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Walking tours and dinner of foraged foods :: Sunday, May 18, 2008, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Ralph Lentz Farm :: Lake City, MN

Photos and reminiscences



Origami mushroom design by Vincent Floderer. Folded by
Jane Rosemarin. Eaten by traditional origami snail.

Food and friendship
There was a celebratory mood throughout the event, with local artisanal beer and wine flowing, lots of new friendships made and delicious food prepared by Chef Ron. The menu was well designed for the day: nettle pasta, fresh morels, chickweed salad and tender wild boar enjoyed on the grass; what could be more divine? The educational merits of the tour were exceptional. The owner of the farm, Ralph Lentz, led several extensive tours to explain how he has returned his land to grass. He also described exactly how he manages the water resources and how the animals assist in improving the land. [His cattle have] been grazing the banks of the stream and he is in the process of solving the problem of erosion of the banks.

We enjoyed the children on the tour (they are key to the educational mission of Slow Food). They showed lots of interest in the animals and Ralph’s informative talks.

Lastly, we found the mushroom lecture fascinating. ~ Cindy and Gabriele Dellanave

Gabriele Dellanave, leader of Slow Food Rochester.

Florence and Dave Minar dig for ramps.

Wild and Slow morels
Chef Ron Huff placed the large plastic bag, full of freshly foraged morel mushrooms, on the counter. Retired DNR ecologist Larry Gates had donated ten pounds of the mushrooms, and Art Thicke, another two pounds, simply the most beautiful collection of morels I had ever seen. They were clean, moist and springy, with delicate nut-brown sponge folds. A few were large enough to fill a hand. As one sous-chef of the day, I was about to join Derek Hook in slicing them up.

Chef Ron suggested I slice each morel lengthwise into quarters, and remove them from the pan rapidly, just as they turned golden brown. The morels emerged with a dense, musky flavor, far more intricate than if I had cut them small. The texture of their sponge-shaped flesh remained intact, and the PastureLand butter highlighted their primal flavor. They required strict rationing on the serving line! Blending elegantly with slow-roasted wild boar, their smoky flavor lingered as I sampled savory nettles from Lentz’s farm, folded into a Cedar-Summit-cream-and-PastureLand-butter white sauce. Wild mint smartly accented a wild-greens salad. Complex brews from Flat Earth Brewing Co. added subtle shades of caramel rye, layered barley, and expansive hops.

Dave Minar, Ken Goff and I rested in the shade when our work was done, watching our customers’ eyes brighten as they dished from the serving line. I thought of how I had worked for several years with Ralph, Larry, Dave and Florence Minar to advocate for local foods and local investment. I heard a mycologist warn that the number of morels was declining for unknown reasons, perhaps due to chemical sprays in nearby farm fields. Quietly, I celebrated the fact that closely rooted meals like this, delicately layered with flavor and connection as friends improvised together, were still possible. ~ Ken Meter

Ken Meter sautées morels.

There were more than 12 pounds of morels, in all.

Southeastern Minnesota’s bounty
We really enjoyed the entire event. It was great cooking with [Ron]. The food was fabulous, showcasing the bounty of the Southeast Minnesota farm community. It was great having so many people new to Slow Food in attendance.

The farm tours were informative and fun. Ralph Lentz has a wealth of knowledge, and the others involved added much to the experience. We couldn’t have chosen a more perfect day or a more perfect site!
~ Fred and Linda Harding

Fred and Linda Harding at work.

Volunteers clean chickweed for the wild-green salad.

Seeing food issues in new ways
Getting to know Slow Food, and traditional food in general, has led me to see food and related issues in new and interesting ways. Foraging for salad greens in a pasture was quite a switch for this former farmer — 25 years ago, my main knowledge of the species we picked to eat was which herbicide would kill them the fastest. Now my point of view is to understand how these and many more species work together to create a stable ecosystem. Ralph’s experience in questioning the conventional knowledge on stream stabilization also shows the value of looking at issues from around a different corner. At each of the (so far) few Slow Food events attended by my wife and me, we’ve fallen into interesting conversations with people who all bring varied experiences and perspectives to the complex world of food. We look forward to more in the future! ~ Tom Hunter

Ken Goff, author of “From Wardrobe to Pantry.”

There were 154 people in attendance.

What the earth brings forth
I really enjoyed the tours led by Ralph Lentz and Larry Gates to the 1860’s homestead, the trout streams, the grassland pastures to see cattle and calves and up the hill to view the valley.

It was fun to taste jams, breads, and cheeses made by local producers. The special gift of morel mushrooms, gathered from near the Whitewater area by Larry Gates and Art Thicke, was really appreciated (and delicious too!).

The menu for the day, fresh greens foraged from the area, with a light vinaigrette; roasted wild boar; delicious bread; roasted wild asparagus with lemon and olive oil; pasta with nettles and cream sauce; and all the homemade desserts, left me in ecstasy.

Most of all, it was refreshing to be with a group of people who appreciate, truly appreciate, the fine things the good earth brings forth. ~ Colleen Foster

Colleen Foster and Ralph Lentz on the farm during an early planning meeting.

Members forage at Lentz Farm later in the season.

Perfect food
. . . on a perfect spring day! Throw in good company, and life couldn’t get any better. ~ Jean Andreasen

The Flat Earth Boys: Dave Minar, Jeff Williamson, Larry Gates, John Sluss and Josh Dix.

A bucket of washed ramps.

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