Say Yes to Biodiversity, Cross-Cultural Exchange, and Benedicta Alejo Vargas’s Tamales en Mole

Wednesday, July 18

5:30 pm

Nana Cardoon Urban Farm

$75 includes specialty cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages, appetizers, multi-course dinner, and dessert.

Benedicta Alejo Vargas, master indigenous Purepecha cook from San Lorenzo in Michoacan, came north to celebrate biodiversity, cross cultural exchange, and delicious food with you. Teaming up with the folks at Foodways at Nana Cardoon, Benedicta created a special menu full of flavor, and made with local and regional ingredients. She looks forward to sharing her food and culture, as well as helping the workers and families of the Fossil Salt Project. All proceeds from this event will be donated to promote the packaging and marketing of this indigenous Ark of Taste product.

For additional details and to RSVP/purchase your tickets, click here.

Explore & Discover: 2017 Classes

From carving and scything, to basket weaving, preserving and much more, the Nana Cardoon 2017 class schedule offers a great way to slow down and learn new skills, crafts, preserving, and food preparation. Plus spent the day at the farm with others interested in farm culture and traditions, too.
Join instructors who have honed their craft over a lifetime and use their talent and experience each day to create foods, tools, gardens and other useful products. Bring your curiosity. Get ready to explore. Sign up for a class and take home new skills and friendships from a day on the farm.
Take a look at the class list, and contact Charlene, charlene@nanacardoon.com or 503-357-4992, with questions or to sign up for a session.

2016 classes open for discovery!

Learn how to carve your own wooden spoon, or create a plan for building your own nutritious food forest. Become well versed in the art of basic garment construction, natural dyes, or weaving a traditional foraging basket. Paint, prepare and eat a Cuban meal. Plus gain the knowledge and skills to preserve seasonal foods in the new Larder & Pantry Sessions. These are just a few of the class topics in the Nana Cardoon 2016 educational series.

Kiko helping a student with his spoon

Kiko helping a student with his spoon

Taught by working practitioners and experts in their subject, the classes offer community members, farmers, gardeners, and teachers an in-depth experience in a wide variety of traditional food and craft subjects.

Each class offers a wealth of information through hands-on projects, presentations, and discussion. A wood-fired oven shares the classroom space and bicycles build to grind grain wait for the willing rider nearby. The ever-changing orchards, rich garden beds and sown fields surround you. All classes include a farm fresh meal and rich conversation at the long community table.

Marcella making salsa

Marcella and student making Salsa

Don’t wait long to sign up, space is limited to ensure the best experience for all.

eating lunch

Sharing a meal at the community tab

 

 

 

 

To register for a class, or for more information, contact Charlene at 503-357-4992 or at charlene@foodwaysatnanacardoon.org
,
and save your place in the classroom and at the table!

The Essential Larder & Pantry

“Over here is one of our larders,” Charlene mentions as she leads the small group of university students to the north facing porch of the farm house she and Richard call home. The students quickly realize its not your average front porch. They gaze over the cornucopia of milk carton cases bursting with multicolored apples, gallon glass jars jam-packed with

Jar of pickles

Jars of pickles fill the larder shelves.

olives, earthenware pots spilling over with potatoes and onions, and light gray formation crocks bubbling with sauerkraut, kosher dills, and assorted citrus.

“These foods are alive,” Charlene continues. “The larder is where we keep foods that need to be in a naturally cool and shaded environment.” The care and respect she has for good food comes through as she talks with the students about “live” food, the fermentation process, and the importance of a larder in a well stocked kitchen. Each student takes an olive to taste.

Corn kernels in hand

Corn kernels will be stored in the pantry.

Charlene moves on to the subject of the pantry. “Our pantry designated areas are stores of canned tomato sauces, preserves, dried pasta, beans and grains, jars of anchovies, dried fruits and vegetables. These are all things that are kept in a ‘still’ room, which is also an old term referring to a kitchen or workroom where foods are preserved or made ‘still’.”

Nana Cardoon Urban Farm hosts many students of all ages and Charlene doesn’t miss a chance to help them learn the many components to a good table. “Pantry comes from the French ‘pain’. Larder comes from the French ‘lard’. These terms come from the way homes used to be organized. I like to keep things separated in the same way, honoring the traditional ways of storing and handling nutrition, and depending on non-electric storage methods.”

Squash on the vine

This farm grown squash is now in one of the larders.

The students continue on their farm tour as they make their way past mounds of herbs, twisting grape vines, and fruit hanging heavy on the persimmon tree. If they just happen to come back in the near future they would find that most of what they see now in one of the pantries or larders they just learned about. Because as she mentioned Charlene processes and stores almost all foods utilizing traditional and natural storage in various the larders and pantries around their home.

Harvesting produce, beans and grains from the farm; procuring and curing meats from neighboring farms; creating cheeses, kefir, and fermented breads – each batch, jar, basket, or crate makes it way into the appropriate pantry or larder. There it becomes part of the ever-changing procession of good foods headed toward a nutritious convivial meal around the farmhouse table.

Nana Cardoon larder areas:

  • Charcuterie
  • Cheese
  • Vinegars
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Lacto Fermentation Crocks
Canned tuna in glass jars

Canned Oregon albacore stocks the pantry.

Nana Cardoon pantry areas:

  • Kitchen area pantry – ‘still’ items used on a daily basis
  • Shed pantry – canned goods for the year

And the wine is in our “cellar”!

Sala Painting, Creating & Eating

A day of creativity awaits 12 students as artist and teacher Marcella Kriebel guides the class through painting vegetables and making salsa. Turning farm-raised corn into tortillas is Charlene’s focus, and with Richard at the grill brunch is in good hands!

Marcella provides guidance for beginners and advanced painters alike — everyone is creative!

Charlene shares a peek at the farm-grown corn to be made into tortillas. The molino does the trick and soon tortillas are ready for the grill.

Marcella and class are busy making salsa – with fresh picked peppers and other ingredients from the farm.

Brunch tastes fantastic, right down to the last slurp – south of the border style!

This is too much fun!

Missed this event? Don’t wait to sign up for Margarita Shake Up: An Evening of Painting & Dining on the Farm! — October 2nd. Marcella will be back with another creative class — check it out and save your seat at the table.

Hands-On Learning on the Farm

Charlene and Richard began developing Nana Cardoon Urban Farm and Learning Center long before the 3rd grade through high school students that came to visit last month were even born. Yet having the 76 girls from the Chicas Youth Development Program explore, discover, and learn from this land was just what they had in mind over thirty years ago. Back in the 80’s they began to build organic soil, plant a diverse orchard, develop an infrastructure to support an urban farm, and focus on how they could help neighbors and community members of all ages learn about sustainable and healthy food and farming.

Join the 3rd through 5th grade members of the Chicas Youth Development Program, a Adelante Mujeres program, as they spend the day on the farm.

(clockwise from left) Kathy Alvares explores the taste of freshly ground flour; Abigail Grande inspects a water feature; Andrea Tellez seasons the garden salsa she helped make.

(clockwise from left) The table is set and ready for the Chicas lunch; signs throughout the garden stand ready to guide students in learning; Charlene talks with volunteers about the various work stations for the day; onions lay in wait, ready to harvest for salsa-making.

Plenty of preparation takes place before the Chicas visit. Charlene and Richard, the co-farmers at Nana Cardoon, worked with Eden Acres, an environmental literacy organization, to design an activity-packed day filled with hands-on learning. Over 10 volunteers also participate during the program — from setting up the learning stations to manning the grill, from leading projects to washing dishes.

(clockwise from left) Cytlalli Najera grinds wheat on the bicycle  grinder; Richard talks about how wheat is harvested and the process to prepare it for use with (l to r) Leticia Guiterrez, Yuliana Garfias and Andrea Tellez; Kathy Alvarez (l) and Natalia Martinez (r) sift the freshly ground wheat.

A focus on the cycle of soil to seeds, planting, tending, and harvest is always present at Nana Cardoon. Also, how the harvest comes to table plays an important role, and was highlighted for the young students as they ground freshly harvested wheat using the bicycle-powered grinder.

(clockwise from top left) Janette Santiago grinds corn as Charlene looks on; the molino; Charlene helps Natalia Martinez  grind corn; a handful of the organic corn to be ground and used for tortillas.

Grinding the organic corn that was made into tortillas, cooked on the outdoor grill, and then tasted by the girls, opened up a discussion about various ways our food is produced and processed. The hands-on activity helped make the concept of good, clean and healthy ingredients and foods more understandable.

(clockwise from top left) all salsa ingredients, except lime, were harvested at Nana Cardoon; Amalia Guzman uses a stone mortar and pestle; (l to r) Itzel Ortiz, Yuliana Garfias, Leticia Guiterrez work together to make salsa; Moncerrat Villanueva crushes the vegetables for the salsa. 

“Going to Nana Cardoon offered the participants the experience to link cultural traditions with food in a fun and interactive way. Physically making their own salsa and picking their fresh salad ingredients made them feel special and important to be part of old and new traditions.” Andrea Chunga-Celis, Chicas Program Site Facilitator

(clockwise from top left) (l to r) Hatziri Mandujano, Kathy Alvarez, Yamil Gaona and Natalia Martinez help Richard harvest potatoes; volunteer Elena Rasmussen at the grill; potato harvest

One of the morning projects got the girls out in the garden digging potatoes that were then later served at lunch.

“Knowing where their food comes from really gives kids something to think about. They start to make the connections and it’s like a light goes off. That’s a joy to see!” Richard

(clockwise from top) Lunch of garden greens, potatoes; fresh salsa, beans, and tortillas; the Chicas enjoy the meal they just helped to make; a plate of the freshly made tortillas; Charlene and Leticia Aguilar, Chicas Program Coordinator, serve up the plates.

“An important part of food and culture is the lost art of sitting together at table and enjoying food and conversation. The long table, the relaxed outdoor setting, and inviting the girls to sit and be served, offers the Chicas time to focus on their food and each other during their lunch.” Charlene

(clockwise from top left) (l to r) Daniela Garcia, Brianna Garcia and Emma Aguilar spread mulch on the bush beans; Janette Santiago with Richard working in the field: discussion time for one of the groups; exploring soil and worms!

After lunch the Chicas helped mulch some of the crops as they learned about water conservation. Then they got a look, and feel, of composted soil complete with the worms. Nana Cardoon gets all the senses involved in the learning process.

(clockwise from top left) Charlene and Elena Rasmussen after a happy day with the Chicas; a thank you signed by all; 3rd-5th graders from the Chicas Program with Charlene, Richard, Adelante Mujeres program staff, and volunteers.

The many smiles express the delight of all!

“Can I come back to Nana Cardoon?” Chicas comment after farm visit.

Thank you to our partners: Adelante Mujeres Chicas Youth Development Program and EdenAcres

The Value of a Spoon

Artist and teacher Kiko Denzer shares his thoughts on spoons, and so much more.

Everybody eats, everybody uses a spoon. Many people have favorite spoons. What makes one spoon different than the rest? Why does he like this one, and she like that one?

A handmade wooden spoon from Haiti

A handmade wooden spoon from Haiti.

In our first workshop Greg Kreibel described a favorite cooking spoon (see photo) that he’d bought cheap from an “import plaza,” w/a tag that said “made in Haiti.” He said (roughly) that “it’s our favorite spoon: we’ve had it forever, it was cheap, handmade, and we use it for everything.”

An offhand comment? Perhaps, but it means so much: “our favorite spoon” says (to me) “our most valuable spoon.” Where does such value come from? Does it come from a famous name artist? A sky-high price tag? Exceptional rarity? NO! In fact, it comes from exactly the opposites of those things: it’s cheap and common — just another spoon in an import store, hand-made, yes, but by an anonymous person just trying to make a living — someone probably more like us than different. Second, it’s useful for everything; it doesn’t just hang on the wall. And everyone likes it. It was a completely spontaneous comment about what constitutes value, which is not dollars, but love, longevity, and connection.

These basic values underly all value; without them — without spoons to eat with, and things to eat; without flowers and the bees that pollinate the fruit; without worms to feed the roots of the grass that feeds the cow, that feeds us —  without such small, daily beauty — we would live lives of terrible poverty. Or we would not live at all…

We understand this only by participating in it — by growing and eating food, building our houses, and carving our spoons and bowls — for ourselves, and for others — because one can’t participate alone — because beauty, skill, and knowledge must all be passed on, from eye to hand, from hand to heart, to anothers’ hand — from parent to child and from teacher to student. And while we may all eat with our own individual, private spoons, we all ultimately take our nourishment from one vessel, shaped out of earth, cooked by the heat of the sun, cooled by the breezes, and celebrated as part of a shared story…

These are the roots of culture. So a spoon begins with a tree, and the tree takes us back into a garden that we share with all creation.

Kiko Denzer

Charlene and Kiko at the recent spoon carving class

Charlene and Kiko at the spoon carving class.

Richard and I first met Kiko at an earth oven workshop he was leading in the Corvallis area 12 years ago.  A year after that, Kiko led a Slow Food Workshop here at Nana Cardoon, where we built our earth oven.

Since then Kiko and I usually attend The Grain Gathering Conference, held annually at the Mount Vernon Extension of WSU.  It was there we started talking about presenting a spoon carving class here on the farm as part of our focus on traditional and artisan cooking tools.

Kiko is an artist above all, in philosophy, in sculpture, and in how he lives life.  We have enjoyed being with him and his family on several occasions.

He is a treasure on so many levels, and the opportunity to work with him personally is a true gift.

Charlene

 

Carving Your Own Wooden Spoon

This spring eleven students enjoyed a day of hands-on learning at Nana Cardoon. Check out their journey from beginning with an applewood log, to ending with their own wooden spoon.

With hatchets ready, logs neatly piled, and examples of the spoon in various stages of making, artist and instructor Kiko Denzer explains the process and craft of designing and making a wooden spoon.

Each spoon begins with finding the perfect log, and getting it to the right length, too!

Working together to split the log.

Kiko demonstrates the many stages of spoon making, from the shape of a spoon to how each tool is used.

Students use hatchets and knifes to begin carving out the spoon shape.

Yes, that’s a cow with real cream. What else comes with a coffee break?

Then there is the spoon carving knife! Each knife is hand-made, beautifully crafted, and very sharp. The knife is included with the class, so students take the knife home to make more spoons for family and friends . Kiko mentions everyone should give away the spoons they make today, so they’ll make another one. (Everyone seems attached to their spoon at the end of the day – not sure how many were given away.)

The class doesn’t bother the local resident birds. This bird continues to feed its young just a few feet above all the action.

Mid-day break happens over a farm-fresh lunch. Everyone enjoys just-picked greens, farm-grown polenta, cardoons in a tomato sauce, farm-made cheeses, and the first strawberries of the season topped with Charlene’s own kefir-fermented creme fraiche for dessert.

More instruction, more carving – and the afternoon passes quickly.

“I didn’t believe I’d really make a spoon out of that log today,” a student states. Yet everyone crafts a beautiful and unique wooden spoon to take home.

Because the class was so popular another session has been added on August 15th. For more information or to reserve your seat contact Charlene at 503-357-4992 or at charlene@foodwaysatnanacardoon.com

Rhubarb – A First Sign of Spring

One of the first signs of Spring’s awakening at Nana Cardoon is rhubarb. An herbaceous perennial vegetable native to Siberia it makes its appearance in the early months of the year, typically March.

Rhubarb covered with clay pot

Rhubarb covered with clay pot

We “force” our rhubarb, that is we place an earthen pot called a cloche (reminiscent of the closely fitting woman’s hat) over the barely emerging plant. Our cloches are from England where there is a long standing culture, even celebration of forced rhubarb. The Rhubarb Triangle including the towns of Wakefield, Leeds and Morley are home to several events. wikipedia.org/wiki/rhubarb-triangle has a fun and fascinating posting titled, “History, Cultivation and Culture”.

The function of the cloche can be improvised with a large terra cotta pot and a stone or piece of broken pot to cover the hole. Not as pretty but does the job!

Even in the closed environment of the cloche, the soil is warmed, the plant

grows tall and tender as it reaches for the light. Once the leaves reach the top of the cloche the pot is removed to reveal the most amazing array of colors depending upon the variety, combinations of “hot” lime green, rosy red and pink. Richard prefers to use a mixture of red and green stalk varieties. The red stalk varieties are flavorful, yet mild, while the green stalk varieties have a more complex flavor for the pie.

Spring rhubarb in clay pot

Spring rhubarb in clay pot

It’s become an annual event here: friends gather for the unveiling. We herald with a hearty “Da! Da! Da! Dat! Da!”, followed by exclamations of joy as the colors are revealed.

Each fall our plants are given a one-inch dose of compost and mulched with several inches of decaying leaves. A caution is in order. The leaves are high in oxalic acid, therefore somewhat toxic and not to be eaten.

Richard's rhubarb pie

Richard’s rhubarb pie

We always make something special from these beautiful stalks (petioles). Recipes, both sweet and savory abound. Above is a picture of one of Richard’s famous pies. There is always a secret ingredient, an intriguing accent: crystalized ginger in rhubarb, almond extract in cherry, freshly cracked pepper in strawberry, aged balsamic in apple. We cannot tell you any of the others, or we’d be revealing all his secrets!

We follow British chef and food activist Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall, www.rivercottage.net and use his recipes quite often. Here’s a recipe from The Guardian, ” Pretty in Pink: Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall New Season Forced Rhubarb Recipes”. The recipes range from savory to sweet. We chose the rhubarb and rosewater to illustrate the beauty of simplicity, just enough sugar to lift the rhubarb and enough drops of rosewater to enhance the floral notes. It only needs a shortbread cookie to accompany.

Delicate, delightful ode to Spring!

500 grams (1 lb approx.) rhubarb, cut into pieces

50   grams (4 Tablespoons or to taste) caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons rose water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Slice rhubarb into pieces and place in a baking dish with just the water that clings to it after washing, and toss with sugar. Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, until tender. Cool completely then gently stir in the rosewater, starting with just 1/2 teaspoon, adding a little more at a time until you have the depth of flavor that suits you. Serve with your favorite shortbread cookie.

Rosewater brings out the slightly floral quality of new season forced rhubarb, but if that isn’t your think, use orange flower water or a few drops of best-quality vanilla extract.

Weeds for Dinner – Hortopita

Greek Phyllo Pie filled with Foraged Greens

Illustration of Nana in gardenMaria, highly respected island cook and cooking teacher, Zakynthos, Greece, prepares her Hortopita for the oven in the photo above.

Posted by: our friend, Sotiris Kitrilakis, advocate for the best of traditional Greek foods, island resident and farming enthusiast

The hot sunny days of summer, the crowded beaches, and a multitude of tourists become fading memories by the beginning of November on the island of Zakynthos. The wine grapes have been harvested and the Zante currants have been collected from the drying flats some time ago. The olive harvest is in full swing and so is the rainy season. A carpet of weeds covered the dry, parched earth soon after the first rains. The sheep and goats are not the only ones delighted with the lush new growth. People are also foraging for their favorite weeds known as horta all over Greece. (You’ll recognize the word in the term horticulture).

When I moved to the island a dozen years ago I soon discovered the gift of the first rains, “the wild greens”, euphemism for weeds, at our friend Maria’s table. I went along on the next horta gathering trip. Armed with a short, sharp knife and toting a big plastic bag we walked into the hills behind the village. I soon learned to recognize the dozen or so weeds we were after. It turns out that most of them are varieties of dandelions (cichorium), endives are a domesticated version. Maria was very amused when I told her of the never-ending efforts expended in U.S. suburbia to eliminate them from manicured lawns. “Why don’t you just eat them?”, she said. In addition to the prolific dandelions we collected tender young mustard greens, wild fennel, wild garlic and leeks and a very aromatic parsley-like plant called caucaljda. In less than half an hour we had more than enough for a couple of meals.

The mix of weeds changes over the rainy months as new varieties replace earlier ones gone to seed. Many of the more aromatic plants come along in January and February. The flavor and the texture keeps changing.

The most common preparation is to simply boil the greens for 5 to 10 minutes until they are just tender and to serve them warm with plenty of lemon juice and olive oil. This is the season for the first ripening of lemons and newly pressed olive oil so the timing is perfect. It is impossible to describe the complexity of flavors that comes from the bitter greens and the sharpness of the young oil and the aromas of just picked lemons.

But my favorite dish is the pie, pita, made with a filling of stir-fried horta and feta cheese. It is a winter favorite and, as you can imagine, every pie is different reflecting the weeds used in the filling.

The following is Maria’s recipe based on my observations in her kitchen, she never measures, “she just knows” how much.

For a 10-12 inch pan:

For the shell, the country phyllo:

  • 3 cups               unbleached whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp                  sea salt
  • 1-1/4 cup         warm water
  • 1-1/2 ounces  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TB                 fresh lemon juice

For the filling:

  • 2 TB                extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6                      green onions, chopped, the white and tender part of the green
  • 2 lbs                greens, coarsely chopped (if you don’t have weeds, use cultivated dandelions, chicory, endives, chard, spinach, fennel, etc.)
  • 3 ounces        sheep’s milk feta cheese

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl making a well in the center. Add the water, oil and lemon juice and mix to form a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, cover it with a tea towel and let it rest for at least an hour.

Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onions taking care not to brown. Add the greens and stir-fry until wilted, 7 to 10 minutes. Set aside and let cool. Crumble the feta and add to the greens, mix well.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Shape the dough in to a ball and in two. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on your work surface and roll out one half into a 16-inch round. Brush olive oil on the pan and spread the phyllo round on the bottom. Place the filling in the pan.

Roll out the second portion of the dough, place it on top of the pan and pinch the edges together. Brush the top surface with olive oil and prick with a fork to allow venting.

Bake for 45 minutes to one hour. The top surface should be golden brown. Allow the pie to cool for at least 15 minutes before attempting to cut and serve.

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When we read Sotiri’s evocative copy regarding the gathering and preparation of wild greens we were intrigued to learn the derivation of the English word “horticulture”. We replied to his posting. He indulged us with more research. It all started with the Greek “horto/horta” thousands of years ago.

From Sotiris:

The word “Horta” is derived from the word “Hortos” used in an early version of the Greek language about 4,000 years ago. It meant an enclosed place of land usually used to grow things. It evolved from the earlier, about 5,000 years ago, Indo-European language term “Ghortos” which also mean an enclosed place intended to grow things. The term found its way into other Indo-European languages, “hortus” in Latin, “gortum” in Frygian (Anatolia, now Turkey), “garten” in German, “jardin” in French and, of course, “garden” in English. It was also a precursor for “court”, another enclosed space.

In Greek what grew in a “hortos” is “horta”. In modern Greek “horta” is in use meaning greens/vegetables, but not “hortos”. They also make the distinction calling the “horta” gathered in the wild “wild greens”.

The term must have originated at the time that the hunter-gatherers turned into farmers and had to protect their crops from animals and perhaps the neighbors.