Oregon’s Wild Food Industry

22 02 2014

pearsOregon hangs out in the Pacific Northwest part of the United States of America and receives scant global recognition for its food. When the world thinks of famous chefs, fabulous cuisine, and flourishing gourmets, Oregon remains off the radar. Oregonians, however, claim a rich epicurean history and a spot within the top five states producing crops. Families and foodies know that Oregon leads the wild food industry by offering the best quality raw food in the world because its crops mature slowly in the mild climate. These include melons, pears, grapes, berries, mushrooms, potatoes, onions, nuts, and over 200 additional crops.

The diverse geography breaks Oregon into three crop-growing districts: The Oregon Coast, the Willamette Valley, and Eastern and Southern Oregon. Plant-based crops like trees, herbs, wheat, and grass seeds find the most ideal land in the world right here. Seafood such as fish and shellfish sustained Oregonians for centuries and continues baiting Pacific Northwest palates and beyond.

This trendy farm-to-table movement isn’t a new concept in Oregon, where small farmers’ markets prosper because locals want to know the origin of their food. Eating fresh by adding little to the food allows natural flavors to shine through and provides a healthier diet. This idea influences restaurateurs who buy locally grown ingredients and serve them raw or wild. Another term I heard for this is “unfussy.” I like that; it sums up Oregonians perfectly.

The late chef and food writer James Beard was born in Oregon and became a culinary figure by the mid 20th century. Beard appeared on the very first cooking show on television in the 1940s called I Love to Eat, 15 years before his fan Julia Child stepped in front of the camera. He founded the James Beard Cooking School in 1955 with a passion for teaching clean cooking and pulling the American society out of its Jell-O-mold fog. Beard advocated the farm-to-table philosophy along with preparing and eating the fare with others, so we gain the most enjoyment from it. Beard detested industrial agriculture popularized after WWII saying, “Unfortunately, we’re living in a convenience age where people merely eat to add fodder to the body.” Oregon’s leadership in the current wild food industry would make Beard proud.

To learn more about Oregon’s food history, check out the first uniquely Pacific Northwest cookbook from 1885 called The Web-Foot Cook Book.

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