Anthony & Carol Boutard came to Oregon nearly 30 years ago when Anthony took a job with 1000 Friends of Oregon, an organization established in the 1970s to champion the Beaver State’s revolutionary new land-use laws. After a few years they bought a 144-acre working farm in Gaston, about 30 miles from Portland and started growing food that tastes really good.
From ancient corn and plump Chester blackberries to heirloom beans and deeply flavorful tomatoes, we’re proud to be able to offer the fruits of their labor. And true labor it is; as such, all Ayers Creek fresh produce is available in limited quantities for a limited time.
Carol dug through restaurant trash in Italy to retrieve seeds to grown what they call Astiana tomatoes, named for the region of Piemonte where they found them. Over the years, Anthony and Carol bred these tomatoes and seed selection, and Portland chefs anxiously wait for them toward the end of summer. Meant for cooking, they’ve got the perfect balance of acid and sugar for making soups, sauces, or anything that needs the flavor of a good tomato.
Our friend Kathleen Bauer of Good Stuff NW roasts and freezes them, but canning and drying are other options for putting up your supply.
Strictly speaking, any dried plum can be a prune. These purple-skinned, freestone plums make some of the best-tasting prunes, and so the technically-incorrect name has stuck. They’re very sweet, great for eating out of hand or baking if you don’t have a food dryer. Or make a simple jam: cut in half, remove the pit, slice the fruit, add about 25% by weight sugar, boil while stirring for 10 minutes, then cool. Repeat the process for a thicker jam.
Ayers Creek table grapes, like everything else grown on the farm in Gaston, are selected for flavor. Commercial table grapes taste mostly of sugar, but these taste like, well, grapes.
Erudite as ever, Anthony Boutard categorizes the grapes he grows at Ayers Creek Farm as either fecund or celibate (that’s with or without seeds to the rest of us). He’s been known to offer some gentle scolding about eating the seeded, er, fecund varieties:
“People don’t know how to eat fecund grapes. They spit the seeds into their hands and look as helpless as guppies in a net. It is a childish habit; reliance on celibate sorts is akin to refusing to shed the training wheels on a bicycle or water wings in the pool.” Anthony recommends chewing the seeds, and we happily comply.
And we’re even happier to offer the Boutard’s mysterious celibate variety, the Grape Bereft of a Name (formerly known as No Name). While their ancestry may be cloudy, the flavor of these smallish green beauties is deliciously pure; unencumbered by seeds, the eating is even easier.
Dozens of fires across the Pacific Northwest burn unchecked, and firefighters are stretched thin. Entire communities vanished in minutes, people fled with what they could carry, and, as we’ll learn in the grim days ahead, many didn’t make it out. Those of us fortunate enough to be far from the flames breathe the smoke and look into an eerie, surrealistic sky.
I worked on a fire crew in the Willamette National Forest more than 40 years ago. When you’re digging a hot line, even for a relatively low-key prescribed burn, you begin to understand the power of the fire’s radiant heat. One man fleeing the fire in the Santiam Canyon said he thought his truck would melt.
This unusual weather is supposed to be here for several more days, so be extra careful. Burning of any kind is forbidden, even using the grill. Please give what you can to organizations helping those who have have been displaced. One place to make a contribution is Keep Oregon Green.
Subscribe to our RGF Fresh Box to get a weekly trove of delicious things. Spend $40 for $50 worth of RGF products from daily staples to our newest favorite condiment. Boxes will include ingredients and recipes to make some of our favorite recipes including Musaka’a, Peach Panzanella + burrata, blistered shishitos, the ultimate charcuterie picnic and so much more.