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Vegetables

Spring 2017

Leeks

All Ray de Vries asks is that we enjoy leeks three times a day. The Skagit Valley farmer known as the Leek King is not being selfish, though. He’ll also tell you how to grow leeks so you can eat them all year round—and that everyone in the Pacific Northwest should grow them. “We’ve got the perfect climate,” he says.

The de Vries family got into leeks after Ray’s dad, Ralph, retired from dairy farming and planted a large produce garden. Ralph went to Seattle’s Produce Row and asked sellers what they needed. “We need leeks! As big as you can grow ’em!”

So that’s … » More …

“Pori”, or Leeks, Tucuinum sanitatis, 1380s, National Library of Vienna
Spring 2017

All about leeks

Leek Facts

The Central Asian home of leeks and the other alliums is a global Center of Diversity. Useful to both crop-plant breeders and conservation organizations, these centers were first proposed by Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov in the 1930s. Knowing where a plant’s wild relatives hail from enables breeders to bring new genetics into a line, or conservationists to work to preserve that area to ensure genetic diversity for the future.

Chemist Eric Block, author of Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science, calls the Central Asian home of the alliums “a tough neighborhood” where plants must fend off insects and other … » More …

Brussels sprout
Fall 2014

The Brussels sprout

The Brussels sprout is like a tiny cabbage. It is a brassica. It matures just as summer ends and the weather turns cold. It has a tight head made up of a multitude of leaves. And a touch of frost just before harvest really sweetens it up.

It also travels in the same circles as its much larger cousin—adorning holiday plates, a happy companion to all roasts and really any kind of pork, or just delicious braised with butter and dressed with salt and pepper.

But the two vegetables are yet quite different. Where cabbage is hardy and easy to grow, the Brussels sprout is … » More …

Lindsay du Toit with spinach
Spring 2013

Spinach is suspect: A pathological mystery

The case started a few years ago when a farmer approached seed pathologist Lindsey du Toit at WSU Mount Vernon wondering what was damaging his spinach seed crop out in the field. He had planted on clean ground that hadn’t had spinach before. He wondered if maybe the stock seed had a problem.

“It didn’t make sense,” says du Toit, explaining that what happened to the plants didn’t fit with the known diseases. At the time, du Toit and one of her graduate students were looking at fungal pathogens in the seeds of spinach plants. About 75 percent of the spinach seed grown in … » More …

Winter 2012

Onions

Think of all the recipes that begin with this simple instruction: Cook (saute, melt, etc.) onions. In spite of that ubiquitous beginning, however, the literature of food, which can wax poetically and extensively about salt or beans or wine, gives the onion, which provides the savory structure for thousands of dishes, short shrift.

Maybe it is just that onions are so fundamental that we take them for granted, chopping and ingesting them as casually as we breathe air or drink water. Perhaps it is that the onion is a basic and ancient staple, like rice, corn, garlic, its wild ancestors an inherent part of our … » More …