Garden Chronicles: Sorrel Puzzle Solved with a Touch of Sweetness

I've been ashamed to admit it, but every spring for years now I've been mocked by the sorrel I planted five or six years ago. Just three little plants, stuck in the dirt at one end of the raised beds that Dave built in the one sunny spot in our very shady yard. Every spring, like clockwork, they push out new leaves, joining the previous ones still hanging around that apparently kept it alive through some brutal winter temperatures and several days of six-inch-thick ice.

The plants have grown larger every year, and for all those years I did my level best to figure out what to do with the abundance of leaves, once trying to pan fry them like other greens, which turned them into a mass of grey, gooey mush, or another time stirring them into a potato-leek soup that made the color and the goo less noticeable.

Chopping a few leaves into a salad was okay, but adding much more than four or five leaves, and their tangy, citrus-y bite overwhelmed the pleasant sweetness of the other greens. A pesto using half sorrel and half of another herb like spinach or parsley or basil worked, pepping up its flavor and giving it a lively greenness. But any of the above only used a smidgen of what the prolific plants were producing.

My epiphany came with my recent adaptation of a sweet red wine vinaigrette that I came up with to dress the lighter, more delicate spring salad greens, a change from the creamy vinaigrettes and Caesar-type salad dressings I use for winter's salads.

Would a sweet dressing counterpoint the bite of the sorrel? Only one way to find out, and my family is always my go-to for experiments, since I can trust their honesty and forthrightness even if it's on the order of "What have you done???"

My first attempt was a simple one, just a chiffonade of sorrel with green olives and crushed hazelnuts with that sweet dressing—it got an enthusiastic thumbs-up around the table. The second (top photo) was more hearty, with the sorrel chiffonade topped with leftover roasted asparagus, tetsukabuto squash and roasted pumpkin seeds tossed with the dressing. Another success!

So I'm passing it on, and with the well-entrenched plants furiously producing new leaves in a pitched battle to defeat the army of snails and slugs chewing holes in them. I'm getting ideas about trying it with a gremolata of hard-boiled eggs, capers, and parsley, among other ideas. Wish me luck!

Sorrel Salad with Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette

For the dressing:
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning (or a combo of basil, thyme, rosemary and marjoram)
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp. sea salt

For the salad (see story for more suggestions):
3-4 c. sorrel, cut into chiffonade
1/4 c. hazelnuts, crushed
8 Spanish anchovy-stuffed olives, chopped
1/4 c. raisins or currants (optional)
Salt to taste

Put all dressing ingredients in a small lidded jar. Shake.

In a salad bowl combine sorrel, hazelnuts, olives and raisins (or whatever ingredients you're using). Pour 3 Tablespoons of the dressing over the salad and toss. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, adding more dressing if desired.


In Season: Broccolini, Raab, Rabe, Rapini and Friends

Since I'm jonesing for some lively greens and saw kale starting to flower in my neighbor Bill's garden, I thought this item from market master Ginger Rapport of the Beaverton Farmers Market would be great to keep on hand for market shoppers who might be asking, "What are those bundles of greens and why are they all called something different?" 

Do you get confused when you hear the words “rabe,””raab,” “rapini” or “broccolini” used in recipes? Let us help you sort this out because you will find tons of these green vegetables in the market right now.

Kale raab.

First, a little taxonomy: Cruciferous vegetables are vegetables of the family Brassicacae, known as Brassicas or Crucifers. They include: cauliflower, broccoli, mustard greens, arugula, bok choy, kales and cabbages to name a few. Now, a little clarification:

  • Broccolini is not baby broccoli. It is a cross between regular broccoli and Chinese broccoli with long stems, larger florets, and less leaves. It is less bitter than some of its relatives which is why it is often thought of as baby broccoli.
  • Rapini and broccoli rabe are close cousins and are often used interchangeably. They are in the same subspecies as the turnip, hence they have the characteristically slightly bitter taste of this group. They do not form the large heads that we see in broccoli.
  • Purple sprouting broccoli (or PSB as the cool kids say) is, like broccolini, a separate plant from broccoli. Native to the eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia, its seeds were first listed in the French Vilmorin-Andrieux seed catalog as Sprouting Purple Broccoli in 1885, which also introduced it to the United States.
  • The flower buds of brassicas from the turnip family are often referred to as rabe, or raab, derived from raps, which means turnip in Italian. This time of the year, you will find the rabes of many types of brassicas in the market—kale, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, turnips, bok choy and Chinese cabbage.

While each of these are from a common family there are slight differences in taste between them. With each, you are meant to eat the stems, buds and leaves, making them very easy to prep for cooking. Don’t be alarmed if the buds have begun to show their yellow flowers. Some feel that the flowers are a sweeter version of the parent plant.

Purple sprouting broccoli.

All of the aforementioned brassicas are excellent roasted, sautéed or lightly steamed. We don’t recommend boiling because it is easy to overcook the leaves in boiling water. The usual additions of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes makes for an easy and delicious preparation. Finish your dish with salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.We also suggest that you try tossing your raabs with a balsamic vinegar reduction. The reduction’s sweet finish balances the bitter quality of the greens. We like to keep a balsamic reduction in the refrigerator to have on hand as needed. It is delicious drizzled on salads, fresh vegetables, fish and meats.

Basic Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

2 c. balsamic vinegar*

Boil in a small saucepan until reduced by half (one cup). You can continue to boil for a thicker glaze type consistency. You may add a clove of garlic, minced, or fresh herbs such as thyme. Be sure to strain those out before storing.

* Note: Bottles of balsamic vinegar on store shelves labeled "Balsamic Vinegar of Modena" are a commercial grade product made of wine vinegar with the addition of coloring, caramel and sometimes thickeners like guar gum or cornflour. Authentic balsamic vinegar, labeled "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena," is produced from the juice of just-harvested white grapes (typically, Trebbiano grapes) boiled down to approximately 30% of the original volume to create a concentrate or must, which is then fermented in a slow aging process which concentrates the flavors.

Dressing Spring's Greens: Shake Up a Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette

Spring is not only in the air, it's strutting in from Oregon's farms and tap-dancing its heart out on farmers' market tables around the state.

These delicate but lively green things deserve appropriate costuming when they make their appearance, and while my deliciously creamy, tangy miso vinaigrette served to counterbalance the sturdiness of winter's chicories, spring greens would seem to benefit from something a bit lighter and more refined.

A simple, lightly sweet vinaigrette seemed like a perfect dance partner for the tender greens, so in a variation on our house mustard vinaigrette, I shook up olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic and a spoonful of honey in a lidded jar, then crushed some local hazelnuts and scattered them over the dressed salad.

I think this may be my new favorite dressing. How about you?

Red Wine Vinaigrette with Honey

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp. sea salt

Put all ingredients in a small lidded jar. Shake.

Legislative Report: Wins, Losses and Draws

The 82nd Oregon Legislature adjourned its 35-day session, as the official phrase goes, "sine die"—without a future date designated for resumption—with a notable lack of the drama that marred last year's gathering. In other words, no Republican walkouts that ground to a halt any significant action on some critical issues, and with at least a nod to compromise, though some of those may spell disaster for Oregon's farmers and agricultural lands.

Housing: Loss for Farmers and Agricultural Lands, Win for Developers

Perhaps most notable was Oregon Governor Tina Kotek's vow to get a housing bill passed to ostensibly ease the statewide problem of high costs for housing and low vacancy rates, along with a vague nod toward "doing something" about its unhoused citizens.

This so-called "smart housing policy," SB 1537, included a provision that would allow cities to override long-established land use laws and processes, expanding their urban growth boundaries (UGBs) by at least 75 or 150 net residential acres each, depending on population size. Not surprisingly, this could lead to municipalities being influenced by greedy developers eager to enrich themselves at the expense of our rich agricultural lands near population centers, which was one of the main thrusts of establishing UGBs in the first place.

The catch—And you knew there was one, right?—is that in reality only 30 percent of this new housing is required to be "affordable," putting the lie to proponents' claims it would magically solve the so-called housing crisis. Plus, as anyone who's watched big apartment buildings and condos sprouting up in their neighborhoods, the affordable housing requirements can be reduced or waived for any number of reasons.

In a press release from 1,000 Friends of Oregon, "the idea to sprawl outside urban growth boundaries, including into the wildland-urban interface, where wildfire risk is higher and development patterns worsen environmental impacts, should never have stuck. But we know why it did: It’s a giveaway to homebuilders."

This was despite advocates identifying 3,000 acres of land suitable for housing within urban growth boundaries, and their insistence that those sites should be the first priority for development.

Not only is this a big loss for Oregonians' ability to directly challenge actions taken by our representatives, it's a blow to our access to food grown close to where we live, as well as to the income of small farm families and their ability to access the rich agricultural land near market centers. And what about the climate? It will suffer, too, since farmers will have to transport goods farther to get to those markets, and scraping away carbon-sequestering topsoil and replacing it with sprawling developments is the wrong way to go.

In what seemed like a good thing, near the end of the session an unpopular section of the bill that forbade cities from putting before the voters any changes to the existing UGB was expunged. And that's a good thing, right?

Well, yes, but in a sneak attack right at the end of the session, the expunged text was "stuffed" into a different bill and passed. A very, very bad thing (see below).

Sneak Attack: Land Use Exemption in Hillsboro

The Hillsboro area of North Plains, similar to the rest of the Willamette Valley, has some of the richest agricultural soils in the state. A last-minute measure, HB 4026, was passed at the very end of the session, a so-called "gut and stuff" maneuver in which the text of an existing bill is replaced with different language, often to serve a special interest group.

In this case, the text was removed from the Governor's so-called "housing" bill that removes the option for a community send a land use decision by a city to the voters via a referendum (see above). Stripping public participation from the process is rarely a good sign, and it was clearly in direct response to a ballot measure that the people of North Plains worked to bring to the upcoming May ballot over a deeply unpopular land grab decision by their city council.

Because of this new law, the community's ballot measure is not going to be able to move forward, putting valuable farmland in jeopardy again. In response, the people of North Plains are mounting a local effort to fight it and allow their ballot measure to stand. To sign a petition supporting the ballot initiative, go to Friends of North Plains Smart Growth.

UPDATE: Washington County Circuit Court, judge Andrew Erwin, granted a temporary restraining order on March 21 that allows the North Plains referendum, Measure 34-327, to remain on the printed ballot this May. This means although North Plains citizens will be able to vote on the measure in May, they will need to win their court case in order to have the votes legally count.

Preserving Agricultural Lands

A bill requesting $10.8 million for the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program (OAHP)  for the next biennium, HB 4060, survived by the skin of its teeth at the end of the session. OAHP has four components: technical assistance, succession planning, conservation management plans, and easements. It is crucial not only for the preservation of Oregon's farmland, but the incorporation of environmental stewardship into working lands management.

It is one of many tools the state should be using to address the farmland crisis our country, and Oregon especially, is facing today. From 2017 to 2022 the nation lost two percent of its farmland to development and other uses, but shockingly in Oregon we doubled that national trend to lose four percent of our farmland acreage. Allocating funds to current landowners through easements will permanently preserve land for farm use, make it immune to UGB expansions and zoning changes, as well as making it available at the agricultural value (a lower price) for the next buyer.

Sadly, the budget request died in the Ways and Means Committee, but the program was saved at the last minute with $6 million allocated in the final budget bill signed by the governor.

Dead: Funding for Locally Grown Food for Oregonians on Food Assistance

The Double Up Food Bucks Program is a SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) matching program for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, farmstands, CSAs and select grocery stores. Established in 2009 and currently available at 75 markets across the state, it provides additional resources to SNAP users to purchase fruits and vegetables, puts more money in the community food system, and makes healthy food more available across the state.

In the 2023 session the legislature did not fulfill the full request from the program and, in order to qualify for federal matching funds, the Farmers Market Fund—with allies like Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon Hunger Taskforce, Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon and the American Heart Association—requested an additional allocation of $1 million from the state. Shockingly, even with overwhelming support from stakeholders and advocates, the request was not included in the final budget.

Go to the Farmers Market Fund website to find out how to support this valuable program in their applications to foundations and other donors to cover the gap in their budget.

Mom's Granola: Don't Call It Hippie Food

My mother was about as far from a hippie as you could get, so the fact that I am regularly reminded of her whenever I make her fabulous granola is, well, a little more than ironic.

My mother, circa 1969.

A staunch Oregon Republican—in those days defined as socially liberal and fiscally conservative—she was not in favor of the "free love" espoused by the hippie "longhairs" of the era or much of anything they did (or wore). But when my brother opened a café in Northwest Portland and needed something to offer customers for breakfast that wasn't pancakes and eggs, she jumped in and came up with this recipe.

It features the traditional mix of oats and honey baked on a sheet pan until toasty, but she pulled back on the heavy sweetness of most versions she came across in her research—it was the era of Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops, after all—and loaded it up with the nuts and coconut she loved. I still make it regularly, and I've found the recipe is almost infinitely mutable according to my whim-of-the-moment or what's available (or not) in the pantry. Switch out the nuts, throw in some cardamom or chopped dates, it's all good.

Thanks, Mom! 

My Mom's Granola

1/2 c. butter or margarine
2 tsp. vanilla
3 oz. orange juice
2/3 c. honey
8 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. wheat germ (optional)
1 1/4 c. flaked coconut
1 c. walnuts, chopped or crushed
2/3 c. slivered almonds
2 c. raisins, currants or other dried fruit

Preheat oven to 325°.

Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. When melted, remove from heat and stir in vanilla, orange juice and honey.

In large mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients except raisins. Add honey mixture and stir till moistened. Spread on cookie sheet and bake for 30 min. Remove from oven, reducing heat to 300°, and turn with spatula. Return to oven and bake for 15 min., take it out and turn again. Return to oven for another 15 minutes until toasty. Cool thoroughly, stir in raisins and store in quart zip-lock bags. (I keep them in the freezer until needed.)

Boardman Residents Sue Polluters Over Contaminated Drinking Water

A review of 30 recent studies lists the most prevalent risks associated with
ingesting nitrates as blue baby syndrome (methemoglobinemia), colorectal cancer,
thyroid disease, and neural tube defects, even at levels below regulatory limits.

The State of Oregon and federal agencies have known for more than 30 years that there was a serious problem with industrial and agricultural pollution of the water in Morrow and Umatilla Counties, yet residents of those counties are saying that next to nothing has been done about it.

On February 28th of this year, five Boardman residents filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court in Pendleton accusing the Port of Morrow, Lamb Weston, Madison Ranches, Threemile Canyon Farms—a 70,000-cow megadairy that supplies most of the milk for Tillamook's products—and Beef Northwest Feeders of contaminating groundwater in Oregon’s Lower Umatilla Basin by dumping nitrogen throughout Morrow and Umatilla Counties. Attorneys estimate the issue affects upwards of 46,000 residents, many of whom are children.

Morrow and Umatilla County residents holding signs met with Oregon
Senator Jeff Merkley (back row, center) to discuss contaminated water in January of 2023.

Since 2017, I've written on Good Stuff NW about the damage caused by industrial agriculture starting with a post titled "Why I'm Quitting Tillamook Cheese." That post became the basis of an article for the news website Civil Eats, "'Big Milk' Brings Big Issues for Local Communities" which connected the dots between industrial agriculture and the health of the communities—along with the air and water—around these facilities, especially when, as in Oregon, they are regulated as "farms" and not the industrial facilities they actually are. Even back in 2017, the Oregon Department of Agriculture admitted that some wells used for drinking water contained nitrate levels over the federal maximum allowed.

A review of research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2018 analyzed more than 30 recent studies on the effects of nitrates in drinking water, listing the most prevalent risks as blue baby syndrome (methemoglobinemia), colorectal cancer, thyroid disease, and neural tube defects, adding that "many studies observed increased risk with ingestion of water nitrate levels that were below regulatory limits." [Emphasis mine.]

“Defendants have dumped, and continue to dump, millions of pounds of nitrogen onto land in Morrow and Umatilla counties,” the lawsuit said. “Nitrogen in the ground converts into nitrates, which then percolate down to the water table in the Lower Umatilla Basin, polluting the subterranean aquifer on which plaintiffs and class members rely for their water.”

Manure lagoons at some industrial farms in the area can cover as much as 20 acres.

In an article in the Capital Press, Boardman resident Michael Pearson, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said that his family relies on a private well. When he had his water tested in 2022, he was shocked to discover it contained many times over the nitrate level considered safe by federal authorities. When he had a filtration system installed to treat the water, it still remained well over the federal maximum.

Two other plaintiffs, Michael and Virginia Brandt, discovered their water was contaminated when they had it tested, but they couldn’t afford a filtration system. James and Silvia Suter said that nitrate levels in the water coming out of their taps is four times the federal maximum, but when they looked into drilling a well deeply enough to get to uncontaminated water, the cost was quoted at $24,000.

For many years nitrate levels in some drinking water wells in the Lower Umatilla Basin
have tested several times over the federal maximum.

Oregon Public Broadcasting interviewed Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, where Berman compared the nitrate pollution in the Lower Umatilla Basin to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where thousands of people were exposed to lead and other contaminants through the municipal water system.

"There's some very powerful agri-businesses and the port, they make a ton of money off dumping this polluted water, and they have a lot of clout. So no, I wasn't surprised," Berman said in an interview with KGW-TV for their "Tainted Waters" series. "I think it's gone on so long because a lot of the victims are low-income minorities who can't afford to hire lawyers, don't have a voice in politics. As I said earlier [in the interview] if this was happening to a wealthy suburb of Portland, it would have been stopped years ago.”

The plaintiffs are hoping not only to gain compensation from the defendants, but also to require them to clean up the basin's soil and groundwater, to get residents connected to a clean source of water, and begin medical testing of residents for health issues related to nitrate contamination.

Top photo: Sprinklers spraying wastewater at Threemile Canyon Farms (from its Facebook page). Photo of Sen. Jeff Merkley meeting with residents who are experiencing contaminated water. Photo of manure lagoon at Threemile Canyon Farms from Friends of Family Farmers.

Disclaimer: One of the defendants in the lawsuit, Beef Northwest, is the current incarnation of the Wilson ranch, founded by my great-grandfather in North Powder, Oregon, in 1889.

Epic Black Bean Chili Fit for a Crowd

Oregon is so incredibly fortunate to have an abundance of pasture-based farms that are focused on animal welfare and the hard work of improving their soil.

There's Chris and Zack Menchini's Campfire Farms in Canby, Michael and Linda Guebert's Terra Farma in Corbett, Ryan Ramage and his family at Ramage Farms in Canby, Jared Gardner's Nehalem River Ranch at the coast, and in the snow-covered mountains and wheat fields of Eastern Oregon you'll find Cory Carman's Carman Ranch and Liza Jane McAlister, matriarch of 6 Ranch—whose tagline "Doing it the hard way since 1884" has this former ad person swooning—among dozens more. (Find where to get the products from local farms and ranches that have adopted pasture-based methods in the invaluable Oregon Pasture Network Guide.)

The artwork that Campfire Farms uses for its branding says it all!

If you follow any of these folks on social media or sign up for their newsletters like I have, you'll find that they'll occasionally post special offerings when they need to make room in their freezers or have extra stock (no pun intended) available. So when I run across a screaming deal on Carman Ranch ground beef or see that Campfire Farms is offering a box of assorted sausages and pasture-raised chicken breasts for a (relative) song, I jump on it.

That was the case when Ryan Ramage posted a photo of a box of beef chuck roasts and short ribs for close to half off the regular price. It did necessitate driving to Oregon City for a not-so-clandestine meetup at Tony's Smoke House and Cannery where Ryan was making a delivery, but he graciously plopped the box in the boot of the Subie and I handed him a check. Done!

A focus on soil improvement, carbon sequestration and animal welfare, like these pasture-raised, grassfed cattle at Ramage Farms, are hallmarks of pasture-based farms and ranches.

One of the chuck roasts was left out to thaw in a tub of cool water and I started the quest for a chili recipe that would assuage my craving for a chile-laced black bean version. Having belatedly stumbled across the amazing collection of videos and recipes of Pati Jinich, a superb cook and passionate activist for authentic Mexican culture and cuisine—watch her moving interview with Mayan women who formed a baseball team and are now national stars—I found a recipe for braised pork with chiles used as a filling to make pork chilorio burritas.

With apologies to Ms. Jinich, I substituted beef for the pork and added some of my roasted tomatoes and black beans to the ingredients. The result was magical. I hope you check out her videos and enjoy this bowl of delicious pastured beef and bean chili!

Epic Beef and Black Bean Chili

Adapted from a Pati Jinich recipe for pork chilorio burritas.

1 lb. dried black beans
3-4 lbs. pastured beef chuck roast, cut in 1" cubes
1 1/4 c. fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 1/4 c. water
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
5 dried ancho chiles, tops and seeds removed
1 1/2 c. of the chile soaking liquid
1/2 c. onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2/3 c. cider vinegar
2 c. roasted tomatoes
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. salt plus more to taste
Condiments (optional): Grated cheddar or crumbled cotija, sliced avocados, shredded cabbage, sour cream (crema), sliced jalapeños, red pepper flakes, hot sauce(s)

The evening before serving, soak the beans by placing them in a large saucepan and cover with water by two inches. Put a lid on the pot and place on the counter or the back burner of the stove to soak (unheated) overnight.

At least three hours before serving, drain the beans and set aside.

Place meat in a Dutch oven or large pot and pour orange juice and water over it. The liquid should barely cover the meat—if it does not, simply add more water. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil, then cover and turn down the heat to simmer for 60 to 90 minutes, until much of the liquid is gone. The meat should be cooked but still retain its shape. so once the meat is cooked, pour it into a large bowl and set aside.

While the meat cooks, remove the stems and seeds from the ancho chiles, tearing them into large pieces. (You may want to wear gloves for this step if you're sensitive to their oils.) Place the pieces of the chiles in a heatproof bowl and cover them with boiling water, letting them steep for about 30 minutes. Once the chiles have rehydrated and cooled, place them and 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid in the blender, adding the onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, cumin, black pepper, vinegar, and roasted tomatoes. Purée on high until smooth.

Take the pot that you cooked the meat in and heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Pour in the blended chile sauce and simmer 4 to 5 minutes. Add the meat with its cooking liquid and the soaked, drained beans to the sauce in the pot. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender but not mushy, 45 minutes to an hour. Taste for salt and add more if need be.

Serve as is or with a panoply of condiments as suggested above.

Read more about Terra FarmaCarman Ranch; and Nehalem River Ranch.

Oregon Sea Grant Launches Oregon Seafood Locator Map and Listings

Did you know that around 90 percent of the seafood caught off the Oregon coast is being shipped out of the state—some even going as far away as Japan or Europe? And that 90 percent of the seafood served at our restaurants is being shipped in?

To say that there is a deep disconnect in our local food systems is an understatement. Those famous yellow tins of Ortiz tuna on specialty store shelves more than likely contain Oregon albacore. That's right, a fish caught miles off of our coast is shipped halfway around the world, stuffed into tins and then shipped back to us. Crazy, right? And a good chunk of the rest of our albacore is exported to Japan for sushi.

Most of Oregon's fishing fleet consists of single family-owned boats.

Altogether our Oregon fisheries—including rockfish, ling cod, petrale and Dover sole, wild salmon, black cod, albacore tuna, Dungeness crab, cold water shrimp, and oysters—supply four percent of the catch sold in the entire U.S.; the fishing town of Newport is considered the Dungeness crab capital of the world. But even with a thriving maritime tradition, it’s still difficult to find Oregon-caught seafood on the menus of our own restaurants.

That disconnect is why Oregon Sea Grant—a cooperative program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Sea Grant College Program and Oregon State University's Oregon Sea Grant Fisheries Extension to address the needs of Oregon's coastal communities and ecosystems—has launched the Oregon Seafood Locator with the mission of helping Oregonians discover the many different types of seafood harvested in Oregon.

Fresh, briny oysters from Oregon's pristine waters are in big demand.

With a map and a comprehensive statewide listing of locations that sell or serve seafood caught or grown in Oregon, along with information on how to buy the freshest fish online or on the dock, as well as how to preserve and cook it, the Seafood Locator is intended to be a comprehensive guide to these local foods that are so much more delicious than substitutes shipped from farther away.

You can get involved in building this resource by contacting them if you know about a business that sells Oregon seafood products that needs to be added to the page. You can also add to their listing of recipes by using the hashtag #EatOregonSeafood in your social media postings.

Top photo of black cod ceviche at Fort George Brewery in Astoria. Photo of line-caught albacore from Western Fishboat Owners Association.

Legislative Report: Take Action on Canola Contamination, Housing and Hunger

There are just two weeks left in this legislative session and three pieces of legislation need your help.

Canola is a low-value crop that can cross-pollinate with valuable food crops,
wreaking havoc on local agriculture if it is not tightly controlled.

Protect the Willamette Valley from Canola Contamination

Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Protected District (HB 4059) needs to be passed before the current proposal "sunsets" this year. The Willamette Valley is one of the most important regions in the world for large-scale vegetable seed production. Prior to 2015, growing canola was prohibited in the Valley due to its ability to cross-pollinate with crops in the brassica family like broccoli, kale, cabbage and others, risking the livelihoods of vegetable farmers and seed producers. In 2015 a law was passed allowing a very limited amount of canola to be grown with strict rules requiring distancing from brassica growers.

In order to protect farmers and growers of vegetable seeds in the brassica family from fear of crop contamination or rejection of contaminated seed by national and international markets, strong protections and compliance tools must be developed. Maintaining the Willamette Valley Protected District and limiting canola production is crucial to preserving the state's specialty seed growing industry. More information here.

ACTION NEEDED: Submit your testimony by e-mailing Senator Jeff Golden, Chair of the committee and entering "HB 4059_A" in the Subject line, then copy and paste the text below into the message, filling in the brackets as needed.

To Chair Golden, Vice Chair Girod and members of the committee:

My name is [name] and I am writing in support of HB 4059-A. I am a community member in [town]. The Willamette Valley Specialty Brassica seed industry is vital to the agricultural landscape of Oregon and we are so lucky to have the land, expertise and conditions to support this unique industry. We should protect these farmers’ ability to grow the seeds that produce millions of pounds of food across the world. 

Because a reasonable agreement could not be reached after the work group process, extending the current regulations is the only viable option. This topic means so much to me because [insert your reason here, such as "I want to be able to buy locally produced organic seeds for my garden that are adapted to our climate" or "I want to buy organic crops from local farmers to put on my table," etc.].

We know that HB 4059-A is not the end of the road and we will have to find a more permanent solution in the next few years. I urge legislators to listen to the specialty seed growers in this process. Just because they are not the biggest, most industrialized farms does not mean that they have any less value in the system. Please respect their knowledge of the plant biology, industry standards and best practices that have made this a thriving industry here in our state. In particular, we need future policy to address the issues outlined in scientific studies that threaten organic production in the Willamette Valley.

Thank you,

[your name]
[your address and town]

Choosing sprawling subdivisions and strip malls won't solve our housing crisis—
it will only destroy valuable farmland and create new problems for Oregonians.

Support Smart Housing Policy

Governor Kotek’s 2024 housing bill, Senate Bill 1537, offers Oregon much-needed infrastructure funding and climate-smart housing incentives but it also allows cities to override long-established land use laws and processes to expand their urban growth boundaries (UGBs) by at least 75 or 150 net residential acres, depending on population size. This could lead to municipalities open to influence from developers eager to enrich themselves at the expense of our rich agricultural  lands near population centers.

Though there are many crucial components in this bill that address the existing housing crisis, advocates are stressing the need to prioritize affordable housing within the existing UGBs first and foremost. Oregon’s land use laws and the concept of Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs) has protected valuable farmland, they argue, saying that once farmland is lost, we can't get it back. Farmland with close proximity to urban markets supports a robust local food system, benefitting urban residents who gain access to locally grown products and farmers who have ready access to a large customer base.

ACTION NEEDED: Ask your legislator to support smart housing policy by adding your name to this letter from 1000 Friends of Oregon.

The Double Up Food Bucks program gives hungry families access to local food.

Fresh Local Food for Hungry Families

Double Up Food Bucks help those who currently receive food assistance through the SNAP program to afford additional fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet is a crucial part of building a healthy lifestyle and that is why it's critical this program receives continued funding. There are federal matching dollars available, but only if legislators allocate more state dollars.

ACTION NEEDED: Message your state lawmakers today and ask them to support the $1 million funding request for this important program.

What the Heck is a CSA? Find Out at the Share Fair!

It's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Week, so I'm reposting this Q & A from 2019 with details on this year's CSA Share Fair at the bottom of the post:

The CSA Share Fair on Sunday, March 3, is a chance to meet more than 45 local farmers, ranchers and fishers who offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to the public. They'll be showcasing various options, including vegetables, fruits, pastured meats, wild fish, eggs, flowers, honey and more. To keep it simple for you, there's a matchmaking service where you can check off what you're interested in and a helpful volunteer will point you toward the best farmer for you! Time and location of the 2024 CSA Share Fair are at the bottom of this post.

If you're not sure what a CSA is or if there's one that might be right for you, here's a Q & A with CSA maven Katherine Deumling of Cook With What You Have.

Find the right CSA for your household at the Share Fair!

Why join a CSA?

Joining a classic CSA gives you a window onto a farm and what it takes to grow the delicious variety of things that you'll receive in your share each week. The farmer chooses what's best that week that  can relieve you of most of your decision-making, though more CSAs are giving members the option to order from a list of what's available. I actually love not having to make any decisions about what produce I'm getting because then I can concentrate on being creative with what I receive.

CSA farmers in our region tend to grow a staggering variety of produce and typify the saying, "What grows together, goes together!" Belonging to a CSA has expanded my repertoire and introduced me to vegetables I wouldn't have picked up at the farmers' market, though some people are not so keen on the "no-choice" bit. My online Seasonal Recipe Collection comes in handy, since the recipes are sorted by vegetable and there is a thorough introduction for each vegetable.

Watch local chef demos and ask them questions at the Fair.

I also subscribe to a CSA because it helps me budget, and when you calculate out the cost of a CSA by the week it is quite reasonable. I pay up front or in a few installments, and then supplement from the farmers' market or the store with fruits or occasional vegetables I'm not getting in my CSA—like asparagus, artichokes and a few other things that aren't typically found in a CSA. If I know I'll be getting my gorgeous box of produce each week, I won't be tempted to buy other things, to make the most what I've already paid for.

What are the different kinds of CSAs?

Some CSAs focus exclusively on produce, some also include fruit like blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, apples, pears, quince and so forth. Some give you the option to add an extra Salad Share for those who love salad greens; others might give the option to add eggs, honey, flowers or meat. Some CSA farms work together with other area farms to offer such a wide array. And then there are exclusive meat and fish CSAs as well as CSAs that focus on a single crop like apples or flowers.

Many farms, many options to choose from!

There are so many local farms offering CSAs. What should I consider before joining a CSA?

Generally, if you want super-delicious produce and can't always make it to a farmers' market, a CSA is for you. If you like to cook or want to cook more and are typically home most nights of the week, a CSA is definitely for you. If, on the other hand, you travel a lot or are out a lot at night, you'll struggle to keep up with the produce.

Think about the size of your household and your family members' eating habits to decide if a CSA is a good idea or not—do you all like vegetables or are open to trying them? How much do you think you'll eat? You might start with a half share (most farms offer two different-size shares) and see how that works, setting yourself up for success rather than the guilt of wasting some. Also consider if the pick-up site is convenient (some CSAs deliver to your door as well). But make sure you think about the logistics of picking up your share—make a plan with a friend or neighbor, either to share the CSA or both do it so you can alternate doing the pick up. This is great community-building in and of itself, and you can also share ideas of what to do with less familiar produce.

Does a CSA subscription make sense for a single person?

It very much depends on the person—if you are a vegetable lover and like to cook and entertain, by all means. If I were single I would buy a CSA but I do cook and eat more vegetables than almost anyone I know! And again, consider a half-share or splitting it with a neighbor or friend.

Some farms offer a single product like flowers, eggs or beef.

I'm afraid I'd be paying for produce I can't use or my family won't eat, and I know nothing about rutabagas or kohlrabi. What should I do?

This is an important factor to consider carefully. As I noted earlier, I have vastly expanded my appreciation of certain vegetables (rutabagas being at the top of that list) by becoming a CSA member and I've enjoyed that.

There are a handful good cooking techniques and methods—think grated vegetable pancakes, like latkes—that are a critical to successful CSA cooking. In fact I added a grated rutabaga to fried rice the other night and it was delicious! And if you occasionally share an extra kohlrabi with a neighbor (I have definitely done that, too) the benefits of the flavor, nutrition and connection to your place and those growing our food may well trump the "kohlrabi hardship"!

I don't drive. How would I pick up my share?

I pick up my share by bike and it works well. Most CSA shares will fit into two typical panniers. Some CSAs have pick-ups at companies or farmers' markets so you might inquire if your place of work is linked up with a CSA farm or ask them if they might consider it. Some CSAs even offer home delivery, so if you find one you're interested in, definitely ask them!

Details: CSA Share Fair, Sun., Mar. 3, 10 am-1 pm; free. Event at The Redd, 831 SE Salmon St. If you can't make it to the Share Fair, there's a listing of Northwest CSAs at

Photos by Shawn Linehan.