Author Archive | Edible East Bay

what’s in season

It’s a Green Spring Thing!
By Barbara Kobsar

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Just as those flower bulbs, the daffodils and tulips, welcome the start of the new growing season, the first spring onions and green garlic at the farmers markets do the same. These once-a-year crops show up for only a brief but delectable moment.

Spring Onions

How is a spring onion different from a green onion or scallion? It’s all a matter of maturity. The scallion is the youngest, having been pulled from the ground before its bulb has formed. A green onion has been allowed to develop a very tiny bulb, but its stalks are still delicate. A spring onion is more developed than a green onion but less mature than one of those big, round, everyday onions. Spring onions with their bright green stalks, are not “keepers” like dry onions. You might store them for a week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, but the rule of thumb is to buy them fresh each week to enjoy while the season is upon us.

When baking spring onions, try leaving the root intact to hold the layers together, and leave 2 to 3 inches of greens to add some character to the dish.… Read More

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Brookside Farm

HOLDING TIGHT TO TRADITIONS IN BRENTWOOD

By: Matthew Green

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This is the story of receding farmland, encroaching suburbia, and a three-year-old boy who refused to sell his tree fort.

Within a mile of Brookside Farm, in the Bay Area’s easternmost reaches, Route 4 winds through a maze of sprawling development. Big-box
stores, identical subdivisions, and golf courses stretch unyieldingly across the horizon, covering the softly undulating hills once blanketed
with wheat fields and wildflowers. A serious leap of faith is required to believe that somewhere in this landscape of neon lights and terra-cotta
creations there are still farmers at work pulling produce out of this soil, which is some of the most prime farmland in the country.

In the suddenly too big city of Brentwood, on the far eastern edge of Contra Costa County, Walnut Street meanders through newly poured,
largely vacant concrete villages, fast-food joints, and median strips dotted with “For Sale” signs. A few turns, though, and the blacktop narrows.
Blockbusters and Wal-Marts give way to robust walnut and peach groves behind which fertile fields unfold. The roads
around here—Eureka, Concord, Payne—are almost all named after walnut varieties.… Read More

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Eating in Times of Economic Uncertainty

By Sage Dilts

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I am straining just a bit to hear my grandpa Bob’s soft and gravelly
voice. With his one working vocal cord he is striving to answer my
question about what it was like growing up in Berkeley during the uncertain
times of the Great Depression and the start of the Second World
War. I ask because I wonder how his experience might parallel my current
situation of living in the East Bay, with not a lot of money, during a
time of global financial insecurity.

I am struck, as I always am, by Bob’s memory and by his technical understanding
of how the world works. His analysis of social issues is not
particularly progressive but it is thoughtful and intensely economic. His
bachelor’s degree is from Cal in Agricultural Economics, and he worked
briefly as a farmer and then in agricultural lending until his retirement.

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He explains that the East Bay was a diverse place early on and that
families ate largely according to culture. His own family meals were
based on the preferences of his British-born father, which apparently
meant that his mother boiled vegetables until the flavor evaporated.… Read More

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Season’s Readings

By Cheryl Angelina Koehler

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As dwellers on the edge of a celebrated food-producing
region, we have been witness to the diminution and
degradation of farmlands and the dissolution of family farming.
We know it’s happening throughout the world, but do
we really see? Merely driving down I-80, I-5, or Highway
99 tells us very little about the state of agriculture in California.
Reading Michael Pollan or an Edible Communities magazine (like this one and
many others) might give us insight, but few of us ever take
the time to detour onto the farming roads or stop to talk to the people who live and
work in the Central Valley farming communities. Writer
William Emery and photographer Scott Squire did just
that. From their very intimate research they produced a collection of
luminous essays that meld the observer and the observed. In Edges of
Bounty, the two wander with eyes wide open into the world of the farmers,
shopkeepers, hunters, and gatherers who still manage to live and
work on the edges of bounty—the center of which is now nearly consumed
by the monstrosity of industrial agriculture. The book is a project
of Berkeley’s Heyday Institute, a nonprofit that seeks to “foster an
understanding of the history, literature, art, environment, social issues,
and culture of California and the West.” This is a lively and lovely work
of art that people will page through if you leave it on your coffee table.… Read More

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news from capay valley

The Frog Hole

By Thaddeus Barsotti

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Several years ago, as I was completing my studies at Cal
Poly in Agriculture Engineering, I undertook a
project that was intended to determine the feasibility
of capturing shallow groundwater for use
in irrigating our organic fruits and vegetables during
the summer. I did this by constructing a hole near Cache Creek,
which is the only natural source of year-round water on the farm and
a very good habitat for the farm’s native plants and animals. The water
table beside the creek is quite high, and sure enough, the bottom four
feet of the hole yielded a small pool of water. Unfortunately, I learned
that pumping water from the hole would not be feasible, and as I left
college, I found that in addition to my degree, I now had a hole on the
farm that always had water in it.

After college I moved back to the farm to manage the farming operations,
and as the years passed I kept an eye on the hole with an interest in
observing which native wetland plants would make a home there. One day
I noticed that the trail down to the hole was packed with the footprints
of deer, raccoons, turkeys, and numerous other little critters, all of whom
had recognized that this year-round pond was a great watering hole.… Read More

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Side Dish

A serving of favorite things from the East Bay community

by serena bartlett

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Kitchen Vintage

Its true—we all too often glorify the past, using the phrase “back
in the day” to signify those times when things were simpler, more
understandable. But really, the grass wasn’t always greener, was
it? I find a consistent exception in the area of culinary antiques. I
regularly use my bubba’s pickle jar, her serving utensils, and measuring
cups; and my mother’s copper casserole, flour sifter, and
paring knives. Each of these was made with a lasting quality that
pairs perfectly with the memories of these same tools being used
for generations to prepare delicious family meals. It can be hard
to find the quality or style replicated today except in the high-end
market. Finding such antiques can involve a lot of roaming around,
but on a recent trip to the Niles district of Fremont (where you
might find more antique shops per block than anywhere else on
the planet) I found plenty of shops offering the kitschy and quirky,
as well as the useful and dainty—all at very reasonable prices. I
found oodles of salt and pepper shakers (including some that
were poodle-shaped), Bakelite carving sets, all manner of flatware
(matched and mismatched), hand-cranked beaters, working vintage
toasters, cast-iron pots, baking dishes, and endless other items.… Read More

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caldo de peidra

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CALDO DE PIEDRA
By Francesca Preston

I just came back from Mexico, where I got to eat stone soup. It is a pre-Hispanic dish, practically ancient, and in Oaxaca you can only find it in one roadside restaurant outside the city. In giant letters the sign says CALDO DE PIEDRA. The family who makes the soup is actually from a region eight hours away, where the soup was born, but they received permission from village officials to truck their river stones the distance, and prepare this ritualistic broth in a different place.

It seems that most of us have an idea, a dream-memory, of what stone soup is: the entirely believable fairy tale about having nothing and making a feast from water and stones. I remember thinking about that soup when I was young, wondering if it tasted like the inside of a cave, opaque and mysterious. I’m not sure if I ever got to taste it. But this Caldo de Piedra that I had is real, and curative, and I want to write about it because a great friend has asked me for the meaning of abundance.

So, the soup: You sit in the unadorned space of the restaurant and watch while your food is made.… Read More

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Fall and Winter 2008

contents harvest 2008

6 EDITOR’S MIXING BOWL
By Cheryl Koehler
8 EDIBLE EVENTS
By Serena Bartlett
12 SIDE DISH
By Cheryl Koehler
14 BEYOND THE VICTORY GARDEN
By Tim Kingston
18 THE FERMENTERÍA
By Jeremy Oldfield
22 A FLAVORFUL TOUR OF FRUITVALE
By Cheryl Koehler
26 TODAY’S CATCH:
Current thoughts on sustainable seafood
By Matthew Green
30 GLUTEN-FREE FORAGING
By Kirsten Courtemanche
33 TURNING SUMMER’S KERNELS INTO WINTER’S GOLD
By Elizabeth Linhart Money
38 WHAT’S IN SEASON: ROOT VEGETABLES
By Barbara Kobsar
40 COOKING WITH ROOT VEGETABLES
Recipes from Zater Restaurant & Catering
42 THE PHYSICIST & THE BAKER
By Simona Carini
44 STEAKING IT OUT
By Wanda Hennig
46 A NECKLACE OF GRAPES
By Mark Middlebrook
48 EAST BAY FARMERS MARKETS
50 OUR ADVERTISERS
Cover art by Linda Pedersen
Photo of Alameda Wine Bar on this page by Mark Middlebrook
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