Real Food
Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

Mushroom Stuffed Squash

Mushroom Stuffed Squash

As the light changes, the leaves start to turn and the air hints at a touch of autumn, it’s time to harvest the bounty of the garden. Squashes are prolific producers yielding a generous crop that can be stored for use during the winter months and prepared many different ways. In summer they go on the grill, shredded into a recipe or chopped into a salad. I love them stuffed and baked especially on cool autumn days when warmth from the oven is a welcome thing. I stumbled by accident on a type of squash that can fit in either of these categories.

Each year I experiment with different types and plant favorites. I love acorn squash. I ordered what was supposed to be acorn squash. They thrived and started climbing the bean trellis. When the first fruits appeared I had a mystery in the garden. These were not acorn. They resembled pumpkins. I posted pictures online asking if anyone knew what they were. Many thought they were round zucchini. I cut one open thinking I would shred it up for a recipe. Not zucchini. Firm, hard and crisp, slightly sweet-some kind of squash.

I scanned my seed catalogs to see if I could identify. I think I grew ‘Tatuma’ which is both a summer and winter squash if left on the vine. Picked small it is similar to zucchini. If left to ripen it will change to a golden color.  It’s an heirloom popular in Latin dishes.

In any case, I had some cut squash to use so I made a mushroom stuffed Tatuma and sharing the recipe below.

This recipe is a variation on a basic stuffing recipe my mother, grandmothers and great grandmothers taught me as a child. It wasn’t written down. It is more about eyeballing the texture and tasting than measuring. I always wanted to help by tasting because I love stuffing. I’ve included approximate measurements for those who prefer a more exact recipe. The recipe can be altered to use any kind of herbs, grains, bread, croutons, nuts, meats or spices. I used mushrooms because I had them in my fridge. This makes 2-4 servings. 


2 squash cut in half and seeded
Stale, good bread to make 2-3 cups croutons* (See recipe below or sub store bought)
1 onion chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms (I used baby portabella)
3-4 garlic cloves chopped
1 stalk celery (you can also add carrot for color and texture)
½ cup chopped herbs (I used parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme from the garden)
6 tbsp (or more) butter
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
¼ cup crumbled Parmesan
½ to 1 cup broth or stock (vegetable, chicken, turkey, beef-I used vegetable)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic salt (*optional)


Brush with olive oil

Pre-bake Squash 

1. Preheat oven to 350º

2. Cut squashes in half, seed

3. Place on baking sheet

4. Brush with olive oil

5. Season with salt & pepper or garlic salt and pepper

6. Bake 30 minutes or until flesh is softened. Remove from oven

Prepare croutons

Prepare croutons: 

1. Slice bread into 1 inch squares

2. Place on ungreased baking sheet

3. Toast with squash on another rack until brown and crunchy turning if needed

Chop vegetables


1. Finely chop onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms

2. Sautee over medium heat in 2-3 tablespoons butter until softened and just starting to caramelize

3. Season with salt and pepper to taste

4. Chop herbs

5. In a bowl, combine croutons, vegetables, Parmesan, bread crumbs and herbs

6. Heat ½ C broth and 3 T butter until melted

7. Pour broth & butter over croutons, stir to combine until just moistened *You don’t want to make paste, just to combine and moisten. Mixture should hold together but croutons still recognizable. If too dry, add more broth and butter.

8. Spoon stuffing into squash

9. Top with more melted butter if desired

10. Bake another 30 minutes or until squash if soft, stuffing is heated through and browned on top

For myself I served this as a main dish. Can be served as a side, ½ squash per person. Extra stuffing can be baked in a buttered baking dish along with squashes. For vegan, omit butter & cheese, sub additional vegetable broth and olive oil. Any type of squash can be used with this recipe. Stuffing can also be used to stuff fowl, meat or fish.

Stephanie Bishop is an award-winning floral designer, wedding and events planner, gardener, cook and author in Central Wisconsin. Follow her at Better Path Wisconsinwhere she connects like-minded individuals about environmental, social and civil interests, and promotes green, healthy, sustainable living. View thousands of her food, floral and animal images on her Facebook page at Stephanie Bee and browse floral design ideas at Bishop Wedding & Floral ArtRead all of Stephanie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Tips for Freezing Garden Veggies (and the Best ones to Freeze!)

Freezing Beans

There are many ways to preserve your garden harvest to feed your family over the winter.  Canning and dehydrating are excellent options, but some veggies will require a pressure canner instead of a simple water bath canning system and some veggies, in my opinion, simply taste better when thoughtfully frozen.  Freezing can also be a faster process, depending on your options.

When freezing veggies, keep a few things in mind:

Freeze veggies when they are at their prime, not overripe or after they have been sitting in your fridge for a week. This will ensure better taste and quality when you go to use them later.

Many veggies benefit from a quick blanch or steam before freezing. There is good reason for this.  There are enzymes present that begin to break down the veggie as soon as it is harvested, leading to nutrition and flavor loss.  Applying a little bit of heat deactivates these enzymes so that they do not keep working while your veggies are in the freezer.

A vacuum sealing appliance can be helpful when packing up some frozen veggies; eliminating air in the package helps to avoid the built up of freezer burn and keeps veggies fresher. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you can also try putting the veggies in a resealable freezer bag, closing the bag most of the way, then inserting a straw to suck out the air.

When freezing veggies at home, it is a good idea to freeze in batches of about a meal’s worth. This way, you only have to open one package to get what you need for dinner.  Home-sealed packages won’t be easy to re-seal and put back in the fridge and you’ll risk the rest of your veggies going bad or getting freezer burn.  We also find that this helps us estimate how much we’ll be able to provide for ourselves and plan accordingly.

While freezing is great, it does require the use of electricity (which is part of the reason why we installed solar on our homestead!) and often makes use of non-recyclable containers; because of this, we make choices about what we freeze based on what we think tastes best with this method. 

Green Beans – Hands down this is the veggie of which we freeze the most.  It is impressive how fresh frozen green beans can taste when lightly steamed and tossed with a little bit of butter and salt and pepper.  Make sure you pick the “cream of the crop” beans, ideally pods that are not yet showing the shape of the beans inside.  If they are too small they will cook to quickly in the blanching water, and if they are too big they will be too tough when you go to serve them in the winter.  Our preferred method for freezing beans includes a quick blanch followed by packing them into a freezer or vacuum sealed bag.

Cherry Tomatoes – While most of our paste tomatoes go into making tomato sauce or salsa that we can, cherry tomatoes aren’t as great for those recipes.  Plus, sometime we are swimming in cherry tomatoes and really don’t have enough time to use or can them.  Instead, we freeze cherry tomatoes in gallon-sized bags.  There is no need to blanch first, but cherry tomatoes can benefit from being laid out on a tray to freeze individually before going into plastic bags.  We use them to make “fresh” tomato sauce in a saute pan in the winter.  You won’t be able to eat these as a snack (sniff sniff) but they do make a great sauce when simmered down.

Freezing Corn

Corn – There is such a HUGE difference between corn you freeze yourself fresh off the cob and corn you’d buy at a grocery store in a bag.  I don’t feel the same way about peas (the return on investment of time is just not the same) but corn is so easy to just strip off the cob at the height of summer freshness and bag up for the fridge.  There is some debate about freezing corn on or off the cob, cooked or raw.  We prefer to freeze corn cut off the cob after blanching.  For more details on the process, visit this article about the best way to freeze corn.

Winter Squash & Pumpkins – If you don’t have a great place to store winter squash whole or you’re worried it will not last much longer, you can roast your squash and puree it, thus saving yourself a step when you go to make soup or pumpkin pie.  Then freeze it in quart-sized yogurt containers or mason jars (leaving enough head space for expansion).  Think of it as your own version of canned pumpkin (and your version will be much yummier!). There is no doubt that roasted squash has much more depth of flavor and pure yumminess than squash that has been boiled or otherwise softened, so this is our method of choice when preparing squash to be frozen. 

Kale & Collards – As two of the heartier leafy greens, kale and collards can be frozen for later use either sautéed on their own, as described in this article on cooking leafy greens, or chopped up and added to almost anything you are cooking – from lasagna to chili to soup or stir-fry.  Choose leaves that are well-developed but not overgrown, and that don’t have too much damage from pests, then remove the thick stems and chop before freezing.  Like beans, your greens will benefit from being blanched for 2-3 minutes and then plunged in an ice water bath and dried before freezing in an air tight bag. 

Stocking your freezer for the winter is one of the best ways to feed yourself when the grocery store is charging higher prices for out-of-season produce that has traveled a long distance to get to you. 

Happy Preserving!

Carrie Williams Howe is a blogger aThe Happy Hive Homestead.  She is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston,Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about learning collaboratively. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Simply the Most Fabulous Fresh Salsa-Pico De Gallo!


There is nothing better than fresh summer fruits and vegetables and this is the time of the year for tomatoes. I have a dear friend who is from Mexico and she was visiting the farm a few years ago in August.  After brushing the horses, feeding the pigs and helping collect eggs, we ended up at the garden on a pre-dinner collecting expedition.  As we filled the basket with cucumbers, peppers, onions and tomatoes, Sandra exclaimed with delight over my abundant and over-sized jalapenos. 

“Do you make pico?” she asked.

“Make what? I asked.

“Pico de gallo! You know fresh salsa!”  I love salsa and I had made regular cooked salsa and tomato salads but never this mysterious pico de gallo.

Pico de gallo literally means “beak of the rooster” and it’s not entirely clear where the name comes from though online discussion boards offer two possible ideas.  One is that to calm fighting roosters, trainers would put the rooster’s head in their mouth and at first the rooster would peck the tongue similar to the bite of the hot peppers in the pico de gallo salsa.  Another is that the finely minced ingredients looked like chicken feed.  No matter where the name comes from, pico de gallo is a salsa that originated in Mexico.

In the kitchen, Sandra rummaged through the basket and selected two spectacular heirloom tomatoes, two jalapenos, and two smallish onions.  After we finely diced all three ingredients we mixed them in a bowl and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  That was it! I expected lime juice or cilantro or some other secret ingredient, but this was how Sandra’s mom had made it so that was that (though many variations do include cilantro and lime).

We split open a new bag of tortilla chips and dug in… and it was AMAZING! Sandra’s kids clustered around the bowl with my kids.

“I can’t stop eating this!”

“Wow, Mom this tastes even better than usual!”

“I don’t care if my lips are burning, give me another chip.” (This from one of my kids who had never willingly consumed fresh jalapenos before)

“Can we make more?”

The bowl emptied in five minutes flat.  The two older girls began dicing more tomatoes to make another bowl and Sandra explained that the fresh heirloom tomatoes really made the pico taste incredible.  Ever since that Sunday afternoon we have regularly made pico de gallo from the beginning to the bitter end of tomato season.  Canned salsa is for the winter but pico is for the summer!

Sandra O’s Pico de Gallo


1 large tomato
1 large jalapeno
1 small onion
salt and pepper to taste


1. Wash all ingredients and peel onion.

2. Finely dice the tomato, put into bowl.

3. Finely dice the jalapeno, test for heat level and dice with pith and seeds for a spicier result, remove for a milder version. Add to bowl.

4. Finely dice the onion and add to bowl.

5. Stir together and add salt and pepper.

Hints and Tips:

We like fresh juicy beefsteak style heirloom tomatoes for pico de gallo but in a pinch any tomato will do, just remember the better the tomato the better the pico.

Don’t be shy with the salt, add a bit taste and add a bit more if you want to ratchet up the flavor.

If jalapenos scare you, this is wonderful with bell peppers (it’s just missing that magic spicy kick that I love) I make it with bell peppers for my husband.

I find this makes a great condiment for scrambled eggs, over corn on the cob, and on top of baked potatoes as well as with quesadillas and other salsa-y applications.  Sometimes I just eat it with a spoon, Mmmmmmm.  .

Nicole Carlin is the primary farmer of an “in-progress” homestead with lots of help from her husband and children. She loves to provide farm fresh food for her family and friends.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Green Beans: The Joy of Canning


The sweetest and most wonderful thing just happened. Last Saturday I was at the Farmers Market with my mom. I had just finished buying a 3 pound bag of green beans. I absolutely love green beans and I will go to an all-you-can-eat buffet just for the green beans. I usually end up having a whole plate of just green bean, although I must confess I've had two plates before. So I had just finished buying my green beans, and was going to leave when I overheard a conversation with a little white haired lady talking to the farmer's boys about buying a bushel of green beans. She says she really wants to can but then says she can't afford the bushel. I asked her why she wanted the green beans, she said she loved to can and she just wanted something to do. I ask them how much a bushel of green beans cost? They say a bushel of green beans was about 30 pounds. Or $40. 

I turned to the little old lady and asked her if I bought the green beans would she can them for me? And she lit up like nobody's business just radiating joy from her toes out the top of her head. She turned to a man that was standing behind her who turned out to be her son and she said, "can I do that?" in an incredulous voice.

He said, "Do you want to?"

She said, "Yes I really want to!! "

So I asked her, how do you want to work this out? she said, well, you buy the green beans, I'll can them and then we'll split them. She said a bushel of green beans would be about 24 quarts. 

She started going into detail how she was going to can them. We compared canning technique, as I like to can tomatoes. She told me about how many kids she had to raise and that canning was a necessity to feed so many kids. 

My mom walked up about then and the two of them talked about that they lost their husbands on the same month although different years. And she asked my mom do you can any? My mom says no, although we did dry a lot of food we never really canned as it seemed like a lot of work.

Then the little old lady started worrying about how I'd be able to get them or pick them up as she lived about a half hour away. She started describing where she lived and said can you figure out how to get there. I gave her son my business card thinking that honestly that was the end of it, thinking I wouldn't hear from them again, but not worrying about it because the joy and pleasure of giving this lady the green beans was just amazing.

Today her son gave me a call and said he wanted to meet halfway and give me the green beans. When we met up, he said with a huge smile that his mom had all the green beans prepped that afternoon after being at the Farmers Market and all of them canned by the next day. He thanked me profusely. He said that's the first time in a couple years since his dad had died that he saw his mom smiling  so much. That she was sorry she couldn't be there but she had to go to Oklahoma to be with her other son who had some health issues. And that if I wanted any more green beans she would gladly can more. So although I have a box of jars of the most delicious green beans, for me they are jars the most delicious love

Aur Beck has lived completely off-grid for over 35 years. He has traveled with his family through 24 states and 14,000 recorded miles by horse-drawn wagon. Aur is a presenter at The Climate Reality Project, a fellow addict at Oil Addicts Anonymous International  and a talk show co-host at WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinois 91.1 FM. Find him on the Living Off Grid, Really!?!?Facebook page, and read all of Aur's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



Processing Cooking Lavender


Each year, I try to harvest several bunches of culinary lavender to process specifically for cooking. Lavender makes a great addition to many baked goods as well as drinks. The difference between homegrown lavender and the lavender you can buy in the spice shelves of the grocery stores is like night and day as far as flavor goes. And the process itself is relatively easy once you've grown the plant itself.

I try to make sure I harvest the lavender before the flowers start to open which, for our area (Seattle), is in early July. Many years, I drag my feet too long and miss that short window of opportunity. Oftentimes it's also dependent on weather, so you have to watch closely. I think for the last few years I missed the mark and ended up kicking myself for not harvesting my plants before the flowers opened.

Drying. This year I managed to time it properly. Drying lavender is pretty straightforward. If you want to get fancy you can use a food dehydrator, but I just bunch the stems up with rubber bands and then hang the bunches upside down in a dirt free and low traffic area of the house until they are dry.

Processing. When it comes down to processing the lavender, this is where patience is required. I suppose you can just rub the tiny buds off the lavender, store it and be on your merry way, but I like to be a lot more fastidious about my lavender. The kind you buy in the store is oftentimes full of little stems and other detritus.

See those little brown bud "wrappers" in the photo above? Well, I painstakingly go through each bud and pull them aside to ensure that what's left is just lavender buds. It might seem a little overly crazy, but I'm eating these and don't want all the twigs in there!

Deanna Duke is a software developer, writer, urban homesteader and friendly rabble-rouser. Check out her blog at The Crunchy Chicken, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Tomato Sauce and Penne 

Tomato season is peaking! With bushels of juicy tomatoes dropping from the vine it is time to make all things tomato. Every summer I make at least one batch of sauce and freeze it to enjoy during the cold winter months.  The recipe is simple and versatile depending on what herbs and seasonings you include. It’s vegetarian and vegan unless you serve it with meat or cheese. You can add sweet and/or hot peppers, any kind of onion or herbs. I like a little kick to my sauce, so today I threw in one red banana pepper. The recipe can be scaled up or down depending on how big of pot you want to make.

I’m not going to lie to you. Good things come to those who wait. This is an all-day project but worth the time and effort. You will have a lovely dinner and plenty of sauce to eat, freeze or can. Roasting the tomatoes and peppers is actually much easier than blanching and peeling them and adds a nice depth and richness to the flavor of the sauce. 


• tomatoes (I used about 6 pounds)
• 2-3 large onions
• 1 head garlic (the whole bulb)
• 1 carrot
• 1 can (6 ounce) tomato paste
• fresh herbs (Several stems of basil, oregano)
• olive oil
• 1 T Italian seasoning
• 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
• 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste-I used black pepper but can sub any kind)
• 2 to 3 T sugar
• *pasta for serving (as pictured)
• *shredded Parmesan Cheese for serving
•* fresh herbs to garnish


Preheat oven to 450º

1. Coat 2 large sheet pans with olive oil

2. Wash, stem and core tomatoes, cut in half (If you don’t like seeds, seed them as well. I leave them in. I like a chunky sauce. You can also pass sauce through a sieve at the end if you prefer.)

3. Place tomato halves on sheet pan cut side down

Roasted tomatoes

4. Roast tomatoes until skins start to puff and blacken (about 15 minutes), remove from oven & cool

5. While tomatoes roast, coarsely chop onions, carrot and garlic

Sweat onion, carrot and garlic

6. In large sauce pot, on medium heat, sweat onions, carrot and garlic until softened

7. When cool, with your hands, squeeze tomatoes out of skins into pot with onion mixture. They should pop right out. Pour any juice in the baking sheet into the pot. Stir to combine

8. Add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, sugar and whole herb stems to pot, stir to combine

Add paste, herbs and seasonings

9. Simmer on low heat for 3-6 hours stirring occasionally

10. Taste the sauce as it cooks. If sauce seems to tart, add more sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. If it seems bland, add more seasonings or salt and pepper. Note, the flavors will intensify as sauce cooks down and color will darken, so don’t overdo it.

Pureed sauce

11. When finished, sauce can be eaten as is or pureed in a blender or food processor until smooth. If canning, follow basic canning instructions at this point and process. For freezing, cool sauce in a low flat pan, then portion and package in containers or freezer bags.

Serve as you would any tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce. Pair with good pasta with a lot of nooks and crannies to hold sauce. I used penne today. Save a cup of the cooking water for combing sauce, cheese and pasta. Cook pasta until “al dente”, which means still has a little chew to it, because it will continue to cook in hot tomato sauce and reserved cooking water. Drain the pasta. Combine pasta with a portion of sauce, a large handful of grated Parmesan (or cheese of your liking), a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of starchy cooking water. Stir gently to coat all the noodles. Spoon into serving bowls, top with more cheese and fresh torn herbs.

Enjoy! Mangia!

Photos and recipe by Stephanie Bishop

Stephanie Bishop is an award-winning floral designer, wedding and events planner, gardener, cook and author in Central Wisconsin. Follow her at Better Path Wisconsin, where she connects like-minded individuals about environmental, social and civil interests, and promotes green, healthy, sustainable living. View thousands of her food, floral and animal images on her Facebook page at Stephanie Bee and browse floral design ideas at Bishop Wedding & Floral Art. Read all of Stephanie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Montinore Estate: Biodynamic Wines For A Healthier Planet

Montinore Estate tasting room 

With consumers demanding more access to organic and biodynamic produce, it’s good to know that wineries are listening. In the Tualatin Valley, just minutes from downtown Portland is where Montinore Estate is located. Montinore is cranking out the most Demeter certified estate wines from clean and pure biodynamic grapes in the United States.

I visited the Tualatin Valley in October 2017 to explore farm markets, restaurants, and wineries. It’s lots of fun to visit these types of businesses and sample their goods. One of the most memorable sites of my trip was two hours spent at Montinore Estate. The ivy climbing the exterior wall of the tasting room building was turning red with the approaching fall weather. Inside I was treated to a sampling of their exceptional wines from fruit-forward white blends to intense pinot noirs. Even though two hours seems like plenty of time to investigate a winery, Montinore needed much more research.

Montinore Estate Tasting Room

As a consumer of organic or biodynamic produce, I’ve started searching out the same green and clean practices in the wine I drink. Tens of thousands of other wine drinkers are also looking for wine that was made from grapes not dusted with toxic sprays or chemicals used in winemaking. Back in the 1990s it was hard to find a good tasting organic/biodynamic wine at a reasonable price.  Times are a changing and Montinore is leading the way.

I recently had the chance to interview outgoing president Rudy Marchesi after his daughter Kristin took over the reins. Rudy is still active by helping the head winemaker, Stephen Webber, and new viticulturist, Karen Peterson. I wanted to hear from this pioneer of Biodynamic® grape growing and winemaking what it was like to go against the grain and eschew chemicals and other unfriendly eco-practices that most wineries participate in.

Montinore Estate truck

First I wanted to ask Rudy,”Who is buying organic/biodynamic wines?”

Rudy: “A lot of people don’t even know they are buying biodynamic wine. People who care about the environment buy organic vegetables and are health conscious are buying our wines. Biodynamic is more than just organic, there’s that special aspect of the whole biodynamic process give the vines more personality of where they are from and attract those looking for that type of wine.

KJ: Does it cost you more to make organic/biodynamic wines?

Rudy: “No. The assumption is that biodynamic wine costs more to produce but we have found our vines are healthier and more resistant to diseases. We produce excellent wine for the same price as conventional farming or even less. Over the years we have found the vines are much more in balance and easier to manage. In the earlier years the vines needed more trellising but are now easier to manage.

KJ: How much of Montinore’s wine is biodynamic?

Rudy: “All of our wine was biodynamic up until 2016 when we found out we couldn’t keep up with demand. We started buying pinot noir grapes from good growers who grew organic, Live certified, or biodynamic, but we can’t label it Biodynamic anymore because it’s probably only 70% biodynamic fruit. But all of our pinot gris and other wines are still biodynamic. 70 % of all our wines by volume are Demeter Certified Biodynamic.”

KJ: What else is Montinore doing to be environmentally friendly?

Rudy:  “We are growing cover crops. Our vine rows are 7-10 feet wide and that’s a lot of space in between. So we grow cover crops in between to not only increase fertility and health of the soil but we include things that are food for pollinators and other beneficial insects. We also have a lake that we set aside for waterfowl and wildlife.”

KJ: How does pinot noir do using biodynamic growing practices since it’s a fussy grape?

Rudy: “The farmer needs to be much more attentive. You can’t let problems get away from you. There are no “silver bullets.” We don’t use those heavy chemicals that are available. We can’t afford a powdery mildew outbreak. Our big guns are baking soda you know so that’s as big as it gets. We spend a lot of time observing what’s going on. You have to be much more proactive and the side benefit is being a better grape grower because you have to be more engaged.”

KJ: Are you seeing more of your competitors using biodynamic practices?

Rudy: It kind of became a thing and then it faded a little bit. Now with the awareness of the microbiome in the soil and how it affects wine quality in the long run, people are starting to pay attention again. One of the things about biodynamics is we look at the farm as a whole living organism underground and above ground hedgerows and everything. If your goal is to make high-quality wine you want to have a healthy biosphere. Oregon has the highest percentage of third party certified sustainable grape growers of any wine growing region in the world. That means the’re cutting back on herbicides and hot pesticides that are used in other areas. The net effect of that is were not killing off the beneficial life forms that are in the soil or on the leaves.

KJ: Mankind has been making wine for some six thousand years and hasn’t used chemical herbicide or pesticides for most of that time. Doesn’t that mean we can still make plenty of good wine without conventional practices involving chemicals?

Rudy: “The real cutting edge researchers in wine are starting to look backwards and say, oh yeah, that’s why they used to do that, because it was allowing microorganisms that quietly impact the quality of the wine. Instead of wiping the microorganisms out and trying to start with a blank slate and re-create the wine.

KJ: How do you feel about Kristin taking over the president positon?

Rudy: “I’m thrilled that Kristin will continue to use her leadership and acumen to carry on our tradition of crafting outstanding wines. I look forward to watching Kristin carry on the tradition of land stewardship, biodynamic farming, and sustainable winemaking.”

As the interview concluded I learned from Rudy that growing grapes on a large scale is possible without significant damage to our Earth. As for the quality of Montinore Estate wines, I was able to sample several of their wines including a 2016 pinot gris,perfect with linguine and clam sauce. The Graham’s Block 7 pinot noir was a well-balanced red wine I paired with lamb chops and duck with great success. And for a fruit-forward wine, the Borealis white blend is a good choice with cheese or dessert.

Montinore Estate grape vines

Montinore Estate grape vines in autumn.

If you can’t find Montinore Estate wines in your area, consider signing up for their wine club. Montinore can currently ship wine to 32 states. I highly recommend visiting their beautiful vineyard and tasting room in the Tualatin Valley next time you are in the area. Bring a picnic and grab a table outside for a great way to experience biodynamic wine.

Kurt Jacobsohas been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his sixth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt's travel blog, Read all of Kurt's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

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