Mixed Emotions - Fall is in the Air

I had a conversation today with Blake

Blake is the farmer who created Ebb Tide Produce on our land over six years ago now.  The food he has grown has been the chief source of so much of the creative juju here at Orchard Kitchen. We were talking about the changing of the seasons, late summer into early fall. For me, it is a time of sadness; seeing the plants shutting down and bed after bed of the farm being tilled in for the year. It is also a time of mild panic: how will we ever feed ourselves with the productive part of the year over?

For Blake—and I presume for most farmers—Fall is a happy time. 

It is a time of accomplishment for all the food produced. It is a time that signifies that a very welcome rest lies just ahead. I am sure it is a time of relief for a farmer, that the weather cooperated, more or less, and disaster was avoided. 

Two very different and equally valid perspectives on this moment in the earth’s rotation around the sun. 

For the kitchen, the time of harvest is extremely frenetic.

Orchard Kitchen Pickles and Pickling Owners Chef Vincent Nattress Wine Maven Tyla Nattress Whidbey Island

We add to our already busy schedule the pressing need to safeguard as much of this bounty as possible.  The little voice in the back of my head, perhaps an echo of my Irish ancestor’s potato famine past, resounds. How will we ever have enough food for winter?  But we always do, over-stuffing the larder with dry beans and hard winter squash, corn for milling and pickles fermented in August.

We blanched and shocked pounds of basil, roasted and packed pounds of tomatoes in good olive oil and jarred our first few pounds of Estate Honey. We pickled green walnuts in spring and roasted and froze copious quantities of eggplant in a form Lis calls “Barbara Ganoosh”. And it continues now, into October and November, as we ferment apples, pears and quince into hard cider, and eventually, into our own house-made vinegars. 

The annex to the wine room is chockablock with walnuts to shell, shallots that are curing and cans of jarred jams and jellies.  We will not starve.  Not this winter. 

Appetites change too, at this time of transition. 

Just as I bemoan the loss of ripe tomatoes and strawberries, I find my chefly imagination turning toward roasted delicata squash and braisy, saucy dishes.  The change of season is deeply engrained in us all, and for a chef the most delicious food seems to always be the things that are just now about to come into season. 

And so this week’s menu features a set of dishes that could only happen right now, at this particular and peculiar point in our planetary orbit. Soupe au Pistou, a classic Provençal dish, is dependent on basil and tomatoes. We garnish this simple, peasant soup with luscious halibut cheeks, because we are still in the heart of that season too. The second course, a farro with local Chanterelle and White Chanterelle mushrooms can only come to us after the first rains. And the main course of Oregon Elk reminds us of the fall hunting season that we are in the midst of, and what better to go with that game that a bit of Huckleberry? The chill in the fall air leads me to a richer, chocolate dessert with hazelnuts (we just harvested the first couple of handfuls off of our little two-year-old trees).

Fall is a time of mixed feelings for me, but a time when my appetite increases with the chill in the air.  I hope you feel the same and will join us at Orchard Kitchen. You will not go away hungry.