Saturday, June 13, 2015

Blueberries are ready!


This must be the earliest season ever for blueberries. So early that I missed opening day at Haven Farm in Tyee. I made a note to check their website on Friday (6/12) as they opened on 6/18 last year, but I didn't get around to looking until today. They opened yesterday!!! I couldn't have gone even if I had known, but they say there are still plenty of berries to pick and more varieties coming on soon. 

I dug the newspaper out of the recycling bin to see if Big Bend Berries is open and, yes, they are. The nice thing about Big Bend, aside from the fact that they are much closer and the owners are so nice, is that you can pick in the evening on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's a great family activity. The price, $1.20/lb. is the same at both places. Brosi's in Winston grows blueberries, too, but I have never picked there.

Big Bend Berries
458 Big Bend Rd., Roseburg (Garden Valley)
U-pick only (bring buckets and containers)
M W F Sat 8:00 am to noon
T TH 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm

10246 Tyee Rd., Umpqua (15 miles west of Sutherlin)
Bring containers; they supply picking buckets
Open M - Sat. 8:00 am to 2:00 pm

Additional information for first-time pickers: 

If you've never picked your own fruit before, blueberries are a great place to start. No bending, no thorns, no ladders! I use the bucket-on-a-belt method for the fastest picking. Just thread an old belt through the handle of a small, sturdy bucket and fasten around your waist or over one shoulder. That way you have both hands free to pick. I like the 10 lb. detergent buckets with the metal handle. (Note: Haven Farm supplies their own picking buckets, but you should still bring a belt.) The small, plastic ice cream tubs are fine for children (who rarely get them full), but I have had the plastic handle break and then had to re-pick all of my berries out of the grass! I take along plastic dishpans to empty the berries into when the bucket gets full.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Going Green

(Originally published in The News Review on June 2, 2015.)

Asian greens from Norm Lehne Garden and Orchard

U-pick season got off to an early start this year with local strawberries ripe and ready in mid-May, the earliest ever according to Kruse Farms. I'm busy cleaning out my freezer to make room for this year's crops. I bought myself a new copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving and stashed my ratty sneakers, buckets and bins in the car so I'm ready to pick at a moment's notice. Do I sound excited?

Picking perfectly ripe, sweet, juicy berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears and apples is my all-time, number one favorite summer activity. Whether I'm alone in the orchard or chatting with friends or family the next row over, I feel right at home at any of our local u-pick farms.

Along with fresh berries, which are so abundant right now, I'm trying to work more leafy greens into our diet. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal summarized the results of a new study that looked at nutrition and the brain. The MIND Diet (which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) was developed by researchers at Rush University. In the study, strict adherence to the MIND diet, which emphasizes green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine, lowered the risk of Alzheimer's disease by as much as 53 percent. Quoting from the article, “Participants who ate one to two servings of green vegetables a day had a 'dramatic decrease in the rate of cognitive decline' compared with people who ate fewer greens, said Dr. Morris. 'It was about the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age,' she said. (Wall Street Journal April 20, 2015) That's music to my baby boomer ears!

So, how to get more leafy greens into our diet? Here are some suggestions for every meal of the day. Green smoothies for breakfast or post-workout are easy and delicious. Blend up a handful of kale or spinach with frozen fruit, pineapple juice and a banana and I promise you won't even taste the veggies.

A green salad, with a mix of spinach,arugula, a variety of lettuces, maybe some baby kale or cabbage thrown in, drizzled with an olive oil vinaigrette, makes a nutrition-packed side dish. Top with berries, nuts and grilled chicken or fish and you have a one-dish wonder for lunch or dinner that includes five of the ten recommended foods to nourish your brain. I never would have believed how much I'd enjoy a Massaged Kale and Mango Salad until I tried it, but I honestly could have eaten the whole batch myself. It's that good!

Kale chips are a delicately crunchy and very portable snack. You'll find three varieties made locally by NewLeaf Delivery at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market or at Umpqua Local Goods in Roseburg.

Cooked greens are going to be a harder sell at my house, but I'm determined to put my culinary creativity to the test. Big Lick Farm and Norm Lehne's Garden and Orchard both sell a dizzying array of leafy greens to experiment with. I've been adding beet greens to stir fries and chopped kale to soups. I've been sautéing Asian greens like Tat Soi in olive oil and garlic. My daughter, Christine, insists that greens cooked in bacon grease are the way to go, but,eaten too often, that might negate the health benefits.

Do you have a tasty way to serve cooked greens? Send me your recipe ( and I'll give it a try.

Massaged Kale and Mango Salad

You won't believe how good this is!

Massaged Kale and Mango Salad

My friend, Janet Catalano, has been making this salad for years. It's adapted from a recipe Nigella Lawson shared on The Food Network. Janet doubles the fruit and adds a touch more honey. Toasting the pumpkin seeds is optional, but I like the extra crunch it gives them.

1 bunch kale, any type will do but try dark, curly kale if you can find it
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice from ½ a large lemon
2 pinches of sea salt
1 tablespoon honey (or to taste)
a few grinds of pepper
1 whole mango, diced*
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, raw or toasted

If desired, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Rinse the kale and shake off extra water. Tear the leaves from the tough stems. (Discard the stems.) Stack the leaves on top of each other and slice into half-inch ribbons. Place the kale ribbons in a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. With your hands, massage the oil into the kale for at least 2 minutes. The kale will shrink down considerably and become tender, dark and glossy. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper. Pour over the kale and stir well to combine, then add the diced mango. Transfer to a serving bowl or individual salad plates and top with pumpkin seeds.

Serves 3-4

*The easiest way to dice a mango is to slice the “cheeks” off each side of the pit before peeling. The pit is about ¾ inch wide. Score the flesh of the cheeks in parallel lines both lengthwise and then crosswise, being careful not to cut through the skin. Turn the scored mango cheeks inside out by pressing in the center of the skin side. Using a sharp knife, slice the squares of mango off the skin. Peel the skin from the portion containing the pit, score around the pit and slice off as much flesh as possible.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mixed Greens with Strawberries, Goat Cheese and Roasted Hazelnuts


Mixed Greens with Strawberries, Goat Cheese and Roasted Hazelnuts

I had a salad with strawberries and feta at a local restaurant and decided to create my own version at home. I didn't have any candied nuts on hand, so I added a little maple syrup to my vinaigrette to mimic that sweet flavor. This salad can easily be turned into a main dish by topping it with grilled chicken or salmon.

6 cups mixed greens, including spinach and arugula
1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
1 (3.5 ounce) container goat cheese or feta crumbles
¼ cup hazelnuts, roasted and coarsely chopped*
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash and dry the greens, tear into bite-size pieces and place in a large salad bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, syrup, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the greens and toss gently to combine. Add the sliced strawberries and cheese; toss again briefly. Sprinkle chopped nuts over the top.

Serves 4.

*Roast hazelnuts in a shallow, rimmed baking sheet at 250 degrees for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. When cut in half, the center of the nuts should be a toasty brown.