A Feast of Good Things - photo by Bruce Andre

With Washington’s abundance of food, we struggled to limit the still life photo for our feature “A Feast of Good Things” to just a few ingredients. Besides the native, naturally occurring foods like shellfish and salmon, our state rates second in the nation in sheer number of crops produced. Here’s a sampling:

Olympia oyster  While clams and other oysters reach market size in two years or less, the Olympia can take four to five years. Even then, it’s still quite small. Native to our waters, Olympias should be eaten just as they are, raw from the shell with their liquor. And preferably right next to the water from which they came. “Eating well to save the Sound,” WSM  Summer 2006

Cranberries  Grown commercially in Southwest Washington near Long Beach for over 100 years, these little bog-born red berries are native to the region. “Low prices bog down cranberry growers,” WSM  Winter 2003

Salmon  No single ingredient says Northwest Cuisine more than the salmon. One traditional Native American way of preparing it is by roasting the fish over an alder fire. It is a time-consuming endeavor. You have to go slowly, but the result is a rich, smoky, alder-flavored pink fish. Delicious even without salt. “Foraged foods: Serving up a traditional meal from the Columbia plateau,” WSM  Spring 2007

Wheat and bread  For the longest time, virtually all wheat was local. As recently as 1919, nearly every state had at least 1,000 acres or more in wheat production, plus local mills to process the harvest. At one time, Ebey’s Prairie, on Whidbey Island, grew a world-record 119 bushels of wheat per acre. “Wheat: A 10,000-year relationship,” WSM  Winter 2011

Dungeness Crab  This Washington native is named for Dungeness Bay, an inlet along the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Port Angeles. Its habitat includes the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean Shelf, which runs from Alaska down to Santa Barbara, California. “Dungeness crab,” WSM  Spring 2011

Pears  Washington grows more than 24,000 acres of pears, by far the largest pear-growing region in the country. If the pear is picked at just the right time, when it is mature, but not ripe, it can be conditioned through cold storage, so that it develops a perfect soft, buttery texture. “Pears,” WSM  Winter 2007

Apples  While the Red Delicious has long been Washington’s mainstay, many of the old varieties are being revived in niche markets and WSU breeders are developing new varieties. “The spice of life: Apples come in more than one variety,” WSM  Fall 2005 and “Finally, a Washington apple,” WSM  Spring 2010

Grapes  In the 1960s, WSU researchers convinced central Washington farmers to try growing wine grapes. Starting in the 1970s with whites like Riesling, our state now produces award winning wines from more than 30 varieties. Our state is the second largest wine producer in the country (after California). “Washington’s wine crush,” WSM  Winter 2005

Basil  Through farmers markets like Seattle’s Pike Place, farmers who immigrated from other countries like Italy, the Phillipines, and Japan introduced their foods to Washington cuisines. Basil came to our plates several decades ago. “A feast of good things,” WSM  Spring 2012

Blackberries  The blackberry we see most, especially around Puget Sound, is the Himalayan. Since its introduction to California the early 1900s, it has crawled up the coast to Washington, where it crops up at the edge of forests, along roads, and in vacant lots. The berry is both wild and commercially grown. “Behold the blackberry,” WSM  Fall 2007

Cheese  Pictured is a wedge of Beecher’s Flagship Cheese. In the 1930s, Washington State College food scientists started research on packaging hard cheese in cans. The result is what we know today as Cougar Gold. The cheese and WSU’s cheese-making program has inspired others like Beecher’s to craft their own. “How Cougar Gold made the world a better place,” WSM  Winter 2004 and “Spring is the season for chèvre,” WSM Summer 2009

Onions   In spite of the onion’s wide name recognition, nationally as well as throughout the Northwest, Walla Walla Sweets, a spring onion, are grown by only about 30 farmers on fewer than a thousand acres. Washington also grows more than 16 percent of the nation’s dry summer onions. “Walla Walla Sweets,” WSM  Fall 2010

Potatoes  Washington grows 20 percent of the potatoes in the United States. Irrigation, along with long days, cool nights, and good soils, made the Columbia Basin ideal potato territory. “Washington potatoes,” WSM  Fall 2009 and “What color is your potato?,” WSM  Winter 2006

Squash  The pumpkin that comes in a can and is mostly destined for pies is actually a type of butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata). It’s bred so it doesn’t have the waist in the middle like the classic butternut. The perfect oblong shape makes it easier to machine peel in processing. “Pumpkins,” WSM  Fall 2011

About the photographer:

Bruce Andre relocated to Spokane in 1993 after 20 years shooting for national clients in the Chicago market. Converting to digital photography allowed him, an avid fly fisherman, to make the move so as to be closer to outdoor recreation. His clients have included Baxter International, Black & Decker, Bristol-Meyers, Coca-Cola, Daiwa, Dewars, Ekco, Entemann’s, Jack Daniel’s, G. Heileman Brewing, Kellogg Company, John Deere, Lands’ End, McDonalds, Oscar Mayer, Outside Magazine, Patagonia, Pepsi-Cola, Philip Morris, USG Corporation, and Wendy’s. Current he works with many Northwest and national advertising agencies, designers, and corporations.

Bruce and his wife Sara hike in the woods daily with their rescued retriever Molly. Their daughter Jill teaches English as a second language in Mexico, while their son Bob is a graphic designer in Spokane.

Special thanks:

We also wish to thank two Northwest artists for their contributions to our composition.

Spokane glass artist Steve Adams provided us with a beautiful glass bowl. Adams studied glass sculpture with former Fine Arts professor George Laisner in his glass lab at WSU. Laisner also helped him set up his first small glass studio in Moscow, Idaho. Internationally known artist Harold Balazs ’51, another Laisner student, later became a friend and mentor to Adams.

Through a wide variety of techniques, Adams explores the use of glass in art and architecture. Currently he is experimenting with new directions in kiln fired glass, and his work can be found in select galleries across the country.

Glassblower Harrison S. Neel specializes in recycled glassblowing and provided us with the rose goblet. Originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harrison S. Neel learned commercial glassblowing in Orrefors, Sweden, and glass art design in studios on Martha’s Vineyard. Since moving to Seattle in 2007, Neel has worked and taught at several Northwest glass studios including the Schack Art Center in Everett. Currently, he is a Seattle Glassworks designer and partner with the Sound Trading Company which markets his recycled glass table wear.