The camas is a small, blue flower that grows in wetland meadows across the Pacific Northwest. The plant's root was a highly prized food source for indigenous tribes, and even sustained Lewis and Clark on their expedition up the Columbia River. It is this plant, so intertwined with the history of the land and the people of the Northwest, that the Huntons chose to symbolize the latest expansion in 2010 of their Eugene-area family farm: Camas Country Mill
The Hunton family, now led by Tom, his wife Sue, and son Jason, have been growing grains and seeds in the Willamette Valley for over 60 years. Most of the 2700-acre farm is cultivated with grass and other seeds for commercial use, but 140 of those acres are devoted to wheat, legumes and other grains for the retail market. Transitioning a portion of their land to these food crops, the Huntons say, reflects their desire to contribute knowledge and resources to the food security needs of the Willamette Valley. In a patient, but measurable, revolution, Willamette Valley growers are seeking to prove that crop diversity leads to a more self-sufficient food system, in turn supporting farmers and other agricultural occupations and benefiting the whole local economy.
With years of expertise in growing seed for a variety of uses, grains and legumes seemed an obvious choice to diversify at Camas Country Mill. The 140 acres on which the milling crops are grown is in the process of receiving an organic certification. On the conventional land, the Huntons utilize sustainable practices such as crop rotation, minimal tillage, manure instead of chemical fertilizers, and cover-cropping. In addition to working with non-GMO varieties, the Huntons constantly experiment with finding grain varieties that will mill well and withstand the unique climate and disease pressures of the Northwest.
In speaking with the Huntons and their staff, the pride that they feel in their growing practices and their contribution to the local food economy is palpable. Another source of pride is the Danish-built stone gristmill, where all of Camas Country Mill's products are fresh-milled to order. From hard red and hard white wheats, which will work best for your homemade whole wheat bread, to soft white wheat for the perfect holiday pies, cookies, and cakes, and even heirloom wheats that will lend a rich, nutty flavor to your breads and crackers, the range of Camas Country Mill's products will find a use in any kitchen. For the baking-challenged, dried lentils, soup mixes, and cooking grains will add flavor and nutrition to many a home-cooked meal.
Nat Kerr, regular HFM shopper and deacon at our neighboring Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, likes to use Camas Country Mill's flour in his favorite bread recipe, adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book:Ingredients
3 C lukewarm water or 1 C lukewarm milk + 2 C lukewarm water for softer bread
1 ½ T dry yeast (2 packages)
¼ C sweetener (brown sugar, honey, or molasses)
4 C Camas Country Mill whole wheat flour
4 t salt
⅓ C vegetable oil or butter
3 C additional whole wheat flour
1 C whole wheat flour, as needed (for kneading)
1 egg (for egg wash)Steps
1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the sweetener. Let sit several minutes to hydrate. Stir in the 4 cups of whole-wheat flour to form a thick batter. Beat well with a spoon (100 strokes) or combine with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.
2. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes.
3. Fold in the salt and the oil, then fold in the additional 3 cups of flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Knead on a floured board for about 10 minutes or mix with the hook attachment of your stand mixer for about 5 minutes, using the additional 1 cup flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Stop when the dough is smooth.
4. Lightly oil a clean, dry bowl. Form the dough into a smooth round and let rise for 50 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch it down.
5. Let the dough rise for another 40 to 50 minutes, or until doubled in size. Shape the dough into loaves and place in 2 loaf pans or a single heavy baking dish. Let rise for 20 to 25 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
7. Beat the egg with a couple tablespoons of water or milk and brush the tops of the loaves with this egg wash. Bake for 40 minutes to an hour, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the pans and let cool before slicing.
For more recipes, visit the Camas Country Mill booth at the Hollywood Farmers Market, or visit their website