Thursday, July 08, 2004

The HFM Grapevine Vol. 3 Issue 5

The HFM Grapevine
The Official Newsletter of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market Vol. 3 Issue 5
"All the news that's fresh, we print"

Profile: The Last Place on Earth (Oysters)
When the Hillsdale Farmers' Market first opened for business in June 2002, 27 intrepid vendors came forward to take a chance on the new, unproven market. Many of those vendors have moved on; a few are still with us. One of those is The Last Place on Earth, purveyors of fine Yaquina Bay oysters and the subject of this week's vendor profile. Much of the following was "harvested" from their vastly informative and entertaining website,

After years of working for others in the seafood trade, Mike Marshall decided to strike out on his own. Having searched the Oregon coast for a suitable location to set up shop, he one day found himself at a remote site along Yaquina Bay. Upon seeing the area for the first time, Marshall remarked to himself, "This must be the last place on Earth."

Today, the Yaquina Bay region probably looks much as it did when Marshall first set eyes on it years ago. Yet, visitors to the Bay's McCaffery Slough might also be startled to see a rather modern-looking apparatus, resembling a series of railroad tracks floating on top of the water. These are the visible riggings of Mike Marshall's innovative method of cultivating oysters for his company, The Last Place on Earth.

Each of those "railroad tracks" are, in actuality, a parallel pair of plastic marine lines 165 feet long; the "ties" are a series of cylindrical floats placed at two-foot intervals between those lines. Suspended, unseen, beneath this rig of lines and floats are 75 bags, each of which contains up to 20 individual oysters. This is the basic set-up of The Last Place on Earth's pioneering "suspended single" method of oyster cultivation.

In the wild, oysters grow wherever there is a firm enough footing to support their weight: typically the bottom of a marsh creek or a shallow bay. Not surprisingly, commercial oyster growing operations have sought to replicate that natural arrangement by setting their cages and trays along the bottom as well.

According to Mike Marshall's nephew, Wayne, who was manning The Last Place on Earth booth at a recent Hillsdale Market, the traditional bottom-based cultivation method has its drawbacks.

"Resting on the bottom, an oyster sometimes takes in mud and sand," he explained. "Even worse, it can also ingest some of the stuff - including dead matter - that sinks down to the bottom. This can affect the overall flavor and quality of the oyster."

Which is how Mike Marshall hit upon the idea of suspending oysters just a few feet below the surface where they would rarely, if ever, touch the bottom. Living in the top 24 inches of water not only keeps the Last Place on Earth oysters out of the mud of Yaquina Bay, it also places them at the water level where the most algae is produced. Marshall believes the higher algae intake results in a tastier, less gritty oyster than those grown using conventional methods.

Many fine seafood establishments apparently agree. Throughout most of its history, the Last Place on Earth has sold exclusively to restaurants all over the United States. Ever the innovator, though, Marshall decided to try marketing his wares at a venue in which oysters are seldom sold: the urban farmers' market. So two years ago, he began by selling at a fledgling market in Portland's Hillsdale neighborhood. Today, Last Place on Earth oysters are sold at three other Metro area markets but nephew Wayne reports the Hillsdale market remains by far and away Mike's favorite.

By any reckoning, it would seem that Marshall's suspended single method has resulted in a very successful enterprise indeed. However, Wayne notes that it has also precluded his uncle from cashing in on another lucrative aspect of the oyster trade: "In all his years in this business, Mike's managed to find just one lousy pearl."

Ayers Creek is Back... A-grain
This Sunday, one of our most popular vendors returns to the Hillsdale Farmers' Market: Ayers Creek Farm! Along with a reputation for quality, Ayers Creek also possesses a flair for the unconventional, introducing Hillsdale shoppers to foodstuffs that frequently go well beyond the standard farmers' market fare. This season promises to be no different; some of the novel and interesting crops expected this year include fresh chick peas, field peas (lady, traesimo, pink eye purple hull), and lima beans.

And on Sunday, Ayers Creek will introduce frikeh and grüenkern, the first in their line of immature grains. Unlike the more familiar dry, mature grains - which are valued less for their flavor and more for their ability to be stored long-term - immature grains are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world.

Throughout the middle east, from Egypt to Turkey, immature durum and bread wheat are harvested, burned and threshed to produce frikeh. Despite its ambrosial qualities, frikeh remains virtually unknown in the U.S. because commercial threshers are not designed to clean immature burned grain. As a result, the frikeh harvest is a messy pile of grain which must be sieved, winnowed, then dried on shallow trays. The process is rustic, worthy of a Brueghel or Benton; a far cry from the convoys of combines used for reaping a typical grain field.

The finished frikeh is rinsed a couple of times and cooked. Ayers Creek uses plain water so as to retain the delicate flavor of the grain. Frikeh may be used in any recipe that uses rice or bulgar wheat and is traditionally served with lamb or chicken. The smoky, nutty quality of the grain adds a unique and new dimension to vegetarian dishes.

Grüenkern is spelt that's been roasted in a similar manner. Although the flavor and texture are very different, it is cooked and used in the same way as frikeh. Traditionally, it is made into a beef soup, but don't let that limit your culinary imagination.

Sue's Recipe o' the Week
Nothing banishes The Blues like an Oregon blueberry. And at the Hillsdale Market, blueberry season is now in full swing, tantalizing the mind's palate with fantasies of blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry cobbler and blueberries on the morning corn flakes! But why restrict yourself to the commonplace? Think blueberries for your salad dressing, for your meat marinades! This week, our resident Recipe Guru Sue shows us how.

Blueberry Vinegar
2 pints Oregon blueberries, rinsed and drained
1 quart white vinegar, divided
1/2-cup granulated sugar

Prepare at least two days before using.

1. Place Oregon blueberries, 1 1/2- cups vinegar and sugar in saucepan; simmer gently for 5 minutes. Cool.
2. Pour into 1 1/2-quart jar with remaining white vinegar. Cover and stand at least 2 days.
3. Strain vinegar as it is used, but do not discard blueberries. Store in refrigerator.

What's Fresh for July 11
Once again, it's time to get your pencil, paper and cookbooks handy and start planning those menus for the week ahead. Here's what you can expect to find, fresh, at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market on Sunday.

Aklavik Mushrooms, Portland (St. John's):
Herbs & Spices: Basil.
Mushrooms (Cultivated): Maitake, Shiitake.
Mushrooms (Wild): Morel.
Other: Nopales (Cactus, similar to Prickly Pear)

Ayers Creek Farm, Gaston:
Berries/Fruit: Boysenberries, Cherries, Loganberries, Raspberries, Red Currants.
Leafy Greens: Beet greens, Chard.
Other: Cucumbers, Immature Grains (grüenkern and firkeh), Zucchini.

Baird Family Orchards, Dayton:
Berries/Fruit: Apricots, Cherries

Bear Creek Floral, Tillamook:
Other: Artichokes.

Deep Roots Farm, Albany:
Beans & Peas: Green Beans.
Bulb/Root Veggies: Beets, Elephant Garlic, Garlic, Potatoes, Radish, Turnips, Walla Walla Sweet Onions.
Leafy Greens: Arugula, Chard, Chinese Cabbage, Collard Greens, Escarole, Kale, Lettuce, Mizuna, Spinach.
Other: Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Summer Squash, Zucchini.

Earthshine Gardens, Sherwood:
Berries/Fruit: Cherries.
Beans & Peas: Snow Peas.
Bulb/Root Veggies: Beets, Carrots.
Herbs & Spices: Basil, Dill.
Leafy Greens: Chard, Kale, Lettuce.
Other: Broccoli, Salad Mix, Summer Squash, Zucchini.
Coming Soon: Green Beans.

Flamingo Ridge Farm, Gaston:
Other: Cucumbers, Summer Squash, Tomatoes.
Coming Soon: Peppers.

Gee Creek Farm, Ridgefield, WA:
Beans & Peas: Fava Beans.
Bulb/ Root Veggies: Beets, Carrots, Kohlrabi, Sweet Onions.
Herbs & Spices: Cilantro, Italian Parsley.
Leafy Greens: Chard, Kale, Lettuce.
Other: Broccoli.
Coming Soon: Middle Eastern Cukes.

Happy Harvest Farm, Mt. Angel:
Beans & Peas: Snow Peas.
Berries/Fruit: Blueberries, Boysenberries, Cantaloupe, Cherries, Marionberries, Raspberries.
Other: Cucumbers, Tomatoes!, Zucchini.

Liepold Farm, Boring:
Berries/Fruit: Apricots, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Marionberries, Raspberries.

Lone Elder Farm, Canby:
Beans & Peas: Fava Beans, Green Beans, Roma Beans.
Berries/ Fruit: Apricots, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Peaches, Raspberries.
Bulb/Root Veggies: Beets, Carrots, Green Onions, Kohlrabi, Potatoes (Red, Yukon Gold), Radishes, Red Onions, Walla Walla Sweet Onions.
Herbs & Spices: Cilantro, Parsley.
Leafy Greens: Cabbage, Chard, Lettuce (7 varieties), Spinach.
Other: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Rhubarb, Summer Squash, Zucchini.

Packer Orchard, Hood River:
Berries/Fruit: Cherries.

Rick Steffen Farm, Silverton:
Berries/Fruit: Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries.
Other: Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Zucchini.
Coming Soon: Tomatoes.

Salmon Creek Farm:
Other: Tomatoes (Hydroponic)

Unger Farms, Cornelius:
Berries/Fruit: Blueberries, Strawberries (Selva).

Upcoming Market Guests & Events

Musical Guests
July 11: Greg Clarke (bluegrass)
July 18: Chiremba

Guest Organizations:
July 11: SW Community Connection; 10th Anniversary Celebration
Schnitzer Mortgage
July 18: Portland Community Gardens

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