Sunday, May 16, 2010

Excerpts From the Gardener's Notebook

"It appears we have turned the corner on a very long winter and finally, spring is more evident with each warming day..."

The shade loving Foamflower has rallied from a long winter retreat; it has spread out and is filling an essential corner quite nicely this year! 


First volunteers: Vibrant Columbine has popped up literally overnight and is a massive purple haze! 
Rhodondenrons are preparing for a vast showing very shortly...  

Early Edibles
First-of- the-season tomato plant is in the ground: Stupice, another unique find from the Springfield Farmers’ Market. Due date: 52 days and counting. Be still, my heart! Can this be true?
"Extremely early potato-leaf Czech heirloom that bears abundant very sweet, flavorful 2 to 3” deep red fruit. A 1988 comparative tasting in the San Francisco Bay area gave it first place for its wonderful sweet/acid, tomatoey flavor and production."

Herbs and Such
Outcropping of nearly invasive Greek Oregano and a tiny spring Strawberry is in bloom!

Weekly Forecast
"Cooling temperatures with intermittent rain. Sigh. What happened to'April showers bring May flowers'?"

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Market Memory Makers

This past Friday was the beginning of a new season for our Springfield Farmers’ Market and I was one among many caught in a blur of anticipation and excitement.  Early apprehensions over the new shift to an afternoon/evening venue were soon forgotten amidst a steady stream of enthusiastic supporters.

From my perspective, it was all good.  There was a sense of relaxed, casual enjoyment and folks were happy to linger longer and fully enjoy all that the market had to offer. 

As the sun shifted to the west the market hummed with activities for the kids, plentiful exchanges of food and drink, baked goods, fresh produce as well as a seasonal assortment of tiny starts and plants for the home gardeners.  Plus, it was a chance to follow the latest market buzz and chat up the hard working farmers, growers, and producers - even place pre-orders with a local fishmonger promising fresh salmon next week.

One highlight was my first fresh horchata this side of Mexico. It was a treat to sip this cool, refreshing drink and mingle with friends while foot-tapping music floated above the market. It reminded me of similar sweet occasions at bustling mercardos and tiendas in Mexico.

Horchata is typically made with rice pressed or blended into a milky form with water. It is flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, and sweetened with sugar - milk, fresh fruit, or nuts are sometimes included.  

1 stick cinnamon (or about 1/2 tsp. powdered)
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups long grained white rice, uncooked
5 cups water
1 teaspoons vanilla

In a blender, break up cinnamon and pulverize it with sugar. Add the rice and blend until a fine powder.

Slowly add about 3 cups of water to blender and puree; add vanilla, remaining water and combine well.

Pour into a storage container and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, or overnight.  The following day, strain into pitcher. Adjust flavors, add milk if desired. Serve over ice. Serves 4 ~~

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Simply Fascinating

I am a big fan of plain, unadulterated yogurt. In fact, I keep a large container of it in the fridge and often substitute a portion of yogurt in lieu of high fat ingredients in sauces requiring sour cream, butter or mayonnaise – its lovely tang often adds a refreshing dimension.  I use it regularly in baking for the same reasons  - plus it improves texture enormously.   

It just so happens that we have one of the best yogurts I have found right here in my own backyard. I love Nancy’s Yogurt beyond such elementary issues as great flavor and food value - it is fermented with natural probiotics (live organisms, not quick-fix chemicals).  What I really appreciate about Nancy’s is its ability to maintain a lovely thickness that does not break down as readily as other supermarket varieties.

Of course, I prefer supporting local producers, and since the creamery is located in Springfield, nothing could make me happier. What I didn’t know is the fascinating bit of colorful Oregon history behind Nancy’s Yogurt.

The Springfield Creamery was started in 1960 by a young hard working couple, Chuck and Sue Kesey, not so co-incidentally the brother of another local legend, Ken Kesey. The business shifted when an employee named Nancy shared her family’s yogurt making techniques.

Although customers responded and demand for Nancy’s yogurt grew, it was slow going. In 1972, a bit of promotional wizardry in the form of a Grateful Dead benefit concert attended by 20,000 devotees saved Nancy’s Yogurt from near extinction. The movie, Sunshine Daydream is a record of this seismic event. 

Back in the black again, Nancy’s Yogurt flourished with the help of a very loyal clientele. More help was on the way though, when U of O graduate Gilbert Rosborne and his partner, a young Huey Lewis, the music maker, offered to market the yogurt to the San Francisco bay area. Fascinating, right?

With the growing demand, the business successfully expanded through the 80’s. In the mid 90’s a devastating fire consumed much of the creamery. As you now would suspect, loyal friends and customers rallied and within weeks the business was back in business. Amazingly after 50 years, Nancy’s Yogurt continues to thrive - further affirmation on the amazing powers of yogurt. Simply fascinating.

The following salad seems appropriate  for today, especially if you are looking for a day of quiet reflection or cleansing...

Detoxicating Salad
From Grayshott Hall Health Centre, near Hindhead, Surrey, England,  courtesy A World of Salads by Rosalie Swedlin

3 medium carrots, scrubbed
3  medium apples, scrubbed
3 stalks celery
1 handful raisins
1/2 cucumber, washed
1 small green pepper
2 pears
1 orange, or 1/2 grapefruit
1 cup yogurt, with lemon juice, no sweetening, optional

In the morning, chop all ingredients into a covered container and shake to combine. This should make enough for 1 day of 3 equal meals. Note: 1 cup of yogurt flavored with lemon juice, total can be consumed with the salad.

Begin your fast day with 1 glass hot water, lemon juice optional; consume between meals throughout the day as desired. 3 cups tea, total, may be substituted.


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