Feast: 7 locally grown bulk foods

Pub date September 6, 2007
SectionFood & Drink

Think about it: every time you take a sip of Bordeaux, a fuzzy baby polar bear loses another drop of its habitat. Importing your party goods from overseas comes at a big fossil fuel–spewing cost. If you want the good times to keep rolling into the next millennium, you won’t have to suffer a bit. Just stick to Napa Valley wines and local microbrews and limit your fruit and veggie intake to the produce of local organic and sustainable farms. But what about some of the bulk items you keep in your kitchen? Getting some of your dietary staples from local sources isn’t as difficult as you might think. And, remember, the fresher your food, the better it tastes. (Deborah Giattina)


Eureka! There’s wheat growing in California. This certified organic and sustainable farm in the Capay Valley, about an hour north of Sacramento, tills four to five acres of the grain, mills it, and bags it for sale at farmers’ markets in Berkeley and Marin. The same goes for Full Belly’s three acres of blue corn. Freshly milled flour and corn contain oils that dissolve more quickly than those in the all-purpose varieties shelved at the supermarket, making the flavor dramatically more delicious.

(530) 796-2214, www.fullbellyfarm.com


To get away from genetically modified, corporate-trademarked crops and seek out interesting varieties, organic farmers are looking to vintage legumes. Rancho Gordo, a Napa Valley farm, grows heirloom beans in limited quantities and gives them pretty names like Nightfall Red and Black Valentine. These fresh beans, once unfamiliar to the American palate, are bursting with yumminess — and the potential for new recipes. Buy them at Rainbow Grocery, farmers’ markets, or online. Rancho Gordo also grows corn and makes its own tortillas.

(707) 259-1935, www.ranchogordo.com


Just because you need your olive oil brand to end in a vowel to feel authentic doesn’t mean you have to ship it in from Mother Italy. Two local family-owned and -run olive growers and pressers can service all of your extra virgin needs. The Barianis moved to Sacramento from the Lombardy region of Northern Italy in 1989 and have been producing limited quantities of raw organic extra virgin olive oil from their own orchard and handmade press since the 1990s. Sciabica and Sons have been pressing oil from olives harvested in every season since the 1930s. Their organic variety comes from their San Andreas orchard.

(209) 577-5067, www.sciabica.com. (415) 864-1917, www.barianioliveoil.com


No doubt, banishing refined sugar from your diet isn’t easy. But when you think about Brazil being the largest producer of sugarcane and the spike in carbon dioxide levels caused by the loss of rainforests to make way for massive plantations, you might consider turning to recipes that replace the white powder with honey. Mint Hill honey is produced in the Castro and is conveniently stocked at Bi-Rite Market.

(415) 290-7405, www.minthillhoney.com


Known as a healing food, seaweed enhances vegetables, makes great soup stock, and can even substitute for noodles. An ocean-loving couple living on the rocky shores of Mendocino County carefully harvest wild seaweed from the Pacific and dry it for consumption. According to John Lewallan, who cofounded the Mendocino Seaweed Vegetable Co. in 1980, the Pacific Northwest has the cleanest water and produces the best seaweed. Buy your sea palm fronds and iron-rich red dulse online or at Rainbow Grocery.

(707) 895-2996, www.seaweed.net


Honestly, the beans used by Minh Tsai and John Notz of Hodo Soy originate in the Midwest, but the benefits of purchasing Hodo’s hand-rolled tofu are the freshness and the astounding flavor that come from processing the beans in Hodo’s nearby Santa Clara facility. Tsai and Notz also sell adventurous prepared tofu dishes at Bay Area farmers’ markets.

(415) 902-5137, www.hodosoybeanery.com


Gluten-intolerant San Franciscans can find refuge in grains and rice flours grown and ground at Koda Farms, located in the San Joaquin Valley. The Koda family for generations has been farming sweet, brown, and paddy rice, which it sells both as whole grain and ground into a gluten-free flour it calls Mochiko. Its Kokuho Rose Premium Rice Flour is organic and runs in limited production. You’ll find Koda’s goods at Rainbow Grocery.

(209) 392-2191, www.kodafarms.com