Archive for the ‘Seasonal’ Category

An Introduction to Seed Saving: How-Tos and Local Resources

For the past year, I have interviewed a variety of the vendors that sell products at the Portland Homestead Supply. I have been inspired and fascinated by the diverse ways that these vendors are reclaiming ancient processes and skills, which are in danger of being subsumed by newer technologies. Homesteading, I have discovered, is apprenticing yourself to the skills that have kept the candle of humanity burning for centuries, from farming techniques to blacksmithing to pottery to crafting candles.

Not only does homesteading keep ancient practices alive, it also allows us to live more autonomously within our regional communities. We are more resilient if people within our communities contain the knowledge and skills to produce nourishing food. Already, Oregon has a rich local agricultural economy, but we can support ourselves more fully by spreading knowledge about seed saving to farmers, home gardeners, and anyone else interested.

seed-libraries-and-other-means-of-keeping-seeds-in-the-hands-of-the-people-by-cindy-conner-155092575XIn Cindy Conner’s book Seed Libraries: And Other Means of Keeping the Seeds in the Hands of the People, she proclaims that the most important reason to save seeds is because “whoever owns the seeds controls the foods supply.” In an era where Monsanto owns almost a quarter of the global seed market and intellectual property laws for seeds threaten farmers who save their own seeds, it is important that small scale farmers and gardeners preserve seed varieties that grow well in their climates by practicing seed saving. To parrot Conner, if we own the seeds, we control the food supply.

Seed saving varies dramatically depending on the plant. This article is meant to be an introduction to seed saving and will just scrape the surface of what is possible. The first thing to consider is whether the plant you are working with is an annual or a biennial. The beginner seed saver should start learning by saving the seeds of annual plants, which are much less complicated because you do not have to store the plant over winter in order to harvest the seeds.

Type of Plant Description Examples
Annual Life-cycle completed in one growing season. Corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, broccoli
Biennial Life-cycle completed in two growing seasons (the first year the plant produces vegetables and the second it flowers and seeds). Carrots, beets, chard, rutabaga, cabbage

Seed saving is an intentional practice. You must think about saving your seeds before you have even planted them because you want to prevent cross-pollination. Cross-pollination will occur if you plant different varieties of crops too close together. Thus, if you are serious about seed saving, you must plant your garden with it in mind. Seed Savers Exchange has created a useful chart that lists crops and the isolation distance that a home gardener should leave between plants in order to prevent cross-contamination.

The easiest crops to start learning how to seed save with are self-pollinators, which means the plant’s how-to-save-seed-for-seed-savingflowers contain both male and female parts and can pollinate themselves, thus reducing the chances of cross-contamination by external pollinators. Some common self-pollinators are sunflowers, lettuce, peas, beans, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes.

Within the easy crops listed above, there are two categories categories of crops: wet seeded and dry seeded. The seeds in wet seeded crops are embedded in the flesh of fruits (think tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squashes etc), whereas the seeds in dry seeded crops are enclosed in dry husks or pods (think peas, corn, beans, cabbage, lettuce, etc.) There are different harvesting and processing methods for wet seeds and dry seeds. We shall take on the simple steps for processing pea seeds (a dry seed) and tomato seeds (a wet seed) below.

The first step to saving peas is resisting the urge to harvest every single delectable pea on the plant, thus leaving pods to dry on the plant until they are brown. Harvest them four weeks after one would normally harvest them for eating, and then remove the seed from the dried pod. Place into a paper bag, label, and put in a cool, dry place until you want to grow peas again!

tomato-seeds-940x626To save a tomato seed, you must harvest the tomato when it is ripe, bisect it, and squeeze out the jelly-like substance inside the tomato that contains the seeds. Place the seeds and jelly in a small jar, cover, and put in a warm location for three days, stirring once a day. You are essentially fermenting the seeds; after a few days fungus will appear on the top of the tomato seed mixture. This fungus performs an essential function, eating the gelatinous coat that surrounds the seed. After three days, fill the container with warm water. The viable seeds are heavier and will sink to the bottom, which means you can easily pour out the water, tomato pulp, and immature seeds that are in the top of the mixture. Take out those clean seeds, let them dry completely, and label and store them until the next planting!

There are many helpful resources online for the beginner and advanced seed saver. I have listed a few below.


Vegetable Planting and Seed Saving – Crop-specific planting and seed saving instructions from Seed Savers Exchange

Seed Saving Zine – The Seed Ambassadors Project, a group of organic farmers and gardeners based near Crawfordsville, Oregon, produced a beautiful zine that is a user-friendly introduction to seed saving.


Organic Seed Alliance: A Seed Saving Guide for Gardeners and Farmers – need to enter your email address to download the guide, but it is well worth it!

Seed Saver’s Exchange: Crop-Specific Seed Saving Guide

Saving Seeds from Biennial Plants – informative blog post about biennial plant seed saving

Portland Seed-Saving Resources

For those who live in the SE neighborhood, the SE Tool Library is an amazing resource. Not only do theySoutheast-Portland-Tool-Library-logo have all sorts of tools to rent for free, they also have a seed library. I have picked up sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds, and basil seeds, and given back snap pea seeds and kale seeds. The SE Tool Library has odd hours because they are entirely volunteer run, so make sure you are stopping by on either a Tuesday or Thursday evening or a Saturday day.

If you live in NE, you are not out of luck! There is a NE Tool Library based out of Redeemer Lutheran Church that hosts a seed library as well. They are open on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday daytime.

If you want to participate in a more hands-on experience, various organizations in Portland offer seed-saving classes. One of them, Handmade Gardens, has classes throughout the year focused on different gardening skills. The September 3rd class, Growing Seeds for your Garden and Community, will get your seed saving fire blazing.

The Portland Nursery is also an amazing resource for everything garden related. They get extra bonus points for providing classes to the public for free! There is a Wet Seed Extraction (Tomatoes and Cucumbers) class on August 22nd and a Finishing the Seed Harvest class on September 19th.

In summary, we will be working on our gardens all summer long, nourishing our vegetables to eventually nourish our bodies. But it doesn’t have to end there! As your vegetables and fruits ripen, consider saving the seeds ~ a practice which preserves diversity of agricultural crops, resists the global dominance of monolithic seed corporations, and saves you dollars because you don’t have to buy seeds all over again the next year.


Choosing a CSA

Since their birth in 1986 in the United States, CSAs have expanded so much that the question is no longer “Where can I get one?” but instead an overwhelming “Which one do I choose?” According to surveying done by PACSAC (Portland Area CSA Coalition), there are at least 60 farms that bring food into the Portland metro area. Such an abundance of options can leave one flabbergasted and immobilized. I spoke with Caylor Roling, PACSAC Project Coordinator, to get her perspective on current CSA offerings in the Portland metro region. The first thing Caylor said was, ‘When choosing a CSA, you need to ask yourself, “What are my priorities? Am I concerned with share size, convenient pick-up locations, farm experience, having fresh veggies year round?”’ Caylor helped me realize that the increasing demand for CSAs has enabled farmers to occupy csaniche territory, differentiating themselves by offering models like individual shares, winter CSAs, and CSA models for distributing meat or flowers or plant starts. If rolling out of bed and being able to pick up your CSA a few blocks down from your house is your priority, this City of Portland map of pick-up sites will be your golden ticket. The veritable explosion of CSAs offered in the Portland metro area ensures that if you want it, some farmer out there has got it.  Below is a list of helpful categories featuring local CSAs ~ read on to spring into summer.

CSAs that take SNAP benefits The problem with writing a piece about choosing a CSA is that many Portland residents don’t have the money to make that choice. CSAs are fairly expensive, and historically, share members have had to pay the full cost of the CSA before the beginning of the season so the farmers (who aren’t being subsidized by the govt. or other large corporations) have the start-up money necessary to buy their seeds and fertilizers. This up-front monetary investment is the fulcrum of the CSA business model: it allows farmers to directly market, plan, and finance operations before the start of the growing season while ensuring a consistent demand for the food produced. However, paying $600+ all in one sum can be a large financial burden and is a barrier to the benefits of a CSA for low-income people. In an effort to make CSAs more accessible, a few farms have begun to address this problem by accepting SNAP/EBT payments and enabling SNAP members to pay monthly or weekly, instead of with a lump sum. Zenger Farm, an educational working urban farm in East Portland, has created a website that lists all of the farms in Oregon that accept SNAP benefits. I have highlighted a few below.

Zenger Farm is a pioneering force in making CSAs more affordable to lower-income residents. For SNAP members, they offer a $27 a week CSA share and a subsidized SNAP share at $20 a week.

When: June – November, 23 weeks

What is included: Vegetables, herbs, & a package of beans or grains from Bob’s Red Mill!

Price: Regular shares: $650 made in one, two, or three payments

SNAP shares: $27 weekly payments or $124.20 monthly payments

Scholarship SNAP shares: $20 weekly payments or $92 monthly payments

Pick-Up: Zenger’s Farm or Lent’s International Farmers Market

Winter Green Farm

When: June – October, 19 weeks, with the option of a Late Season Share

What is included: Seasonal vegetables farmed using biodynamic methods.

Price: $555 with different payment plans, including monthly payments.

Pick-Up: SE, NE, and SW Portland.

Farm Experience

47th Ave Farm

In exchange for 12 hours of work during the season, working shareholders at 47th Ave Farm will receive a $30 price reduction. Three work parties and potluck celebrations occur during the summer for shareholders.

When: May 19th – October 27th

What is included: Bountiful veggies!

Price: Half share ($550) and full share ($990)

Pick-Up: SE Portland (Woodstock) and Lake Oswego

Supporting Great Non-Profits There are quite a few CSAs available in Portland that come from non-profit farms. Supporting these farms through subscribing to a share serves a double purpose: getting you fresh veggies and furthering the mission of these non-profits. Check out a few below!

FoodWorks – I have to give a special shout-out to FoodWorks. I interned there a few summers ago, and the work they do is groundbreaking and important. FoodWorks is a youth employment program based on a small farm on Sauvie Island: they provide paying jobs on the farm to youth from the St. Johns neighborhood, teaching them invaluable job skills and giving them a chance to grow into leadership positions like CSA intern or Farmers Market Intern. When you buy a share in their CSA, part of your payment goes towards subsidizing a CSA share for a low-income family. Please think about supporting this amazing organization!

When: mid-June to the end of October, 21 weeks

What is included: 7-12 different vegetables and the Food Works newsletter which details farm happenings, what’s in season, favorite recipes, youth writings and Food Works program updates.

Price: Regular Share: $600, $450 is the base rate and $150 (tax deductible) will be used to offer the same CSA share to a family who might not be able to afford the full price.

SNAP Share: $15 weekly payments, total of $315 for the season.

Pick-Up: Portland State Farmers Market, St. Johns Farmers Market, Village Market, and the Janus Youth Programs Office

Schoolyard Farms is a Milwaukie-based non-profit whose mission is to educate youth and health and nutrition through hands-on experience in the garden. Their work is made possible by the financial support of CSA members.

When: June – October, weekly

What is included: five small bunches of different seasonal vegetables, weekly

Price: $275 for an individual share

Pick-Up: SE and NE Portland, Milwaukie

 Individual Shares Having too many vegetables is a ridiculously abundant problem, but the average share size of CSAs is meant for families or those who are sharing food. In the past, a CSA has not been practical for someone living alone. The market has evolved to offer smaller, individual sized shares so that if you don’t want to share, you don’t have to.

Our Table Cooperative

When: They offer CSAs for each of the four seasons.

What is included: An assortment of vegetables.

Price: Prices vary by season, but Summer 2015 is $121.52 – $124 for an individual-sized share.

Pick-Up: Various Locations around Portland.

Full Cellar Farm

When: June – October, 22 weeks

What is included: Small share of vegetables that you get to choose! Each week, an email is sent out with a list of the available crops, and you get to choose six to eight items that you want.

Price: $350

Pick-Up: SE and NE Portland, Gresham

 CSAs that Extend Beyond Summer and Fall We are extremely lucky that we live in a climate where vegetables can grow all year round! I have been receiving winter vegetables from Full Plate Farm out of Ridgefield, WA since November. They are sweet and nourishing and large after growing slowly during the winter months ~ I even received a bold purple beet that was as large and round as my face. Check out the farms below that have diversified their businesses by growing vegetables year round.

Pumpkin Ridge Gardens

When: All Year Round – 52 weeks!

What is included: Seasonal Veggies all year round.

Price: $1560 for the full year, $30 per week

Pick-Up: Various Locations in the Portland metro area.


Full Plate Farm

When: November – March, 24 weeks

What is included: Gorgeous winter vegetables.

Price: $725.

Pick-Up: Various locations around Portland.

Diversification of CSAs (Alternative, Non-Veggie CSA Models) The CSA model has extended to several different markets as part of what local non-profit Ecotrust calls The Future Economy. Akin to the vegetable CSA model, you can receive a weekly supply of flowers, meat, seedlings, fish, and many other goods directly from the farmer (or fisherman) that grows or harvests them. 

Kamama Flowers

When: May – September, weekly

What is included: Flowers sourced from their farm and partner farms made into beautiful bouquets and delivered right to your home.

Price: $400, $20 a week for 20 weeks

Pick-Up: No pick-up ~ It’s home delivery!


Winslow Food Forest

Winslow Food Forest offers both a Harvest share, which includes a half dozen eggs, veggies, greens, herbs, and fruits, but more uniquely offers a Seedling Subscription, in which you select a variety of seedlings and they deliver the plants right to your door timed for outdoor planting.

When: April – June

What is included: 12 plants a month with the full share and 6 plants a month for the half share.

Price: Full Share ($125), Half Share ($75)

Pick-Up: Delivered to you!


Moomaw Family Farm

When: Year-Round

What is included: Conveniently portioned cuts of grass fed, pasture-raised meat ~ you choose what’s in your box.

Price: Half-Size (60 lbs of meat a year): $588, Full-Size (120 lbs): $1,152

Pick-Up: No pick-up ~ delivered to your home once a month.


Iliamna Fish Company

When: Share distributed during August and September

What is included: 21 pounds of wild sockeye salmon harvested from their Alaska fishery

Price: Approximately $10.85/ lb

Pick-Up: Inner Southeast Portland


Mama Tee’s Farmstead

When: June – November, 22 weeks

What is included: This is where it gets good. Mama Tee’s has a traditional veggie CSA, but also collaborates with several other farms to offer egg shares, bread shares, and meat shares. Who needs to go to the grocery store anymore?

Price: Prices vary depending on share choice.

Pick-Up: Missionary Chocolates in NE Portland

I hope that this article has served as a matchmaker, helping you to find a CSA that compliments your needs. To learn about even more choices, you can visit Portland Area CSA Coalition’s website, where they have provided us with a comprehensive list of CSAs in the area. Happy CSAing! Note: Portland Hmo

Filling My Pantry

HarrietMy oh my, what a busy season it has been. We all knew it was coming but who really remembers in early Spring as we rush to find the earliest of strawberries for making jam? No, this is our lot in life and, for me, there is no turning back.

Living and eating by the seasons and from your pantry is not only what we do but what we are and I dare say the farmers are glad for it. At least I would assume so given their smiles at the last Fill Your Pantry Event I attended.

The event held on November 3rd in Corvallis, Oregon and sponsored by the Ten River’s Food Web was promoted as “a one-day farmers’ market offering bulk quantities of beans, grains, storage crops, and preserves. We believe this event is a great way to facilitate local eating throughout the fall and winter months. It also allows our local food farmers, ranchers, orchardists, beekeepers, and cheesemakers to move large quantities of produce before the winter season while demonstrating the ability to raise edible staples across the Willamette Valley.”

For the past four years I have made the pilgrimage to what is arguably one of my favorite events of the year. Of course I’m a bit strange but the mind and heart can burst with the energy of the local food movement. That I get to be a part of it gives me pride, farmwife pride, a cook-in-the-winter-kitchen pride.Fill your pantry

Fill your pantry 3The winter kitchen is a lovely place to be. Besides all those delicious long-simmering soups, stews, casseroles and my-oh-my pies, it is the reason for the season of our madness. It is where we put all the good work filling our pantry to the good work of feeding our friends and family.   This is the logic of the system – from seed to pantry and back around. This is the logic of the farmwife but somewhere along the line folks got too busy to cook so industry took over. Slowly folks are returning to the task but not without others spitting bullets about the notion that good old fashioned home cooking is anything other than tyranny.

There are a lot of valid reasons why folks feel over burdened in this world. Hell’s bells if there aren’t and I would be the first to say our modern world has turned the home place into little more than a way station between obligations. Cooking? Home cooking? Are you kidding me? I get it but I will say that a nation of home cooks can do more to change the culture of farming or economics in America then almost anything else I can think of.

My rationale for that statement is longer than I can post here but home cooking is a powerful tool particularly when done in support of the local farming movement. It gives them an outlet for what may otherwise not suit markets and chefs because we home cooks know that a blemish here and there does not matter. Moreover, we are invested with the skills and desire to avoid packaging and understand how the main becomes the many.

10712947_817535758269155_2265384268620865158_nWheat berries, for example, bought whole and either cooked as a side dish or cracked for porridge or ground for flour or bulgur or, or, or, allows for a myriad of transformations and a whole wheat berry, properly stored, will last well into the next season. Ground into flour, on the other hand, the germ of the wheat berry is exposed to air and can become rancid over time which is why flour should be stored in the refrigerator. This principle applies to so many other ingredients that, with a little bit of knowledge, a fully stocked winter pantry can become an invitation for endless innovation without taking up room in the fridge.

This is the way your grandparents or great grandparents or someone’s grandparents used to live and it is inspiring to see how many folks are catching on.  Heck, when I first started on this journey I had to access information on winter storage from the archives of my local extension office. Now they are displayed proudly and what a lovely thing that is.

Fill your pantry 2So while home cooking is not everyone’s path it is a yummy way to support your local farmer. Perhaps next year we will be able to have such and event in Portland. Certainly we have enough talent and heart to pull it off. For now, however, I will keep my 2015 calendar marked for this event since it is one of the highlights of my year. Oh, and if you want to get in on the action this year there is still time. The Willamette Farm and Food Coalition is hosting a Fill Your Pantry event on November 16th between 1-5. To get more information follow this link. Until then, happy winter cooking.



Success with Low Sugar Jams

More than ever before, customers have been in the shop asking about low and no sugar jams. I’m glad they’re doing their research, because jumping into low-sugar jams involves a little more than simply cutting out sweetener. Sugar isn’t just in jam for the flavor, it serves a very real role as a preserving and thickening agent. When heated, the sugar actually binds with water and pectin, thickening the texture. If you’ve ever tried converting your favorite old-timey recipe by skipping the sugar, you know that the result is anything but gelled.

IMG_2036The classic product that we carry for low and no sugar jams is Pomona’s Universal Pectin. This company has been around for over 30 years, and creates a great product with no preservatives that is certified GMO free.

Though I’ve made classic jams, I hadn’t dabbled in low-sugar recipes before. I needed to give this stuff a try. I had heard there was an extra step of mixing up “calcium water” (provided with the pectin) to provide gelling assistance. Would be complicated to work with two ingredients? I whipped up a quick batch of strawberry jam at the shop to find out, and I’m glad to say that I’m completely happy with the results.

Each pack of Pomona’s comes with directions inside. These directions are also available to download for free on their website. The recipes aren’t fancy, but they allow you to make jam with the bare minimum ingredients. I chose strawberries, as we’re nearing the end of the first flush here in the Portland area. The directions give clear ingredient lists for whichever type of fruit you choose. I followed the following recipe, but skipped the water bath at the end. This test batch will be gone soon!


Ingredients (for a 4 cup yield):

4 cups of strawberries, hulled and mashed

1/2 to 1 cup of honey OR 3/4 to 2 cups sugar

2 tsp pectin

2 tsp calcium water*

*From the Pomona’s packet, put 1/2 tsp. white calcium powder and 1/2 cup water in a small, clear jar with lid. Shake well. Lasts many months in refrigerator. Freeze for long-term storage. Do not discard unless settled white powder discolors or you see mold. Shake well before using.


1) Wash and rinse jars (4 oz up to 16 oz); let stand in hot water. Bring lids to boil; turn off heat; let stand in hot water. Wash screw bands; set aside.
2) Prepare fruit or juice. Measure fruit or juice into pan with lemon or lime juice (if called for in recipe).
3) Add proper amount of calcium water from jar into pan; stir well.
4) Measure sugar or room temperature honey into separate bowl. Thoroughly mix proper amount of pectin powder into honey or sugar.
5) Bring fruit or juice to a full boil. Add pectin-sweetener. Stir vigorously 1-2 min. to dissolve pectin while mixture returns to full boil. Remove from heat. For Jello: pour into bowl(s); cool; refrigerate until jelled. [Note: I wasn’t making jello, but I did refrigerate my jam to cool it quickly to a spreadable consistency].
6) Fill jars to 1/4” of top. Wipe rims clean. Screw on 2-piece lids. Put filled jars in boiling water to cover. Boil 10 min. (add 1 min. more for every 1,000 ft. above sea level). Remove from water. Let jars cool. Check seals; lids should be sucked down. Eat within 1 year. Lasts 3 weeks once opened.


If you’ve got the basics down and want to try a more involved recipe, Pomona’s has many delicious versions on their website (Sweet Cherry-Rhubarb Jam is next on my list). If you’re more interested in a book on the subject, we carry Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin, filled with additional recipes and tips for working with low sugar recipes, or using honey, fruit juice, or other alternatives to sugar.

Interview with Tonia Lordy (Home Orchard Society)

We’re happy to introduce our guest writer Anna Daggett to the blog. Anna will be interviewing local businesses and individuals connected to urban homesteading, posting them here for you to learn a bit more about us and the community that surrounds our shop. Enjoy!


Tonya with truckPortland’s spastic early summer weather shepherds in desires of hotter days when the first fruit harvests are rushed into grocery stores and farmer’s markets and our own palms. Have you imagined the first peach or plum of the summer, juice dripping down your chin with no abandon? Have you ever imagined a fruit CSA, fresh, scrumptious fruit of intriguing varieties being delivered straight from an orchard to you every week?

Oregon City’s Home Orchard Society delivers that and more to the Portland community. The Portland Homestead Supply is one of three pick-up spots for the Home Orchard Society’s fruit CSA. Below is an interview with Tonia Lordy, the manager of the Home Orchard Society, which is a non-profit nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to “assist both novice and expert fruit growers, preserve heirloom fruit varieties, and promote the science, culture, and pleasure of growing fruit at home.”

When did your interest in growing fruit begin and where did you acquire the skills that you have now?

I’ve been working with plants for the last fourteen years. I moved from Detroit, Michigan out here five years ago. I was already in horticulture school in Michigan, and I came out here to finish up my schooling at Clackamas Community College. As part of the curriculum, you have to do an internship. I had taken a fruit tree course with the old manager of this orchard and fell in love with fruit about three years ago. I fell in love with the trees, how they grow, how amazing they are, and how they responded to my care. And then I started tasting the fruit. And it’s like, “Wow, you trees really are special!” Ever since then, I’ve interned here, and then I was hired as a gardener under Monica Maggio, who was the second manager that Home Orchard Society has had. Now I’m the third manager!

How do you see your work fitting into the larger homesteading movement?

Not a lot of people know how to grow fruit. Many more people are familiar with how to grow vegetables, but growing fruit remains a mystery to the majority of people. If one tomato fails, people can rely on the other tomatoes that they have planted or look forward to the next season. However, growing fruit is a long-term investment in time. It takes three to five years for most trees to bear fruits. If fruit is not grown properly, people don’t know what to do when they run into problems. It is scary! We train and teach people who are interested in growing fruit in their backyards how to do so successfully.

Budding fruitHow many fruit varieties does the Home Orchard Society grow?

There’s over 500 trees. There is over 200 kinds of apples, 80 different kinds of European pear, 30 different kinds of Asian pears, 60 or 70 different kinds of grape, 3 different kinds of kiwi, 5 kinds of figs, probably 15 different kinds of cherries, 15 kinds of blueberries, 12 different kinds of quince, and then there’s medlar, goumi berries, honey berries, which are actually haskaps, a honey suckle that has edible fruit. They look like an oblong blueberry and they taste like a cross between a strawberry and blueberry. They’re amazing! We harvested them three weeks ago.

So they’ve already gone..

Way gone! Sorry. And then there’s pawpaw, which is a native fruit to North America, which people liken to a banana custard. We also have pineapple guava, which are very tiny and usually ripe by early December. The flesh is very tart; they taste like a Sweet Tart! They’re pretty amazing. Then there’s the currants. We put in 30 strawberry currants this year. We are planting raspberries and caneberries back into this orchard because we used to have them and then they got diseased. We are trying to put in different varieties that are more suited to this site.

Tell me about the CSA that Home Orchard Society will be delivering to Portland Homestead Supply this summer.

This will be our second year doing the CSA. I started it last year because it was very hard to market the apples we have been growing. People at farmer’s markets get confused and overwhelmed by the varieties we grow. The CSA was a good way to force people to try new varieties. We plan on placing notes in each CSA box with information on the variety and the recommended use of each variety. Fruit CSAFor example, one of the varieties that we might include in a CSA box is Ashmead’s Kernal, which is an English style desert apple with russeted skin. It is not very pretty, but it is crisp, tender, and tart. I like to eat it right off the tree.

There will be three CSA pick-ups: one right here at the orchard on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9:00 – 3:00, one in the Cully neighborhood on Wednesdays, and one at the Portland Homestead Supply on Fridays. The CSA will run for seventeen weeks from July 29th to November 18th. An individual share will cost a total of $225 and will be 3 -5 pounds of fruit a week. A family share will cost a total of $375 for 7 – 9 pounds of fruit a week. In the first week, the CSA box will have plums, figs, and early apples. Later on, the boxes will have European pears, Asian pears, more apples, grapes, kiwi berries, and unique fruits such as goumi berries, medlar, and quinces.

What fruit would you recommend for Portland homesteaders or people who are just starting to grow fruit?

Tonia pruningFigs. Definitely. Desert King or Lattarula figs because they are disease and pest resistant. The apples that are out there; they have some good ones that have some really good resistance to pest and disease. They’re not people’s favorites, but there are some good varieties that are disease and pest resistant. Being open and aware of those varieties is key. Asian pears are pretty well suited for our area and they have a lot less disease and pest issues than most pears and apples.

What kind of apple varieties would you recommend?

Akane is a good one. There is Mcshay, and Duchess of Oldenburg is also great. As far as European pears, I would recommend Orcas, Rescue, and Suji, which is a winter pear.

Where can you buy these varieties?

The Akane is pretty popular. The places that I would recommend to buy fruit trees are One Green World and Rain Tree Nursery. One of the most important things is to make sure that whomever you are buying a fruit tree from can tell you what rootstock its on.

Why is that important?

People will put that it’s a semi-dwarf or dwarf tree, but then I always get calls saying “I bought this dwarf tree and now it’s twenty feet tall. Now what do I do?” So the rootstock imparts dwarfishness. You have to find out what the rootstock is. The rootstock will also impart disease and pest resistance and ability to live in different soils. So if the grower or retailer is not reputable and does not know what rootstock the tree is on, I would never buy it from them because you’re going to end up with problems with the tree. And it is an investment! It is a tree that is going to be twenty feet tall when you are expecting one that is going to be six feet tall. I get a lot of people who call me and say, “Oh, I got this great deal on fruit trees from Home Depot and they’re twelve dollars.” And it’s like oh my gosh, don’t buy the cheapest tree you can find just because it’s a cheap tree. You’re going to pay the same price at One Green World, but they’re going to have more knowledge of what the tree’s characteristics are going to be.

Do you have any resources to share with a wider community of how people can get involved?

We do a lot of classes; I’m slowly adding more classes to our roster. A lot of the stuff that we do with the board members is workshops, but I’m trying to do more hands-on classes. We also take volunteers without registering, just show up with gloves! There’s always something to learn here. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, the Arboretum is open to volunteers. Everything that we do and learn is seasonal. So the volunteers that came out last week learned about fruit thinning and why we thin fruit, the volunteers that come out in January and February learned about winter pruning, the ones that come out in August will learn about summer pruning. There’s a lot of weeding that goes on. When you’re in a group of people doing menial tasks and everyone’s asking questions of each other, everyone has had a different experience. So the person next to you could be an expert apple grower. Especially in this place because our volunteers are generally pretty skilled so they have a lot of knowledge that you can glean from them. That’s how I learned everything. Just ask a lot of questions!

Tonia with treeDo you have any “pro-tips” for people who are starting out?

Take hands-on classes because people who just read the books tend to be really shy about pruning and caring for their trees. Then it gets to be five years old and the tree is already overgrown. Start pruning and training from the moment you put it in the ground. You let them get too old and crazy, they’re not going to behave like you want them to.

Are there any good challenges or anecdotes that you have about growing food that you would want to share with people?

It’s not something to take lightly because a lot of issues are going to come up. There are going to be pests, no matter what. You can manage an orchard organically, but do your research, do your homework, hang out with other people that grow fruit or have experience. Don’t be scared of the trees. Trees are pretty forgiving. Right plant, right place. That is the first thing they tell you in any horticulture program. You know, if you’re putting a sun plant in the shade, you’re going to have ten times more problems. You think you’re going to grow an olive in Oregon successfully, you not. Think you’re going to grow a mission fig in Oregon successfully, you’re not. So, right plant, right place. We’ve got some weird varieties of figs that can grow in Oregon, so grow those ones instead of the favorites! Right plant, right place.

Tonya at gateA lot of the trees here are stone fruits. They don’t do well in heavy soils. They get extremely diseased, and we have a really hard time managing them. Stone fruits have a stone in the middle: cherries, plums, peaches, etc. We only have one peach tree because they are so disease ridden in this neck of the woods. They cannot handle so much rain. The peach orchards that you see in the area spray very heavily in order to get local peaches in the Willamette Valley. Most of them are not organic. If you are finding organic peaches, they are probably coming from California or the east side of Oregon. The east side of Oregon is about as local as you’re going to get an organic peach.

How would you recommend people get involved if they want to get involved?

They can go to our website. There’s a link on there to the Arboretum and it has all my contact information.