Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Oregon Produces the Best Produce

So, before the weather changes completely, I HAVE to tell you about the farmers market here in Portland. It is absolutely amazing. I had always heard that Oregon produce was great, but experiencing it first-hand has been truly profound. It's one of the first things we sought out when we first moved here, and it has really changed the way we eat at home. We heard the Beaverton market was a good one, and that's the side of Portland we live on, so that has been our market of choice so far. The sights, sounds, and smells at the market are so vivid, it's hard to describe in words, but here's a picture of one spread in particular that I found inspiring.

Portland has 36 different farmers markets in the metro area each week. That's impressive! You can find such a wide variety of produce there, virtually anything you can imagine. And, a wide selection of organically grown fruits and veggies, which is great. I'm a nut for buying organic. You can find lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, purple beans, artichokes, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, marionberries, huckleberries, a phenomenal assortment of cherries (mmm...Rainier), plums, peaches, nectarines, I could go on and on. You can even find fresh flowers:

To me, supporting local agriculture (and organic, at that) is one of the most rewarding things I can do as a community participant. We have had so many meals already that were 100% local (with the exception of spices...sorry). For example, we had a beautiful piece of sockeye salmon that was caught fresh THAT DAY, corn on the cob, organic zucchini, and a fabulous salad of locally grown lettuce, tomatoes (oh, god, the tomatoes... they will change your life). Eating that way really makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

If I can digress for just a moment: Justyn and I did go to the Nashville farmers market downtown when we lived there, and it was one of the most disappointing experiences of my life. Every booth had the same selection of produce: squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn. That's it. I mean, maybe that's all you can really grown in Nashville? Then every now and then you would come across a stand with some strawberries, cherries, plums, etc. But upon further inspection, I noticed a sticker that said "#4309 Product of Mexico". And I'm thinking, "Uhhh... did you grow this? Or did you buy it at the grocery store and mark it up 20% to try to get people to buy from your booth?" LAME. However, I do want to say, that before we moved we had several people recommend the Franklin farmers market to us, which is supposed to be way better. We didn't have time to check it out before we left, though.

Okay, so back to the berries. Oregon berries are soooo good. One market morning I stumbled upon some locally grown, organic blackberries, and I was inspired to make a cobbler. My dad used to make us blackberry cobbler when we were kids in Louisiana, and it has been years since I've had it. We had wild blackberries growing on our property, and that's what we did for fun... go berry-picking. Actually, it wasn't too fun. It was hot and miserable, and the bugs would eat us alive. But, time has a way of dulling such memories, and all that's left is nostalgia. So anyway, the berries. Aren't they pretty?

My friend Amy has a baking blog, which I have mentioned before, and she is often the inspiration for my baking obsession. I also find other really good websites through hers, and happily came across this recipe for cobbler which looked super yummy. (Disclaimer: Do not go to this website if you have little or no willpower. You will regret it, and so will your thighs.) The only change I made to the recipe was substituting Splenda for the sugar because of a diabetic in the family. You may be wondering why I didn't use my dad's recipe for cobbler, and opted to use some stranger's recipe instead. Well.... I guess I knew that even if I used my dad's recipe, it wouldn't be the same as I remember it. I'm already combatting some serious homesickness, so I didn't think it would be wise. Plus, my dad's cobbler was always kind of soupy (which was how we liked it), and I wanted to try something that was a little more cake-like. Here's a picture before it went into the oven:
And after:Mmmm... delicious! It was SO good. I will definitely make it again.

Anyway, if I can leave you with one thought: go to your local farmers market, even if you don't live in Oregon. Farmers work really hard, and it's good to support them. Plus it tastes better and it's better for you.