale Story's garden, just down the lane from Eagle Creek Orchards started the season off early with asparagus spears that the French would covet. We currently have both red and golden beets (see the BELLA recipes at the end of the blog), cabbage, romaine, sugar and snap peas and are expecting tomatoes any day.

I'll close this note with a great photo of a blooming hazelnut - it's Talousse Lautrec in a tree! Just a couple of months more and that flouncy little dancehall hooped skirt with be dressing a salad, creating a crust for a cheesecake or breading a fillet of wild salmon.

What to do with beets??

Roasting is easier and a bit less messy than boiling. I like to roast a bunch, peel them and then keep them in the fridge for adding to salads, making curries or re-heating. Do not clip the root end as the beet will bleed and be careful to wear an apron when peeling, beet juice has got to be the most colorfast color on the planet!

1) Toss beats in a little olive oil and sea salt - I even add a little Italian Herb mix occasionally.

2) Place on a jelly roll pan or in a cake pan and add about ½ inch of water.

3) Cover pan with foil and roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or test with a fork.

4) Let beets cool and then slip the skins off with a paper towel or under running water.

BELLA 's Red, White & Blue Salad

3 beets, cooked, skinned and sliced

2 granny smith apples, cored and sliced thinly

3 oz. feta

3 oz gorgonzola

1/2 c. walnuts or roasted hazelnuts

1/3 c. Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

mixed greens, baby spinach or romaine

1. Layer beets and apples over bed of greens. Toss cheese and nuts over top and add dressing.

Bev's Curried Beets - (I love beets and I love curry!)

4 beets -cooked, skinned and cubed

1 sweet potato or yam - cooked, peeled and cubed

(you can also add roasted carrots and parsnips to this)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

2 T. olive oil

1/4 c. white wine

1 T. Red Curry Paste (or Panang Curry)

1/2 c. coconut milk

1/4 c. creme fraiche

scallions or chives for garnish

In a heavy bottomed pan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil.

2. Add cooked beets and sweet potato, add wine and cover. Cook over medium heat until you can easily mash the beets.

3. Add curry paste and coconut milk, stir to dissolve and then roughly mash the vegetables.

4. Serve with grilled lamb, and top with creme fraiche and a sprinkle of herbs.

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