Oregon Spuds and Eagles

Lower Klamath Refuge

I had been watching the weather for the past couple of weeks hoping that this dry spell that the West is going through would last through the long Martin Luther King holiday weekend. If it did I would head up to Klamath Falls, Oregon to do a little bird watching, specifically to view the large number of

Bald eagle in willow tree

raptors including bald eagles that can be found at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges  just below the California/Oregon border. We have raptors here where I live but not the quantity and variety that can be found at these refuges during the winter months. (We saw thirty-eight bald eagles in two days and as many as 8 standing on the frozen lake awaiting an opportunity at a goose carcass.) Dry weather would be the key since I don’t have 4×4.

My luck held and so I packed various layers of warm clothes, my boots and heavy coat and left Friday morning just after dawn for Nevada where I would meet up with Sis #2 for a road trip. From Minden, NV we headed north on 395 past the sprawl of Reno, through the more sparsely habitated areas of California’s high desert to Alturas, then on to Klamath Falls, a five hour journey if you don’t stop, meaning it took us much longer. What’s a good road trip without some interesting stops?

I have many fond memories of the Klamath area, having visited it off and on over the past twenty-some-odd years. One of the things that has become tradition after spending several chilly early morning hours watching birds in this literally frozen environment is to head back across the California state line to Merrill, OR for a hearty breakfast at Pappy Gander & Company. It had been at least 8 years since we had been to Merrill and we had high hopes that our traditional breakfast spot would still be open. We were in luck. It was.

Oregon grown Russet potatoes

Merrill is a small rural community with a population of less than 1000. It’s claim to fame; it’s home to an annual potato festival, a celebration held in October at the end of harvest. Not surprising since Merrill is located in Klamath County one of Oregon’s premier potato growing regions.

I can’t think of anything better with morning eggs than some crispy country fried potatoes and Merrill serves up some of the best. This particular morning a Chicken Fried Steak covered with delicious country gravy accompanied the eggs and potatoes. I think the duck hunters at the table across from ours were surprised that a couple of gals could match them in appetite. It was the perfect breakfast; it warmed us up and took us well into the afternoon. It was late in the afternoon, when we decided to head back into Klamath Falls for a bite to eat.  We stopped in at a little Thai restaurant in downtown and I had their Yellow Thai Curry, chocked full of chunks of beautiful potatoes. It was a potato kind of day.

That night as we were looking through some photos that we had downloaded on our laptops I got to thinking about the potatoes grown around Merrill. I knew potatoes grew in Idaho. Who hasn’t heard of Idaho potatoes but I didn’t really know much about potatoes grown in Oregon. I switched from photo browsing to a little information-surfing. Not only are potatoes grown in Oregon, it has one of the highest yields per acre of potatoes in the world at 53,000 pounds per acre and they farm over 36,500 acres. In the area around Merrill they grow various varieties of Russet, Yukon Gold, Purple and some certified organic, well as potatoes specifically grown for potato chips and seed. Historically the first potatoes were planted in Oregon by the crew of the ship “Ruby” on an island in the Columbia River, near Cape Disappointment in 1795. Twelve potatoes were planted and they produced 190 potatoes the first season. And by 1835  1,300 bushels of potatoes were produced at Fort Vancouver.

I found the Oregon Potato Commission site to be really informative and fun. Their Potato Trivia page has lots of interesting facts; the potato did not become popular in America until Benjamin Franklin tasted the potato served 20 different ways when he was ambassador to France and came back to America singing its praises, French Fries were introduced to Americans when President Thomas Jefferson served them at the White House and that potato chips were invented by mistake in 1853. One of the facts I found particularly interesting since I love California history was; during the California gold rush surplus potatoes from Oregon were packed by mule train, and later by wagon train to the miners. In 1849, four bushels of Oregon potatoes were selling for $500 in San Francisco.  Sounds like the Oregon potato farmers were doing better than some of the hard working miners.

Here’s a nice way to use potatoes in a soup. This recipe is one I’ve used for many years. It’s the perfect recipe for a cold wintry day. This recipe makes a lot so I usually end up freezing some for later use.

ready to cook

Portugese Bean Soup

Tom Bombadil’s Restaurant, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Bon Appetite 1980

2 ham hocks (I prefer shanks over hocks)

1 12oz Portugese sausage (linguica), diced

3 medium potatoes

2 medium onions, diced

3 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped

ready to eat

2 medium carrots (4 oz), diced

1 medium-sized bell pepper, seeded, divined and chopped

1medium bunch parsley leaves, chopped

2 15oz cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I use Cannellini beans)

1 15oz tomato sauce (I use 1 15oz can chopped tomatoes and 1 8 oz can tomato sauce)

1 t salt

1 t freshly ground pepper

1 t hot pepper sauce (if the linguica is pretty hot you may not need or want to add this)

1 bay leaf

Combine ham hocks, and sausage in heavy size saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté 4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and enough water to cover. Bring to boil, skimming foam from surface. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer about 2 hours. Remove ham hocks from soup; discard bones. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Blend into soup. Enjoy!

Fabulous Fuyus

This morning I took a bike ride down the River Road, a paved two-lane road sitting atop the levee adjacent to the Sacramento River that doesn’t get much traffic, especially on weekdays. As I rode I could see the river lazily wandering on its journey to the San Francisco bay and beyond to the ocean off to one side and off to the other farmland, most of which is fallow now, dotted with a few houses and out buildings. This is one of my favorite rides and I don’t seem to tire of the scenery even when I have ridden the road for consecutive days. I usually see something memorable or unusual on these rides that cover 10 to 15 miles. And today was no exception.

As I was riding I was looking down towards one of the small farm houses admiring a beautiful persimmon tree heavily laden with fruit that was growing not far from the house when I noticed a couple of the low hanging fruits seemed to be moving. This was odd since there was no wind to speak of, so I slowed down, stopped and took a more focused look. What I saw was wild turkeys gathered beneath the branches pecking the fruit. I’ve seen turkeys many times on my rides but I’ve never seen them foraging fruit. The turkeys must have known that they didn’t have to worry about being chased off from their bountiful find since this farmhouse doesn’t currently have a dog in residence  and they were taking full advantage of the situation.

Turkeys aren’t the only ones who love fresh persimmons. A year ago I wrote about persimmons and what the term “true berries” meant and how I have grown to love these deliciously, crispy fruits. I have been buying them at the Farmers Market for weeks now and so far I haven’t tired of them. Sometimes I  chop them into small pieces add some chopped walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon and add it all to my morning bowl of oatmeal, but last night I used them in another favorite way, in a salad with baby spinach leaves and toasted pumpkin seeds all topped with a tasty little vinaigrette I had made using some Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup I picked up when I was in New Mexico in November. If you don’t happen to have any Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup vinaigrette available you could use vinaigrette made with pomegranate syrup or your favorite raspberry vinaigrette. You could also add any of the following to the salad; sliced red onion, pomegranate seeds, chopped Hazelnuts or candied pecans, sliced roasted beets or some goat cheese. They’re all delicious additions.

Poking around on the Internet I found the following recipes and uses for persimmons. They sounded too good not to share:

From KQED – Bay Area Bites

Fuyu Persimmon, Pear and Walnut Rolled Tart

Persimmon, Fennel and Almond Couscous

Fuyu Persimmon, Pear and Pine Nut Salad

From Destination Food

Pulled chicken salad with persimmon, witlof (endive) and avocado


WikiHowHow to Eat a Persimmon

Since finding a loaded tree that I can forage from hasn’t happened it looks like I’ll be picking up my fresh Fuyu this Sunday at the Farmers Market.

From Wikipedia – Persimmon

A persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenacae). The word Diospyros means “the fire of Zeus” in ancient Greek. As a tree, it is a perennial plant. The word persimmon is derived from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, from Powhatan, an Algonquian language of the eastern Untied States meaning “a dry fruit”. Persimmons are generally ligh yellow-orange to dark red-orange in color, and depending on the species, vary in size from 1.5 to 9 cm (0.5 to 4 in) in diameter, and may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped. The calyx often remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easier to remove as it ripens. They are high in glucose, with a balanced protein profile, and possess various medicinal and chemical uses.