Jostaberry Jam, Padrón Peppers and Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette

Whether you dash in and pick out a ripe tomato for tonight’s salad, or stop to get a bushel of cucumbers to pickle, you can’t beat a farm stand for fresh local produce. Sure, you can get those things at a grocery store, but if you’re after a sense of community, and crave a little conversation, you should happily head to the farm. I love the farm so much that I go as many times as I can during the summer and fall, but I tend to only go where I know. Embracing that summertime spirit of adventure, I thought it might be fun to venture out this week and explore some new places. 

After a quick Google search, we picked a few farms and were on our way. Our first stop was Flat Tack Farm, an organic farm located on Northeast 134th Street. Besides their selection of farm stand offerings, they offer CSA boxes, but you can also find them at the Vancouver Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. We took a peek at their refrigerated produce and were instantly drawn to the tiny, dark purple, unfamiliar-looking berries, which the owner was eager to tell me were jostaberries. She offered us some to try, explaining that they are a cross between a gooseberry and a black currant. The taste is unusual, both sweet and sour, a bit tart, a bit sweet, and a tad tangy. Verdict: delightful! I bought a small container to take home. 

When very ripe, they are sweet enough to eat fresh with cream, or you could use them in a fruit salad, where their dark color would provide an interesting contrast. Cooked, you can use them as a pie filling, for a crumble or fruit fool, or for jam making. I made a tart, sweet spoonable jam that was right at home on a cheese plate. I thought ahead and tucked some into the freezer, knowing it will be something special to serve at Thanksgiving. 

Next we stopped at Northwest Organic Farms in Ridgefield. Along with the fresh kale, chard, and zucchini, there were some small green peppers that caught my eye. The friendly lady working the stand shared that they were Padrón peppers and was only too happy to tell me more about them and how to cook them. “Some are hot, some are not,” she explained. I decided to buy a bag and see for myself.

Because they are so easy to prepare, Padrón peppers are great for tapas. Named Padrón for the town in the Galician region of Spain where they originated, they have been recognized by the European Union since 2010 with protected designation of origin. They have low levels of capsaicin, making them usually mild, but sometimes they can be surprisingly spicy, which is what makes the act of eating them even more exciting and fun to share. To bring out the distinctive flavor of the peppers, use the best quality olive oil you can find, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt just before serving. I did just this and found them to be unlike any pepper I have ever tasted. They were full of flavor, not too spicy, and it was impossible to eat just one. Verdict: I am hooked. 

Our third stop was George Hoffman Farms. This was a u-pick, so we decided to do some spur-of-the-moment berry picking. We picked raspberries, but since it was midday, the sun, and the fact that I was wearing sandals, kept our picking rather brief. (Note: bring a hat, long sleeved shirt, better shoes.) We still went home with about 2 pounds of beautiful, freshly picked berries. Maybe they tasted extra sweet because we picked them ourselves, but they were better than any we’ve ever had from the store. Most of them remained in perfect shape, but a few did not survive the trip and got crushed in the bag on the way home. I used these to make a Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette for dinner that night. Tossed with some field greens, diced cucumber and some fresh raspberries, it was a sweet reminder of our picking adventures.

We headed back after this and made our final stop at Velvet Acres. I quickly grabbed a few zucchini, a frozen bag of tart cherries, and a pint of the biggest, juiciest blackberries you have ever seen. Even though it was just a few minutes before closing, the friendly lady behind the register told me to take my time. This gave me long enough to peruse the jams and jellies, and I just couldn’t go home without a jar of Kentucky Bar Fight:  blueberries, blackberries, jalapeño peppers, bourbon, sugar, lemon juice and pectin. How could this be bad? 

Back at home, I decided that all of this would make a lovely summer snack board. I used the fresh berries, Padrón peppers, grilled zucchini and added some sliced baguette bread, grilled olives, a hard salami and some creamy Toscano cheese, along with some Cotswold Double Gloucester with onions and chives. I finished it with crackers, some fresh herbs and some of the justaberry jam that I made.  

Take your own summer adventure and try something new. Don’t forget your cooler and some ice packs so you can keep whatever you find cool and fresh. It’s a good idea to bring cash, but some farms take checks, credit cards or mainly use payment apps like Venmo or PayPal. Visit a local farm stand and pick up something fun. 

Jostaberry Jam

  • 1 pint ripe jostaberries
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or more, until sweetened to your liking)

Combine jostaberries, water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a light boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and continue to cook and stir, letting simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. 

Padrón Peppers

  • fresh Padrón peppers
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • flaky sea salt 

Wash Padrón peppers in a colander, then dry thoroughly. (The drier they are, the better they will brown and blister.) Add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom of a cast-iron or other heavy skillet, about 1 to 2 centimeters. When the oil is very hot, but not yet smoking, add the peppers and allow them to blister and brown before turning. Turn several times, until they’re soft and browned on all sides. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Eat while hot and fresh, leaving only the stems behind. 

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat in a skillet over medium heat. (We tried the microwave. Still out of this world delicious.) 

Fresh Raspberry Vinaigrette

makes 1 cup

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon raspberry jam
  • 1 Tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • a few fresh raspberries

Whisk all ingredients together. Store in a covered container in refrigerator. 

Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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