I arrived at the market first thing in the morning, and was immediately smitten with the smells, colors, and mostly the samples, at the market this Sunday. My husband and I both spread out, finding our treasures before combining our haul into a delicious grilled summer feast that night!
It started with Lamb Merguez, a fresh sausage with North African flavors, from Scratch Meats. At home I added a quick flatbread to the grill (a chapati recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian), then grilled up zucchini from Simplicity Gardens, sprinkled with za’atar seasoning. As a side salad I threw some sautéed Romano beans, also from Simplicity, along with some cherry tomatoes I already had, in a vinaigrette. For dessert, we kept the grill going with huge ripe apricots from Baird Family Orchards, grilled then drizzled with TBees honey in their “mystery” flavor. It’s not actually a mystery, just a delicious mix of pollens instead of one single strain.
With the addition of a jar of Felton and Mary’s Artisan Foods medium barbeque sauce, my bags were filled up, but my coulda shoulda woulda list ran long. A sip of Lion Heart’s kombucha to go with the piles of fresh oysters from Hayes Oyster Company. Chicken from Cerigioli Gardens to be drenched in said barbeque sauce, and some gigantic black radishes from Glasrai Farm on the side. It was all I could do to resist the smells of tamales wafting from Mixteca’s big metal tamaleras.
A few weeks ago I snagged a pepper plant from Lil’ Starts. It’s an heirloom variety called Black Czech, and grows purple black peppers similar to jalapenos. Owner Lillian Klimaszewski gave me some tips for planting and maintenance, and now it’s flowering with tiny purple blooms. Here’s hoping I can keep it alive and thriving!
The heat was rising at the market, and Tony Chastain laments that he forgot his spray bottle. “I like to spray unsuspecting kids,” he grins. “Some of them don’t know how to react.” He invites me to sit on a cooler full of chicken to chat. The banner over us proudly reads Cerigioli Gardens: it’s named for his partner Jann York’s grandmother, who immigrated from Northern Italy at 16. “I would say we grow the widest variety of things at the market,” Tony tells me, emphasizing by pointing to various plucked herbs, vegetables, and the chicken chilling underneath me. Tony and Jann own and operate their gardens in the Viola Valley, outside Estacada. In addition to herbs, they grow vegetables for their CSA, as well as breed heritage sheep, rabbit, and ducks. This year they’re taking a break from turkeys, though in the past the birds have been a monumental addition to their holiday markets.
The farms focuses on permaculture, or the idea of mimicking the patterns of natural ecosystems. “We try to minimize our inputs and outputs. This means we pick things that go together–we compost the animal manure to fertilize the plants, and use leftover plant matter to feed the animals,” Tony explains. They receive chickens from a hatchery, but Tony proudly breeds his own sheep, rabbits, and duck. He’s part of a breeding group for his rabbits, heritage American Blue and Beveren crosses. The sheep are the St. Croix breed, known to be excellent for land management because they graze all three levels of the farmland: grass, bushes, and trees. After that the chickens come along and eat the bugs and weeds the sheep have left behind, in a symbiotic relationship.
Jann and Tony moved from Oregon City six years ago to start their farm, jumping at the chance to purchase the acreage. There’s only another berry farm nearby, along with a neighbor that raises show ponies, and another one with llamas. The Viola Valley is a hidden gem, even to residents of Estacada. “We know who the true locals are by who recognizes the name of the valley,” they say, laughing.
Before Cerigioli, Tony filled up their backyard garden with as many herbs that would fit. He’s a passionate medicinal herbalist, creating his own tinctures and offering up advice whenever anyone purchases a herb. Tarragon is rich in vitamins and minerals, for example, and peppermint is great for digestion. It’s perfect in teas. “A tea is the best way to use herbs, outside of eating them,” he claims. They currently grow over 10 varieties of herbs including peppermint, doublemint, thyme, oregano, sage, lavender, lemon balm, catnip, and rosemary. Jann’s favorite, basil, will be ready for harvest soon, and she’s looking forward to using it on sandwiches, as a rub for meat, or her family’s favorite: pesto!
Cerigioli is currently offering chicken, which will transition to rabbit and duck in the coming weeks. More information on their CSA, which focuses on Italian vegetables from April-October, is available at the website. Stop by the booth on market days for herbs, meats, veggies, herbal and gardening advice, and a refreshing water spritz!