Ingredients can make or break a meal. Here are our favorites from the West’s best farms.
written by Jessica Battilana
1 of 10Photo by Andrea Gómez Romero
Talus Wind Ranch's heritage turkeys
Timothy Willms is one of a handful of ranchers across the country who are bringing back humanely raised heritage breeds, which live pretty much as they would in nature. Timothy's turkeys bear little relation to the typical factory-raised supermarket bird. His sleek Standard Bronzes and Rio Grande Wilds strut their stuff all over the enclosed pasture at his ranch, foraging and even flying when they feel like it.
The vigorous outdoor living, and the fact that they grow relatively slow, result in white meat that Timothy describes as a "beautiful soft almond" (versus pasty white). The dark meat is rich, moist, and the color of chocolate. "There's a truthfulness to them that we can taste," he says.
$5.95/lb;taluswindranch.com; order by Oct 31; ships within NM; pickup available in Galisteo, Mountainair, and Santa Fe, NM.
2 of 10Photo by Andrea Gómez Romero
More heritage turkey sources
Look for one of the 10 or so breeds defined as "heritage," including Black Spanish, Blue Slate, Bourbon Red, Jersey Buff, Narragansett, Royal Palm, Standard Bronze, and White Holland.
Black Spanish, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Standard Bronze, and White Holland. From $7.95/lb; Bi-Rite Market, S.F.,biritemarket.com; Marin Sun Farms, Oakland,rockridgemarkethall.com.
Near Fresno, CA
Narragansett and Standard Bronze as well as nonheritage turkeys. From $4.99/lb.; Whole Foods Markets in AZ, CA, HI, NV, OR, and WA; for more stores, seemarysturkeys.com.
Eastern Plains Natural Foods
Blue Slate. From $5/lb.; Marczyk Fine Foods, Denver,marczykfinefoods.com; In Season Local Markets, Denver and Louisville, CO; for more info, seeeasternplains.com.
Black Walnut Woolens
Bourbon Red, Narragansett, and Standard Bronze. From $7/lb.; sold only at the farm;blackwalnutwoolens.com.
3 of 10Photo by Andrea Gómez Romero
Far West Fungi's exotic mushrooms
"Saying 'I don't like mushrooms' is like saying 'I don't like vegetables.' There's a mushroom for everybody," says Ian Garrone, whose family owns Far West Fungi, which grows about 9 varieties at any given time. When you buy a Far West mushroom, it's perfect; smooth, unbruised, frim, smelling of forest and loam. It radiates freshness. That's because the Garrones harvest right before they sell—and also because they've spent 25 years perfecting the tricky art of mushroom cultivation.
Their farm, on the coast 95 miles south of San Francisco, has the exact conditions that mushrooms love: cool, moist, and overcast. And the Garrones keep it very, very clean, especially in the incubation rooms; no invasive molds stand a chance. So their meaty shiitakes, delicate tree oysters, and aromatic maitakes are as good as it gets.
From $6/lb.;farwestfungi.com; visit website to order and to find Far West Fungi's farmers' market locations; or stop by the shop in San Francisco's Ferry Building.
4 of 10Photo by Thomas J. Story
More mushroom sources
Hazel Dell Mushrooms
Fort Collins, CO
Organic maitakes, shiitakes, nutty cinnamon caps, and more. From $6/lb.; Whole Foods Markets in CO, farmers' markets, and Mon-Fri at farm;hazeldellmushrooms.com.
Chef's Best Foods
Fresh, dried, and grow-your-own mushrooms. Specializes in wild mushrooms such as chantrelle, hedgehog, and lobster. Prices vary; ships in U.S.;chefsbestfoods.com.
5 of 10Photo by Michael Hanson
Cape Blanco's vine-ripened cranberries
Yes, it's true—cranberries grow in the West. And the way Ron and Mary Puhl grow them, they're the best you can buy, anywhere. Their secret is letting those berries ripen fully on the vine until they're unusually big and sweet, with a deep burgundy shine. Several years ago, the Puhls came up with late-harvest cranberries as way to stand out in a crowded market, and the mild coastal Oregon climate made it possible.
So they pick on into December (compared with October in the East and Midwest), flooding their fields and turning them into floating red carpets of berries waiting to be skimmed off the surface. "When we first started harvesting late, people thought we were crazy," Mary says. "But the berries do taste different. It's like a ripe peach versus and partly green peach. There's not any comparison."
Both Oregon and Washington produce cranberries, but they generally sell to large processors. Vine-ripened cranberries are extremely rare.
Vincent Family Canberries
Vine-ripened berries grown on a sustainable farm ½ mile from the Pacific. From $3.50/lb.; farmers' markets and regional Whole Foods Markets; for more stores, seevincentcranberries.com.
7 of 10Photo by Andrea Gómez Romero
Full Circle's Makah Ozette potatoes
Andrew Stout had no idea his potatoes were so precious until Slow Food's Seattle office found out that he and his wife, Erndy Munroe, were growing Makah Ozettes, and the grassroots food organization immediately asked them to plant more. Andrew, who'd been given seed potatoes by a neighbor, had planted them out of curiosity and because he loved their flavor. "Very earthy and nutty, and they have that great fluff-puff texture." We agree.
And we like its story too: A rare, heirloom potato, it had previously been known only to the Makah Nation on the Olympic Peninsula, who had been growing it there ever since Spanish explorers brought the seeds from South America in 1791. Now, this prized potato can come to your table too.
Price varies;fullcircle.com; Nov-Mar, find at Seattle-area farmers' markets and grocery stores, including Whole Foods Market.
8 of 10Photo by E. Spencer Toy
More Ozette potato sources
Rabbit Run Farm
Skull Valley, AZ
In addition to Ozettes, they sell Narragansett turkeys; limited supplies of both. Ozettes $2.50/lb.; from $100/turkey; for farmers' markets, seerabbitrunfarm.blogspot.com.
Little Organic Farm
Potatoes are dry farmed (grown without irrigation) for superior flavor. Supplies limited. $3/lb.; for stores, seethelittleorganicfarm.com.
More than 50 varities. From $0.50/lb.; shipping available;potatogarden.com.
9 of 10Photo by Michael Hanson
Bluebird Grain Farms' farmstead flour
"Hardly anyone has tasted what fresh-milled grain is like," Brooke Lucy says, adding that most flour in the grocery store is at least three months old. But Brooke and her husband, Sam, mill their grain to order. Their signature variety, an ancient strain of wheat called emmer farro—which the grow in Washington's Methow Valley—bursts with sweet, nutty freshness.
Usually, most farro is pearled, meaning its inedible hulls are removed—along with most of the nutritious bran and often the germ. "We felt it was wrong to go to great lengths to grow it, only to shave off the most nutritious parts," Brooke says. So the preserve the whole grain by dehulling it in a custom-built centrifuge. Pale yellow and finely ground, it gives cookies, cakes, and pies a rustic freshness. And the whole grains are great cooked, risotto-style.
$6.95/2lbs. for milled emmer farro;bluebirdgrainfarms.com; find at regional Whole Foods Markets or order online.
10 of 10Photo by E. Spencer Toy
More flour sources
Grains—including hard red winter wheat and hard amber durum—are grown and ground for this label. $1.29/lb.; Berkeley Bowl West,berkeleybowl.com; regional Whole Foods Markets; Surfas Los Angeles,surfaslosangeles.com; for more stores, seecommunitygrains.com.
Moores' Flour Mill
Oats and multigrain cereals, as well as Montana hard red wheat that's ideal for bread. $7.69/10 lbs.; sold only at the store (closed Sun); 530/241-9245.
Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods
Montana hard red wheat, Oregon soft white wheat, and many other flours. From $1.88/1½ lbs.; ships in U.S.; for stores and ordering, seebobsredmill.com.
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