Thursday, September 23, 2010


An often overlooked member of the onion, and garlic family, leeks are an amazing ingredient on the savory side of the kitchen. When grown they can either go over winter, and be an early spring harvest, or a late summer harvest. chances are your local grocer has them year round, and grown in the USA, and because they grow easily, they also tend to be on the inexpensive side. This bundle costed me less than $2.00. they also have a ton of usage applications. They are fantastic sauteed over fish, in stocks with your mirepoix, and the leaves are great to tie vegetables for a fantastic presentation, or to tie around a bouquet garni (a mixture of fresh spices that sits in a stock- tied for easy removal). The perfect application for leeks is a leek and potato soup that when served cold is called vyshisoisse (vish-ee-swa). A fantastic rainy day fall lunch.

When buying leeks look for heavy, full, and bright. The leaves shouldn't have any discoloration. The leaves are always discarded as they tend to be very fibrous and bitter. I usually cut just above where they begin to change from dark green leaves into the lighter green stalk. They grow in layers so dirt will pack into some of the layers making them one of the few vegetables that should be cleaned after cutting. Rinse them well, trim the top, then cut the root end off, quarter or half them, then slice them fine. Put them in a large bowl and cover them with water. Allow them to soak for at least a few minutes, stirring often to allow the water to separate the dirt from the flesh.  The dirt should sink to the bottom. Pull them out, don't dump them, and then give them another good rinse with cold water in a collander.

Some classic applications are sauteed with clams, soups, and stocks. I really like them sauteed over a baked potato, grilled with beef, braised in a salad, or crispy fried as a cool snack or garnish. Regardless of your intended use they are very approachable, and easily procured.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Razor Clams

The pacific coast razor clam can be located from Northern California to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Like foraged mushrooms they are one of our greatest and least expensive delicacies. I work with them often, and have breaded and cooked thousands. Recently a chef whom i have known for sometime, and have much respect for, asked me to come to his cooking school and teach a class about them. In tern my spare time thoughts for the next few weeks will consist of becoming a razor clam connoisseur. Needless to say i am ridiculously nervous. I will teach the Saturday class in the beginning of October with him there to help, and oversee. And then again on my own later in the month. I would complain to all of you but its a great opportunity, and will push me to become a better cook. If the class was about making stock, or knife cuts, or something I could just stroll in 10 minutes before it started and get to it. That is not the case with the razor clams though.

Available usually from mid spring until fall (recreationally), and all you need is a permit ($20-$25) a low tide, some boots, and a shovel or clam gun. On a good morning some of the pros i know can catch their limit in a matter of 30 minutes or so. Stored in ocean water, they will last (alive) in the fridge for a few days. Or some people with just rinse them and set them in the fridge for a day or so. Regardless the need is to get them cleaned and eaten or frozen as soon as possible. While ceviche, steamed, soups, chowders, etc are all wonderful applications, most people want them breaded and pan fried. Served with some sort of familiar and simple sauce and a wedge of lemon. We three stage ours at the restaurant with panko, but traditionalists will use cracker or bread crumbs of some sort.

Commercial harvest happens in parts of Washington, Canada, and a few different areas in Alaska. the commercial industry is highly regulated so in fresh form they are tough to find, available maybe 10-20 times a year. The upside is once cleaned they have a great shelf life (for a seafood product) and will last a good 10 days on ice. We were seeing them fresh even less until part of the Washington coast decided that they would allow commercial clamming once a month for a day. Keep in mind though that samples have to be taken and all shellfish can be prone to what we call a "red tide".  A red tide means that the water toxin levels are at a abnormally high level and will stop clamming, or catching of all shellfish, until the tide passes and the water is deemed safe again. Regardless of commercial, or recreational this has a pretty big effect, and usually causes me to run out on a few different menu items (a chefs, server, or managers worst case in the restaurant business).  Always check any local warnings immediately prior to going clamming, or crabbing. You also need a really low tide, and fairly good weather to get the harvesters to go out. There was more than a few times in the last year that one of those three things have failed to line up with the picked harvest date.

The other tough thing about razor clams is that they are very hard to clean. This is a living creature up to that point that buries itself in the sand, so they are pretty dirty and sandy. Once dug they are usually blanched in boiling water to open the shell, then iced to prevent cooking at this point. peeled away from the shell, then attacked with either a paring knife or a pair a scissors the first cut is up the zipper to open up, and then through both of the valves. The gills have to be removed as does the kidney. All of this usually happens at a sink under running water to continually rinse the sand away. A few serious razor clam guys i know can do about 1 clam every 90 seconds or so. Some cut the actual "digger" part of the clam off and others like to leave it all in one piece. Once a razor clam gets to this point (the most available product will look like this) they are called razor clam steaks. The jury is also out on the neck. The neck contains the valves and can be pretty tough. Some cut it totally off, others tenderize it with a meat mallet, and others still leave it and consider it part of the animal. At work we have to be very careful not to put the neck on the plate in a presentation that will lead the customer to have it be the first bite. Usually if you aren't familiar with the texture they will be a disappointment as they aren't as tender as most of the clams most people eat on a regular basis. Once overcooked they are the equivalent of a car tire. As far as cooking to prevent that, you need a hot pan (cast iron) and a fair amount of fat. The goal is to get them brown as quick as possible, and are overcooked after much more than about 60 seconds a side.

I am amazed at the dedication of some razor clam enthusiast. Up very early in the morning to clog around in the wet sand and rain to catch a limit of clams, only to come home to spend 2 hours cleaning them. That being said they are absolutely delicious, and a tradition that many people grew up doing, and continue to do with their families.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


The beginning of local forage mushrooms is upon us. I am fortunate to live in an area that has a wealth of them, and fortunate to know the people that are willing to spend their spare time walking abandon logging roads in search of them. Like raspberry jam, of the locally available forage mushrooms the chanterelle is king. While prices wont exceed that of a few of the other popular types of mushrooms, they are highly prized for versatility, availability, taste and texture. Rather than post about mushrooms as a whole, I wanted to focus on them individually. As they become available to me I hope to be able to post a picture of each of the different kinds i interact with.

Depending on weather chanterelles are usually the first of the fall mushrooms available. They are also the most plentiful on the Oregon Coast. With the rain that we have been having for the last week or so they should be out in full force, which will help flood the market, and keep the price reasonable. If you are unfamiliar with true "wild" or "forage" mushrooms, you are missing out. There is a lot to learn here, and i am not even going to scratch the surface. Most of the varieties of mushroom you see in the store were at one time wild, but now are cultivated. Chances are they are grown somewhere near you, and they are available year round. Some types you can expect to see in almost any grocery store are- shitake, portabellos, crimini (baby portabello), oyster, button, etc. There is nothing wrong with any of these types of mushrooms, and some are fantastic. Perfectly suited for your day to day cooking. As we work our way up the mushroom ladder though we begin to come across some mushrooms that can not be cultivated. Therefore they must be hunted. That process is called "foraging". People go out to the woods and find them. It is important to note that they aren't on the side of the road either. I know plenty of people that will hike 3 miles up a logging road to find that one secret patch of them. Most of them also wont tell you where they find them, so its a hard business to get into. A lot of what is picked is sold directly to restaurants in what usually goes down like this-

forager (whom i have never met)- Josh- i have about 15# of chanterelles, 1 hedgehog, 5# of lobster, and 2 good sized chicken of the woods. you want in?
Josh- they clean?
forager- kind of
Josh- how much do you want for them?
forager- well what are they worth (my first clue he has no idea what they are worth)
Josh- I will give you (insert ridiculous lowball number here) per #.
forager- was hoping to get (insert ridiculous high number here)
Josh- hmmm. alright. Wanted all the chanterelles and the hedgehog but i cant go that high.
forager- if you want them all maybe i can work something out for you.

it goes on and on. then the person shows up, we weigh them together, on my scale, and he scribbles an invoice on a guest check and i cut him a check. its odd, but happens three or four times a week this time of year. There is some major movement on pricing as it just depends on the market. Earlier in the season chanterelles will be pretty spendy, but will come down a bit as we get some saturation. Also no one has to feed the chanterelles, or own the land they grow on, or slaughter them, so essentially i am only buying the guy who picked thems time or effort. Definitely debatable as to how much that is worth.

If your interested in locating some chanterelles then there are quite a few good books on the subject, but none i know well enough to recommend. I shouldn't have to explain that this can be dangerous work as well. Some of the varieties that exist are deadly poisonous, and foragers are known to protect their secret spots. If you are like me and that sounds like way to much work then some of them will be available at high-end grocery stores in the coming months (a tough one because to get them to a grocery store they have probably changed hands three times- met a guy once who considered himself to be a mushroom broker). They are also available in dried form all over the Internet. Though many of them dry well, the chanterelle actually doesn't so i will buy as many as i can find, and them saute them, cryo-vac them, and then freeze them. They are a treat in fresh form and always a welcome fall sight. I have a blast figuring out all the different things i can use them for. In essence they sum up fall flavors, and colors for me. Perfect with salmon, chicken, steak, pork, or pasta. If you can bribe a friend, everyone should go out mushroom picking at least a few times, pouring down rain, cold, stomping through the forest in search of pure, unaltered, organic, sustainable, chanterelle mushrooms, that wont cost you anything. It could be one of natures best gifts.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Filet Mignon

Cut from the tenderloin section of a steer or heifer, the filet is the most tender piece of meat on the animal. every animal probably only yields about 8-12#'s of tenderloin (two per animal-one on each side of the spine) total, so with trimming and cleaning you are looking at close to 7-8# of total, center cut, product that is available for steak usage. this means they are always expensive, on the other hand they are perceived to have amazing value to them as well. many people consider it to be a real treat (we sell more filets at work on New Years Eve than any other night of the year). personally,  i am not a big fan. i dont like the soft, almost mushy texture of most filets. they are in an area of the animal that gets no work, doesnt bare any weight, or have any movement, and they dont contain any fat, and the result is what is, in my head, the equivalent of eating a beef pillow. if i am going to eat steak i want it to have a bit more fight to it. for the same reasons mentioned a lot of restaurants will serve a sub-par filet as it doesnt contain any give in the first place. it is usually tender regardless so people can get away with selling dairy cow filets. furthermore it is rarely available "dry aged" which wont help the mushy problem i mentioned at all. bottom line is, if it sounds to good to be true it probably is. a good filet will be spendy, always. some things worth mentioning-

wellington- a wellington traditionally is a filet of beef wrapped in puff pastry, baked to a golden brown. while it sounds easy it is a amazingly difficult dish to pull off, and my hats off to chefs and cooks that are brave enough to be selling it on menus. the beef will cook at a totally different rate then the puff pastry will, so the steak has to be seared first then wrapped. the puff will burn in a hot oven so it takes a long time as well.  then it has to be pulled from the oven and served. there is no peeking or poking to check doneness, and you cant fake it. wellington will also often contain a mixture of mushrooms packed around the steak then wrapped in the puff pastry.

Chateaubriand- is a bigger chunk of beef tenderloin that is usually served for two people. often carved tableside in thin slices

Tournedos- technically the French only consider the small end of the tenderloin true filet mignon. as the muscle gets larger they call those steaks tournedos. usually two thick slices of steak (think 3-4 oz each) seared or grilled.

Au Poivre- while classically a NY steak pepper seared then topped with a sauce of brandy and cream, i see it on menus as a filet dish fairly often.

barding- when you wrap a cut of lean meat with a fat it is called barding. this if often done to even the total fat in the protein, and give a better mouthfeel. the most popular example is a filet mignon wrapped with bacon.  conceptually its a grand idea, problem is it is never executed correctly. again the steak will cook at a totally different rate then the bacon. not to mention when you grill a filet (or any steak for that matter) the sides of it dont get any heat, and are very prone to cause flare-ups on the grill, so the fat wont render out of the bacon, and instead you get par-cooked, limp bacon, or a burnt steak. neither one is very good. your call but dont be disappointed when you are presented with some stringy, fatty, razor thin slice of bacon. there are better ways to bard, and better products to bard off. a better idea would be to mount the sauce with more fat, or the starch to keep a per bite balance on your palate.

if you are looking to entertain family or friends and want to blow it out of the park a whole tenderloin may not be a bad idea. they are available at my local costco for a respectable price. they are relatively easy to clean and prep (i am sure a you tube video exist, or hey just ask me) and you could easily cut 8 steaks out of a decent sized tenderloin. not to mention you get all of the fun trim parts. you will pay too much money to waste any of it so be wise with your usage.

one last tip- i am sure you have seen the diamond marks on grilled foods at restaurants. this is a amazingly easy trick to pull off at home. when grilling on a really hot grill place your oiled and salted steak on the grill and allow it to cook for a few minutes, grab your tongs and turn the meat exactly 90 degrees, allow to cook for the same amount of time, turn over, repeat. you never want to touch grilling meat more than you have to, so you have to estimate how long the steak will need to cook and time your turns to match. the picture is a few of the 70 filets i needed to mark yesterday for a banquet last night. no pressure, those steaks only costed well over a thousand dollars.

no matter what, always remember that a whole animal was slaughtered to put 16-18 filets on plates across the world. it is not an injustice to that animal to cook them, appreciate them, treat them with dignity, and enjoy the work and life that went into their cooking, fabrication, aging, and butchering. season them, temper them, cook them, rest them and serve them with the respect they deserve. a good filet, some salt, and some heat will speak for itself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Most of the year i use canned tomatoes at home. as consumers we have become accustomed to being able to walk into a grocery store in December and buy tomatoes. in tern my thought is that we actually have forgotten, or have never been aware of what a ripe, fresh picked tomato is supposed to look, smell, and taste like. most of the year tomatoes come from as far away as Mexico, and South America, as they have the only climate that will support the growing of them in the off season. the problems with that are many. tomatoes dont travel well, so they are forced to be picked very early on and then gassed to promote them to take some sort of color. if you have ever picked a really ripe tomato and then tried to keep in for even a few days it deteriorates very quickly. it is also a huge waste of energy in growing and transporting. when i see someone in the store in the winter buying organic tomatoes i laugh to myself. they have been brainwashed into thinking if it is badged "ORGANIC" then it is somehow okay to not eat locally, or even seasonally. if you grow your own tomatoes, or know someone who does you know exactly what i am talking about. the ripe tomato only really exists for a month and half out of the year in my neck of the woods. we are rapidly approaching the end of them.

like i mentioned i have a stash of canned tomatoes, sun-dried, and tomato paste on hand all the time. canned tomatoes are canned in the peak of their season and i will take that over out of season, from 3000 miles away any day. they dont freeze well at all, but i know of some people that have had some luck doing home drying with them. i have even had a bit of luck smoking them. any of the ways you attempt to preserve them they just wont turn out the same as fresh, off of the vine, tomatoes. in turn i feel like we are doing a dis-service to nature by not eating them in huge amounts this time of year.

there are hundreds of types of tomatoes and i thought i would at least attempt to clarify some of the terms you can expect to see in stores and on menus.

pear/cherry/grape- these small tomatoes are named after their fruit shaped cousins. they are very sweet and wonderful in salads, but their seed to skin ratio makes them less than ideal for soups and sauces. this time of year i am able to find them in orange, red, and yellow colors.

roma- a roma is a oblong shaped, small ball sized tomato. there are many different varieties but all of them are great for saucing, and slicing. the roma is held in relatively high esteem in restaurants as well because they are the most consistent tomato available throughout the year.

utility- utility tomatoes are often packed in different sizes without much consistency. they are less expensive for it and great for chopping, and saucing.

hot house- any time you see the term hot house it means that the product has been grown to be the prettiest possible. bell peppers are often labeled hot house. these tomatoes should all be close to the same size, and relatively "pretty"

beefsteak- beefsteak tomatoes like hot house should be large and blemish free. great for slicing over sandwiches and burgers.

heirloom- as i mentioned last week this can mean so much. with tomatoes it means they wont be pretty, and are usually best eaten raw with a touch of salt. there are hundreds of varieties in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes.

concasse- a concasse is when you score a tomato with an X in the bottom of it and then blanch it in boiling water, then shock it in ice water, and then peel and remove all of the seeds, then cut it very fine. it is usually done with roma tomatoes, but can be done with any type. the thought here is that the seeds of a tomato arent digestible (i watched a online video of the San Francisco water treatment facility once and there were the most gorgeous tomatoes growing inside it. hot, humid, really good soil, good stuff) and the skin never really breaks down with cooking, so you eliminate all the bad stuff and just get pure essence of tomato. i serve it at work in a sauce called "piccata" over a piece of local snapper. it takes me about 30 minutes to concasse and brunoise 30 tomatoes. a true pain, especially when you start with 30 tomatoes and end with two cups of product.

on the vine- as far as i am concerned this is a marketing gimic. regardless of the fact they are attached to some of the vine they still arent attached to the ground. the amount of nutrients that can be stored in the vine are very limited so this approach works for about 15 minutes after they are picked. they will likely be the most expensive at your grocery store.

buy 4#'s of roma tomatoes and cut the vine end off, then quarter them. peel a whole head of garlic, and toss all of it together with some olive oil and salt. place on a sheet pan and roast at 450 degrees until they turn golden brown. pull the tomatoes out of the oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes then puree with a handful of fresh basil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. a perfect sauce in a hustle for a pizza, or pasta. with a touch of cream you even have a pretty good soup.

You dont have much longer to enjoy the tomato as it was intended to be- fresh from the plant, picked that same day, and as plump and juicy as it could be.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Mirepoix- A combination of chopped aromatic vegetables-usually two parts onions, one part carrot, and one part celery- used to flavor stocks, soups, braises, and stews. -TPC 8th edition

Most of you are aware that my favorite things in the world are stocks, soups, braises, and stews. therefore i have a great relationship with mirepoix. way back in culinary school we spent hours cutting it. a busy restaurant will blow through so much of the above listed ingredients it can be mind boggling. last year to prep for thanksgiving i took a 50# bag of onions off of the produce truck, then continued to trim, peel, and dice them. all of them. i also use some sort of mirepoix at home almost every day i am here. i have been known to send Melissa to the store for onions and nothing else even if i am not sure what i am going to cook. i just know i cant make much progress without them. the thing that makes mirepoix so cool is that when you use all the ingredients it adds a depth of flavor that cant be beat or matched without them. whether in a sauce, or a soup. also they are some of the least expensive things you can buy at any grocery store, almost anywhere in the world, any time of the year. i read once that the onion is the only ingredient that is seen in every major cuisine across the world.

there are definitely some arguments about the ratios, ingredients, and even the prep involved though. a very, very good chef i know thinks that celery should be upped and the other too backed off to impart what he considers equal flavor on the palate. very true if you think about the flavor of mild celery versus the aggressiveness of carrots and even more aggressive onion. i personally have a bit of a dislike for the texture of celery so i dont always use it, instead, especially in a braise, i will use carrot, onion, and dried peppers (pasillas, chipotle, etc.) if you are cooking a recipe that calls for a "trinity" you are reading what is most likely a Cajun recipe and it is describing a mirepoix without carrot, and instead green bell peppers. some chefs wont peel onions, or carrots when they are using them for mirepoix, but i think if nothing more than basic kitchen discipline it should be done "start with garbage-end with garbage". usually the cooking time is long so a rough chop or cut is fine for flavor extraction, which is precisely why it is a popular task for culinary students, interns, or even dishwashers in restaurants everywhere.


Lets be honest by saying that when someone mentions "jam", everyone really thinks "raspberry jam". by no means does that make the existence of other fruit jams unimportant but it does make raspberry jam the king. if i am going to make jam at home, i am making raspberry. i made some blackberry last year and it was awesome, but it still sits in the freezer, mostly untouched, because my family really didnt want to bother with it because there was raspberry jam i made as well. i grew up eating raspberry (of course) jam that my grandmother made every year with raspberries that she grew in her own garden. at work we make our own jam (and even most of our own breads-another story) for breakfast service and i am even able to buy a brand of frozen berries only from Oregon so i can make local berry jams year round. when the berry market prices drop we will buy flat after flat of them for the sole purpose of jam. freezer jam especially is a great use of any berry and some fruits that are passing their prime and need to be used.

the local fall raspberry market is in full swing and the prices and quality are very good. i made three gallons of jam at work yesterday evening and have just shy of a flat that will be jam at the house by later today or tomorrow. i like using fall berries as they are priced a bit cheaper and tend to be a bit sweeter than the early summer Oregon berries are. i love making freezer jam. freezer jam is intended to be stored in the freezer or even the fridge and is not shelf stable. cooked jam is cooked and then usually sealed to be shelf stable. jam and jelly differ in that jam has chunks of fruit, and usually seeds, while jelly is made from the juice of fruit so has no seeds or pulp.

pectin is the thickener in jam (although gelatin-animal derived, was commonly used in years past) and it is derived from the skins and flesh of different types of fruit. it is available in powder form almost anywhere but i use liquid pectin. it has a better mouth feel and considered to be far superior. it is expensive, but available at most grocery store or pharmacies (pharmacies also are a great place for canning jars and equipment). the coolest thing about liquid pectin is that inside the box will be the exact recipe for any sort of freezer jam, cooked jam, or jelly that you could ever want to fabricate. we actually make a savory jalapeno and lime jelly at work that is derived from the recipe in the box. it will even tell you how much fruit to buy to yield the amount of product you want to make. pectin in general is pretty odd stuff. the thing i hate about it is that is so perfectly formulated that you have to follow the exact recipe. you can not double up a batch as it wont set correctly. and the thing that bothers me most is that you can not adjust sugar levels. if you think about it, most fruits are much sweeter in season then out of season. they also are much better the less they have traveled, how ripe they were when they were picked, etc. if i have raspberries that are more sweet than tart i would love to adjust sugar levels in the jam to even that out, or even vice a versa. liquid pectin just wont let me do that. i am convinced if i had a more sound knowledge of food science i could figure it out, but havent been able to do it yet.

making jam at home is extremely easy. it is also a product that most households will use often, and one of the most pure food preservation methods available. it does take a lot of sugar, but store bought jams can be sweetened with HFCS, and other sweeteners i like to stay away from. this way i know i exactly what went into it, and just a flat or so of berries will satisfy my families need for jam until the local berries are available again.

the picture is just about every prep bowl that wasnt in use and more than half of the prep table, as well as measuring cups, pectin boxes, lemon juice, whisks, spatulas, and buckets to store the jam in. there is also a bunch of whisking involved and at one point i actually had a cramp in both of my forearms. it was the last task i had to do to finish my work week, so i was working as quick as i could.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Syrup.....REAL syrup

it takes 10 gallons of sap to create 1 qt of maple syrup. sap is the by product of Walnut trees and if your reading this from the east coast i suppose you know that. on the west coast maple trees are pretty much non-existent. real syrup is rare, and very expensive. it takes a ton of work, and its work that has to happen slowly. i have wanted some real maple syrup for the house, and ponied up the $18 (a steal) for a quart of it the other day. my hope is to use it in some baking at home, make some granola, and of course eat some pancakes. syrup is a great sweetener, and if i had some available i would love to use some maple sap in both some savory and sweet things. (i really want to make maple sap soda- but i cant find a place that will ship me sap- i may water down the syrup and make sap instead of vice-versa) Ontario Canada is the worlds leading producer of maple syrup by far, in America though it is extremely popular in the Northeast, and a great economy for them. American maple syrup is graded A and B. A grade has three sub grades of Fancy (or light), Medium, and Dark. B grade is the darkest available and really tough for me to find locally, but i have heard it has the deepest and darkest flavor available.

i am not by any means telling you to rush out and buy real maple syrup, what i will add is that most knock-off syrups are made with high fructose and regular corn syrup to get the consistency right, then maple flavor is added. while real maple syrup is simply a reduction that picks up color in that process. the taste difference is undeniable. a natural product, made by people that are obviously passionate about their work, in America. its a no-brainer for me.

sidebar- i have found, especially with expensive ingredients, that if i date them and label them with the amount spent either at home or work i can track their usage better. i know i opened that syrup on 9/7 so i can see how long it lasts me. also by tagging it with a price anyone who touches it knows how much it costs. in a restaurant it is easy especially for my cooks to get detached from how much things cost, this way it is a constant reminder that i paid $18 dollars for it. i will use it more wisely, and be much less prone to waste any of it. while $18 isnt a ton of money by any means a gallon of this same product at work is tagged $90. i need anyone who touches it to understand that, at work and home.

double sidebar-i have to take all of these pictures with my cell phone, usually in a hurry. i have invested in a new phone that should be taking the best pictures one can expect from a cell phone. i hope quality has improved.


Heirloom is a term that is being thrown around in the produce business with more and more frequency in the last few years. its can be as confusing as the terms "organic", "sustainable", or "local". wikipedia calls an heirloom plant a style of produce that isnt produced in large scale production (not sure i agree as i can buy heirloom tomatoes at my local megamart), it also says that it has to be open pollinated, and that it is a style that was common "earlier in human history". i have also heard that to be considered a true heirloom the style of cultivar has to be at least 100 yrs old. the growers and sellers of most heirloom varieties would love you to believe that it also means the product is organic, and sustainable but the terms do not have to overlap. they can grow heirloom potatoes and spray them with pesticides every day, and then have the gaul to attempt to stump you at the grocery store.

clarification-up until the early 1900's carrots were never really orange. they were white, purple, and grey. now someone got into trying to cultivate them in a more healthy way, and then someone took those and bred them to be more attractive, and some else figured out how to hybrid those plants and fortify them with vitamins, then someone hybrid that and years later we all assume the carrot has always been orange. its just how it works. all sorts of grafting, pollinating, engineering, and science is involved. if you think about it all of our food has some sort of wild starting point, and a whole history of how it grew to look like it does when you see it in a grocery store, that can span thousands of years. the goal for growers and chefs is to expose us to that history. part of the problem is that farmers throughout history never really took notes or wrote books about when they grew what, and how. so some "heirloom" variety of garlic could've been eaten in our local area in the earliest days of America, or somewhere else across the world as far back as time itself could recall.

most popular i would think would be the heirloom tomato varieties that are becoming a staple at restaurants, farmers markets, etc. there are thousands of varieties, some absolutely gorgeous, others absurdly ugly. but as mentioned garlic, carrots, potatoes, celery, salad greens, braising greens, apples, peaches, watermelon (had the chance to work with yellow hermiston watermelon, and a russian moon and stars watermelon just this week-sorry no pictures) and plenty more are all things i have seen badged with an heirloom tag.

we are in the middle of (locally at least) harvesting the best our soil has to offer. looks can be deceiving, so don't be afraid to pickup some oddly colored produce in your own neck of the woods. cooking will almost always be the same as their modified relatives that you are used to. in the restaurant we use things like this for the exact same reasons you would use them at home. they are a wonderful conversation piece for myself, cooks, servers, and customers. they also have an extremely valuable presentation. at home, especially with children, they will help to learn a great lesson, and start a conversation that will plant a great seed, and impress your family or guests.