Author Archive

Everyday Favas

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

The American food establishment has deemed that favas are edible only when the seeds are peeled. In our experience shelling the beans raw, then blanching and peeling the seeds is tedious and unnecessary, and robs this amazing vetch of much of its flavor, nutritional value and fiber. Worse yet, a simple, hearty staple has become a fussy, special occasion food, and a daunting one at that.

The best way to prepare favas for everyday use is to bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a handful of salt, a quarter cup or so, and then throw the whole pods into the water. Cook them for about 12 minutes, until the pods are limp. Drain and leave to cool for 20 minutes, or until they are comfortable to shell. A gentle squeeze and the seeds will slip out of the pod. Favas cooked in this manner are free of bitterness and strong flavors. The combination of the heavily salted water and cooking the seeds in the pod makes skin of the bean nutty flavored, and the fresh favas become a much more satisfying dish than the naked cotyledons touted in the food magazines.

These fresh favas can be sauteed with some garlic and olive oil. On her blog, Katherine Deumling, a happy convert to this method of preparing fresh favas, has a recipe for favas in yoghurt, a very traditional was of serving them. For the field day, we prepared a ful made from a combination of fresh and dried favas, along with some chickpeas. The ful was seasoned with some olive oil, lemon, garlic and cumin.

We must credit Mimi Serafi, the mother of our sister-in-law Shirin, who taught us this simple Persian approach to cooking favas. It works and has improved our life. Can’t ask more than that.

Thank you,
Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Frikeh III – Fixing the Problem

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

This piece is from Anthony & Carol Boutard’s August 1st newsletter. Many of you have bought Ayers Creek Farm frikeh through our CSA and at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. I thought you might like to hear what happened to it. You can join the Ayers Creek Farm email newsletter list here for more info. -Laura

Frikeh III – Fixing the Problem

Food, Inc., King Corn, Omnivore’s Dilemma, and a host of other films and books have identified the substantial flaws in our food supply.  These problems seem remote and insurmountable, and the best we can do as individuals is to shift our buying habits.  When the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) uses its rules to say frikeh and other traditional farm products cannot be sold in a farmers’ market, it brings a local dimension to the problem.  Fortunately, we have the ability to initiate constructive changes at the local level.

Farmers’ Markets have been operating in Oregon for almost 30 years.  The oldest still operates in Grants Pass.  The Portland Farmers’ Market started in 1993 and was originally located in the Albers Mills parking area. These markets allowed nonconventional, small scale farmers to survive.  For the first decade or so, the markets were ignored by the ODA.  In the mid 1990s, the bureaucracy started to get itchy as markets started to sprout up in urban areas.  To address the situation, a couple of market managers sat down with ODA staff and crafted a set of guidelines for vendors.  Earlier this year, the agency started an aggressive campaign to increase regulation of farmers’ markets. The agency has decided to draft rules later in the autumn and possibly require licenses for farmers’ market vendors.

Was there an incident that gave rise their concerns?  No. For three decades, Oregon’s farmers’ markets have operated safely, and without any reported food borne illness incidents.  In fact, this exemplary safety record is reflected nationwide.  It is clear that factors other than straight forward food safety concerns are behind the move to further regulate farmers’ markets.  After all, the food safety challenges are arising from the complexities of the food industry that is already regulated by ODA and other agencies, not the simple open air farmers’ market.   Data and science tell us ODA is moving in exactly the wrong direction.

Farewell Frikeh, Part II

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

This piece is from Anthony & Carol Boutard’s July 19th newsletter. Many of you have bought Ayers Creek Farm frikeh through our CSA and at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. I thought you might like to hear what happened to it. You can join the Ayers Creek Farm email newsletter list here for more info. -Laura

In the first installment of “Farewell Frikeh,” we noted that the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) defines “food processing” as the “.  .  .  cooking, baking, heating, drying, mixing, grinding, churning, separating, extracting, cutting, freezing, or otherwise manufacturing a food or changing the physical characteristics of a food, and the packaging, canning or otherwise enclosing such a food in a container.”  While this long recitation certainly includes all activities that happen in food processing factories, the definition also covers many traditional farm activities that fall well short of what we consider processing foods.  Under a strict interpretation of ODA’s rules, all of the activities identified above must take place within a licensed facility. 

Because frikeh involves heating and drying, ODA calls it a “processed food.”  Like many other traditional foods, including raisins, sun dried tomatoes, dried peppers and herbs, frikeh is prepared outside in the field, and not in a factory.  Under ODA’s scheme, if a “processed food” is not produced in a licensed facility,  the agency prohibits the sale of the food.  If California took such a view of food processing, we would have neither raisins, nor domestic sun dried tomatoes and peppers.  Most raisins, for example, are dried on kraft paper trays set out on the vineyard floor.  Some of the newer varieties are dried as clusters attached to the trellis, but still outdoors.  

After learning of Oregon’s approach to regulating food, we decided to see how other states regulate small operations such as ours.  What is immediately striking about Oregon is the lack of any stated policy regarding farmers markets or community supported agriculture (CSA) in either the statutes or rules. Although farmers’ markets and CSA’s have strong support among Oregonians, that support has not translated into written policies concerning direct sales.  As a result, ODA’s default position is to consider farmers’ markets the same as retail stores.  And when farmers stray from the narrow category of fresh fruits and vegetables, they are treated as food processors.  It is as if everyone, from a bicyclist to a heavy truck driver, must get the same Commercial Drivers License (CDL).  No distinction is made between farm based enterprises and multinational corporations.  In fact, ODA has been adamant that no distinction should be made.


Farewell Frikeh

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

This piece is from Anthony & Carol Boutard’s July 5th newsletter. Many of you have bought Ayers Creek Farm frikeh through our CSA and at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. I thought you might like to hear what happened to it. You can join the Ayers Creek Farm email newsletter list here for more info. -Laura

Several years ago, we started experimenting with various grains at Ayers Creek Farm.  Our research led us to an ancient food called “frikeh.”  Produced by farmers since Biblical times, frikeh is wheat harvested while still green, then burned (parched) and threshed.  The resulting grain is jade green with a grassy, sweet and smokey flavor. The green wheat is more nutritious than mature wheat, and high in fiber.  Over the last five years, we have sold frikeh for a short time in early summer. With its smokey quality, our frikeh offers a distinct and exciting variation on normal starchy grains.  It is especially popular with vegetarians.

Frikeh is prepared throughout the Middle East. Until we began our experiments, there was no commercial production of frikeh in the US.  There is a three-day window where the grain, durum wheat, can be burned.  It is a rustic process, the grain is parched in the field on sheets of corrugated metal. Once parched, the grain must then be dried outside on screens covered to protect it from the sun and birds. To see traditional frikeh preparation, go here. Frikeh is an ideal crop for small farms which need to add value to overcome the disadvantage they have relative to “economies of scale.”. For more detail discussion of our experience with the grain and its production, go here.  Because of a new and aggressive direction taken by the Oregon Department of Agriculture Food Safety Division, we will not be able to sell frikeh this summer.  

Here’s the problem.  The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has just decided to define frikeh as a “processed food,” same as Spam, Marshmallow Fluff or Fruit Loops.  Because it is prepared in the field, there is no industrial facility to license. Last week we were notified by the ODA that we are prohibited from selling frikeh.