Field Notes, Foodshed

Natural Bee Hives

For the benefit of the bees, we sell only natural bee hives.

Standard commercial bee hives are made for the convenience of the human who harvests honey, not the insect that produces it.

While we know the joy of eating honey and the good crunch of comb, what we really want from bees is to coexist with them, enjoying the chance to observe their fascinating lives.

Natural hives allow us to peek in on the hive during its busy day but not disturb the insects as they work.

We also like natural hives because they don’t have plastic in them and aren’t made with chemicals that might harm the nest’s occupants.

Most importantly, natural hives allow the bees to create comb the way that they would in the wild, with smaller cells that help protect against mites and other predators.

Among the natural bee hives we like is the Warre hive, named for the French monk who popularized it in the late 19th century, calling it “the people’s hive.”

Warre designed the hive so that one could add an empty box to its bottom each spring and harvest the honey from a box on the top each autumn.

The Warre is a “top bar” hive which means that the bees can build their combs from horizontal wooden bars that run along the hive’s top, making it lighter and easier for a human to examine the comb periodically without unduly bothering the insects.

The Kenyan, or horizontal top bar, hive is thought to be the oldest and most commonly used type of man-made hives in the world. Long and handsome, these hives come with their own stand, so that they sit about waist height for a man, allowing for easier access.

We are glad to sell Warre and top bar hives both online and in our Healdsburg store. At our HomeFarm property, we have those and even more hives for the bees.

The Golden Hive is so-named because its proportions align with the Golden Mean. Designed to minimize interaction between humans and bees, the Golden Hive benefits apiary health by reducing insect stress.

Woven from rye grasses, the biomorphic Sun Hive was developed by a German sculptor and is really something that is best made in with a group. (We host local apiarist Michael Thiele to a sun hive workshop April 29-30.)

Tall and with a full belly, the Sun Hive has its portal at the bottom, allowing the bees to come and go freely. Once made, it is mudded with manure to provide insulation.

The Log Hive is as it sounds — a fallen tree trunk that has been hollowed out to accommodate a hive. Many wild bees nest in trees and the Log Hives fashioned by humans work for the bees while providing us with a nice glimpse of the insects’ intricate life.

Helping honey bees to thrive by providing appropriate places for them to nest is one small thing that we can do to support this endangered population. Planting nectar-rich flora for pollinators is another.

Want to learn more? We have more info on natural bee hives, planting a bee-friendly garden, natural beekeeping, and supporting pollinators throughout our site.

Field Notes

Coming to Terms with Eggs

eggs

What could be more basic and simple than hen eggs? In the world of factory farming, there is nothing simple or basic about the production and marketing of nature’s most perfect protein. Rather, it’s a swirl of verbal obfuscation. Which is why a glossary is so very handy.

Our list of egg-related words comes both from the great work done by Petaluma artist and activist Douglas Gayeton and his Lexicon of Sustainability project (from which we borrowed the featured image) and the guidelines set out by the sustainable food system and farmers’ market folks at San Francisco’s Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA).

But really, even with all of the complicated marketing terms that have been applied to eggs, it’s simple to find fresh healthy eggs from free healthy hens if you buy from a farmer.

When you can’t do that, we suggest you look for the words “organic” and “pasture-raised” on the grocery store product.

Here’s what to look for — and look out for! — when buying eggs.

  • Cage-free: Hens live without cages in indoor facilities and do not necessarily have access to the outdoors. The amount of space per hen varies by producer. The term “barn-roaming” more accurately describes this principle.
  • Fertile: These eggs come from hens that live with roosters. Most are cage free.
  • Free-range (free-roaming): The term simply means the hens “have been allowed access to the outside,” but for an undetermined period of time. These hens may be, but generally are not, raised outdoors. These regulations do not specify the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time the animal must be allowed access to this space.From a sustainability perspective, indoor free range egg facilities are a far cry from pasture-based operations, but the eggs have been shown to be safer for consumers than eggs from caged hens. In fact, 16 different studies have shown that eggs from caged chickens are much more likely to be carriers of salmonella.
  • Hormone-free: The use of hormones in laying hens was banned in the 1960s, but that meaningless designation is still used.
  • Naturally Raised: Livestock which was raised without the use of growth promotants, antibiotics, under these certified animals are allowed to have parasitic medicine, but not given food with animal byproducts to eat.
  • Organic: Hens are given only certified organic vegetarian feed without pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers or antibiotics. Hens have access to the outdoors. Organic chicken operations must be certified by designated agencies.
  • Pastured: Hens are raised outdoors on pasture, usually using movable enclosures (hens also have access to a coop for shelter and egg laying). This enables hens to eat a variety of natural foods, such as different grasses, seeds and insects. Some scientific evidence indicates that, because of this diet, eggs from pasture-raised hens have less cholesterol and fat, higher omega-3 fatty acids, and higher amounts of lutein, beta-carotene, and vitamins A & E.The term “pasture-raised” is not regulated; it is up to the producer to provide eaters with a certain level of transparency around their operation and up to the eater to ask questions. The term is sometimes used by farmers who wish to distinguish themselves from the industrialized “free-range” term.
  • Vegetarian: Eggs are produced by hens whose feed is free of animal by-products. Remember: happy chickens that are pastured eat their share of worms and other yummy things that live where their beaks roam!

Try our recipe for perfectly coddled eggs and learn to make vases out of the shells!

Field Notes, Modern Grange

Good Books

good books

Feeding the mind with good books is nearly as important as feeding the body with good food. Both ensure that you will remain straight and tall in all the important ways.

We’re devoted to all kinds of books — particularly those about food and farming — and have an extensive personal cookbook library that we share with our customers several times a year.

We host readings and authors and are committed to continuing the local “Luminarias” series with the Healdsburg Literary Arts Guild.

But perhaps most personally pleasing is our monthly in-store book club.

Composed of staffers, SHED regulars, and that person who is just interested in the book being currently read, our book club allows for far-ranging conversation from a wide variety of view points. It’s also a lot of fun!

To start the New Year in the most thoughtful manner possible, we’ve arrayed all of our favorite new and not-so-new books for display in our Healdsburg store.

If you’re not able to stop by, don’t worry! Here are some of the books SHED friends and staff have recently enjoyed.

Here’s hoping that you do, too. Please feel free to add notice of your own favorite book in the comments section. We’d love to know!

Friend + Staff Picks

Imbibe by David Wondrich was one of my favorite books in culinary school, it is packed full of useful information for bartenders. —Riley Schmidt, SHED Cafe Manager

Simple French Cooking by Richard Olney was one of the first cookbooks that I purchased. That was over forty years ago.  The recipes are timeless classics. The techniques in the book are the basis of European cooking. —Franco Dunn, Chef

I love The Holistic Orchard. It’s the best book I know of for caring for fruit trees. Michael Phillips is an unassuming farmer and tree whisperer. His solutions, literal and figurative, work wonders. —Yael Bernier, Farmer

Mushrooms Demystified is my favorite mushroom hunting companion, because David Aurora takes the science of mushrooming and makes it hilarious.  —Chevon Holmes, SHED Retail Liaison

Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier is a concise well-written book on small scale farming. It’s my go-to guide when I am trying something new or am looking for answers. —Rebecca Bozzelli, Farmer

Joel Salatin’s “Fields of Farmers” takes a creative, enterprising look at a serious problem in our country: ever-aging farmers and the challenge of passing down agricultural legacies. —Evan Wiig, The Farmers Guild

Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate — Wendy Johnson is true local hero when it comes to farming for the Earth. Wendy was my first mentor in the farming world and I feel so blessed to have had her in my life. —Rebecca Bozzelli, Farmer

Heidi Swanson’s Near & Far is the perfect cookbook for anyone afflicted by wanderlust. All of her dishes are beautiful and healthy, and there are even recipes for travel snacks, in case you get the urge to buy a ticket and go somewhere.  —Stephanie Callimanis, SHED Grange Manager

I would [also] recommend is Diane Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking. This is another book that I acquired many years ago.  I wore out my first copy and am on my second. Diane Kennedy is the doyen of Mexican cocina. This is a book that I have given as a gift many times. —Franco Dunn, Chef

The Holistic Orchard and The Apple Grower by Michael Phillips. Michael lives, eats, and breathes apple farming and uses a sustainable and biodiverse approach in doing so. —Rebecca Bozzelli, Farmer

Perfect for meditating on the New Year, Finding Yourself in the Kitchen by Dana Velden is an open invitation to eat and cook mindfully, rest and reflect deeply, and give and receive wholeheartedly. —Katherine Harris, SHED Executive Assistant

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart is one of my favorite cookbooks. Whether you are a beginner or a trained chef, this book is all you need to make great bread! —Ginny Gilcrease, SHED Office Manager

Field Notes

SHED Community — 2016 in Review

As the SHED community prepares to face the interesting challenges that 2017 is certain to offer, now is the perfect time to consider and reflect upon the pursuits and triumphs of the year just ending. And a glorious year it was.

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Artisan Producers, Chefs, Craftsmanship, Farming, Foodshed, Healdsburg, HomeFarm

Introducing the SHED Pantry Line

We’re excited to announce the launch of the SHED pantry line, featuring a proprietary collection of powders, salt blends, herbs and spices, preserves, pickles, and Shrub concentrates drawn from the best ingredients prepared just as we do in our Healdsburg café.

Coming to fruition under the direction of SHED chef Perry Hoffman, plans for the Pantry Line predate SHED and its café. SHED co-owner Cindy Daniel knew that she wanted to do this before our doors even opened.

“It’s always been a dream of Cindy’s and really, it just makes so much sense,” Perry says. “It really came from the concept of utilizing the pantry that we use to cook from in the café.”

SHED Powders

A distillation of flavor, the SHED powders are a unique finishing touch that pack a punch. Available in one-ounce bottles, they are the essential taste of the vegetables from which they’re made.

Dehydrated in our own kitchens and then pulverized before being mixed with Jacobsen Salt, these powders are intended to be used just before serving to add a strong note to your good fresh food.

“I’ve been using powders for 16 years,” Perry says. “The tradition really comes from fine dining. They’re amazing flavor enhancers. When you dehydrate produce, you concentrated the flavor of that element.”

Perry likes the Charred Eggplant Powder sprinkled atop a bowl of yogurt with fresh chopped mint. He mixes it into vinaigrettes, and hails it as his “love letter” to the baba ganoush dip he adored as a child.

The Tarragon Caper Powder is a nod to traditional French cuisine, adding a note of elegance perfect for using to finish sauces. “Capers and tarragon are two ingredients that are made for each other,” Perry says.

The Niçoise Olive Powder is purposefully not powdered entirely. “We leave this a bit chunkier and just smash them into little crumbles because we love those little bits of dried olives,” Perry says.

The Shiitake Mushroom Powder is a “flavor builder,” Perry says, referring to its role adding umami to any dish. “Add it to a little bit of chicken stock and soy sauce and you’ve got this amazing stock that will add flavor to anything. It’s all about intensifying flavors.”

One in every 100 Padron peppers is hot, so eating them has an element of chance. Dehydrating and then powdering them for our Padron Pepper Powder guarantees that its sweetness will be tempered by a bit of heat. “When you combine them,” Perry says, “you get an incredibly wonderful, earthy powder.”

The Smoked Onion Powder features sweet onions and adds a gorgeous element of onion flavor to everything it touches. “Mix it into sour cream,” Perry suggests, “and you have a dip.”

SHED Salt Blends

SHED’s blends use Jacobsen Salt as a base and add unusual flavors to create finishing salts you’ll always want to reach for.

An incredibly versatile and popular offering, Lemon Salt can be sprinkled liberally atop roasted potatoes and fish. For dessert, try a pinch with vanilla ice cream.

Utilizing an increasingly popular Japanese culinary herb, our Red Shiso Salt is perfect for bringing a fresh taste to a salad before serving or for sprinkling upon fish.

“As a chef, you have the opportunity to cook this way because you have Shiso and you have salt,” Perry explains. “Home cooks don’t necessarily have that option. This is a way of being able to capture those flavors in a jar and be close to the same outcome.”

Made for chicken and perfect for lamb, pork loin, and other roasts, the Rosemary and Wild Fennel Salt is, Perry says simply, “a natural love affair.”

Normally not one to play favorites, Perry confesses that his favorite of the new line is the Black Lime Salt, which has a distinctly Californian take on a traditional Middle Eastern flavor profile. Limes are salted and soaked before being dried and pulverized, bringing an intensity to this salt.

“The wonderful aromatic flavors of lime are very dominant, so this becomes a umami flavor enhancer,” Perry says. He suggests pairing the Black Lime Salt with the Shitake Powder for a umami powerhouse. “If you were to add those two to your broth, it would be very full-bodied.”

SHED Shrubs

A drinking vinegar born from the need to use all of the harvest, the Shrub has recently come back into favor. And thank goodness for that.

Shrubs are the centerpiece of the Fermentation Bar in our Healdsburg store and our flavors always change to match the season. This new collection of essential Shrub flavors is just the start; we’ll be certain to add more as the harvest wanes and new herbs, fruits, and flowers become available.

Available in 12-ounce bottles, SHED Shrub concentrates form the base for a refreshing non-alcoholic drink but can just as easily be made with Prosecco or other lightly bubbly wines.

Whether Quince, Apple, Beet, or Grape — each SHED Shrub concentrate is made from organic ingredients raised by farmers we know or even foraged by Chef Perry himself.

What’s more, his technique for creating this concentrate hasn’t change. For a few hundred years. “We do this just as they would have in the 1800s,” Perry says.

Preserves and Honey

Having fresh jam made with local fruit is a hallmark of the SHED café and our pantry. A devoted home cook, Cindy has always spent part of her summer putting up preserves. Now you can share in some of our good fortune and bounty. Each jar is made of pure organic or even foraged fruit set with cane sugar and a good squeeze of lemon juice. That’s all.

SHED honey is raised in Sonoma County by beekeepers who respect their hives and the hard-working insects inside of them. SHED subscribes to the idea that we don’t keep bees — the bees keep us, as one-third of all the food that we eat is made possible by pollinators.

Pickled Vegetables

Fermentation is a core value at SHED. “We pickle everything. It was so hard to even choose what to put in the jar,” Perry says.

Perry loves eggplant but it doesn’t pickle well, so he made a gorgeous chunky Roasted Eggplant Conserva from it. He encourages us to use it as a chutney. “Yogurt is the most wonderful platform for it,” he enthuses. “It’s such a match made in heaven.”

Packed like the Conserva in 13.5-ounce jars, our Pickled Carrots are flavored with dill leaves, jalapeños, and black peppercorns; the Pickled Turnips with bay leaf, beets, and garlic. Both of them are perfect additions to supper, laid out on a relish plate to contribute bite and interest to a simple meal.

Also jarred up for a pre-dinner pickle plate are our Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, Roasted Eggplant Conserva, and Turmeric Pickled Turnips.

Herbs & Spices

With this Pantry line-up, SHED is also proud to release its own line of herbs and spices, adding traditional everyday spices like cinnamon to a line-up of offerings that include the Middle Eastern flavors of Harissa, Zahtar, and Vadouvan. We have other unusual mixes like Shichimi Togarashi, Japanese Curry Powder, and Chinese Five Spice. Our own line of Dukka is already a best-selling staple. We even have six kinds of peppercorn!

Just the Start

SHED’s Pantry line is an effort to preserve the peak flavors of the season by pickling, preserving, fermenting, smoking, and drying ingredients to make jams, pickles, shrubs, spice blends, and powders.  It’s an attempt to better tell the story of good farming, good cooking, and good eating.

“We want to take all of the behind-the-scenes things that we make and showcase them,” Perry says.

“There are so many things that we have to make to stock our own pantry. The powders are a perfect example of that.  We want to show what we make, and how we use these products to flavor and enhance our cooking,” he says.

“And how you might share in that.”

Artisan Producers

Celebrating Our Fibershed

Our store isn’t called Healdsburg “SHED” by accident. Rather, we honor SHED as a suffix, a signifier of demarcation. A way to claim place.

The term “SHED” comes up in all of our pursuits. We are passionate about our foodshed, certainly. Fiercely protective of our local watershed, too. We see our store as a toolshed of sorts that you can go to for your essential needs. But perhaps lesser known is the role the fibershed plays in our community.

Locally, our fibershed stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the edges of California’s Central Valley. It’s where sheep and goats are raised for their milk, their meat, and their wool. Where textiles circle soil to soil.

It’s even a movement. The concept of a fibershed was formalized in 2010 when Marin County’s Rebecca Burgess set herself the task of creating and wearing a wardrobe solely drawn from textiles, dyes, and labor contained within a 150-mile footprint of her home.

It was nearly impossible to do then, and it’s not much easier today — but Rebecca started something significant by looking for local solutions.

Textile production is a gross polluter; inexpensive clothing has an enormous cost. From poor wages to environmental concerns, from working conditions to transportation obstacles, the mass global production of inexpensive throw-away stuff is expensive in a way that has nothing to do with our wallets.

As with so many other concerns of the global economy, the best answer to issues surrounding textiles is literally beneath our feet. Bring it back to the local community.

We define our local fibershed as the network of farmers, ranchers, designers, sewers, weavers, knitters, felters, spinners, mill owners and natural dyers living and working in Northern California.

And we’re proud to support their work in our store, both online and in Healdsburg.

Our producers and collaborators include Mary Pettis-Sarley of Twirl Yarn; Lily Reid of Apprentice Studio; indigo farmer Craig Wilkinson; artist Sasha Duerr; the textile producers at Caseri Ranch; artist and teacher Chelsea Heffner; and natural dye artist Chelsea Wills.

We celebrate our fibershed twice this month with special events.

Join us on Friday, Dec. 2, for a PomPom Party with Apprentice Studio’s Lily Reid, where we’ll use Mary Pettis-Sarley’s Twirl Yarn to make fun, festive decorations that are equally at home adorning your holiday tree as they are your winter cap.

Plan to return on Sunday, Dec. 11, for an all-day Fibershed Pop-Up Shop upstairs in our Modern Grange space. There you can meet eight artisans contributing to our local fibershed, support their work with your purchases, get something unique and delightful for yourself or someone on your holiday list, and learn more about why going soil to soil makes a difference to your clothes.

Learn more about the Fibershed project on their extensive press page.

Featured image courtesy of Lily Reid, Apprentice Studio