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Feb 3, 2010 12:38 PM

Santa Rosa: Tierra Farm Stand – Badda Beans, plus Valentine’s Day Hopi Pink, Oaxacan Green, Hopi Blue and Bloody Butcher red corn meal

I’ve been a customer of Tierra from their early Ferry Plaza Farmers market days on Green Street. This fall was the first time I’ve been to the farm stand. It is tiny, but interesting and almost at the foot of the airport exit on 101.

In January, there was less produce, but some lovely root veggies, winter greens, squash and such. There are dried peppers, dried beans, jams, honey, etc.

There were Kelly green, navy blue and pink dried corn cobs that are used to make corn meal which is not de-germed before grinding. Tierra writes that “you are being offered a product in its whole grain form with maximum nutrition and flavor”

To compare, I bought a cup of yellow polenta from Raley's. This had a smoother texture, but almost no flavor compared to the Tierra corn meal.

It was the pretty color that was interesting. Would blue, green, pink, yellow and red corn meal taste different? What would be the color after cooking?

The striking difference was texture, the green smoother, the blue a coarser grind with more hulls. It had more of a bran flavor.

The green produced a polenta that was the color of split pea soup. The blue turned bright purple, the color of purple cauliflower. I haven’t tried the others yet. The site suggests using the pink for Valentine’s Day dishes. However, I think it is already sold out.

I’m sorry I didn’t buy all four colors on my first visit. There wasn’t red, but there was green, pink, blue and a yellow made from dent corn. However, I have never made a thing from corn meal in my life … not one thing. So a pound of each seemed as though it would never get used.

Not so.

I’ve been having a good time playing with polenta. I’ve both microwaved it and cooked it on the stovetop for hours. While the long-cooked is creamier, for me there isn’t enough of a difference. The microwave is fine.

Today I had an excellent green polenta with asparagus, green garlic, fresh brown mushrooms and a sprinkle of Vella grated Jack cheese … everything microwaved (I nuke the veggies separately and add at the end)

In the long-cooked version, for the blue I added Tierra’s excellent smoked dried onions … my favorite Tierra item … and dried shitakes. I bought the smoked dried tomatoes for the first time, but they don’t have the star power of the onions. I need to figure out something to do with them.

Searching the web, one restaurant made blue polenta with roasted figs … I am keeping some of the blue in the freezer to try that out when fig season returns. It sounds fabulous.

Adding gorgonzola, walnuts or feta are other items I think would stand up well to the heartier blue corn meal. It seems chili flakes are often used to top blue polenta. As I said, I’m having fun with this.

I'm thinking the blue might also make a nice breakfast polenta, sweetened with honey and topped with a dollop of yogurt and fresh blueberries ... maybe frozen blueberries in the polenta.

One bonus of searching the web for mult-colored corn meal info, ideas and recipes, is that I came across Tierra’s blog. It isn’t that obvious on the website. Yes, the link is on the website front page, but there are two other blogs that didn’t have much content. Erica’s blog gives a lot of detail about the items they grow and documents the passing of the seasons.

Here’s the link to the info about the dried corn with beautiful pictures (and a cool photo of corn smut)

What is great about the blog is it makes me want to buy products I’ve walked by such as the honey which is made from the hives on their farm.

I also want to catch the items in season that show up briefly such as wonderberries

The blog also has lots of good info about many of the peppers they grow.

They have a great selection of dried beans. On my first visit they were still in wooden crates, needing to be cleaned. On a recent winter visit, there were fewer veggies so the beans were in all sorts of pots with ladles.

This time I bought the pretty Mrs. Keeney's Pink bean which Tierra writes “ is as unique as they come. Passed down from the pioneer days in Oregon, this bean was a woman named Mrs. Keeney's favorite, a large and hearty bean with a beautiful pink blush to it.”

I haven’t tried them yet. Just a note that Tierra really doesn’t have bags, so bring your own.

The latest entry on the blog is about the badda beans

Here's another good post with photos about Tierra that also includes info about one of their special events - Pizza Pie Under the Sky ... Rosso's pizza with roasted veggies right from the field.

Tierra is such a quick on and off of 101 that it is well-worth a stop if on that stretch of the highway.

The stand doesn’t look like much, but in that tiny space are wonderful things just waiting to be discovered.

Tierra Vegetables
651 Airport Blvd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

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  1. I have never encountered a place as overhyped as Tierra. As they say in the old country, it is a "grande nada". To say that the stand "doesn't look like much" is an understatement. I don't know how they stay in business, and the stuff is no bargain, either.

    3 Replies
    1. re: OldTimer

      What specifically is it you don't like about Tierra?

      Ya know, sometime you need to get to know a place.

      Tierra isn't trying to be a bargain. They are trying to be a sustainable farm and in that category I don't see them any more egregious than any other farm in that category.

      Thier beans are the same price as Rancho Gordo and they actually grow the beans not just broker them like RG. I;m also thinking they are less expensive than RG and at the farm stand you can buy a small quatity. They also have varieties that no one else has locally.

      For me, Tierra has meant two things and two things only ... peppers and smoked onions.

      Almost like forever, they were the only farm doing some of those unique peppers. Others have since caught up, but still.

      I've never thought the people at Tierra as particularily warm or helpful. Trying to get info on that corn meal was like pulling teeth personally. However, they are farmers, not sales people. I guess what I'm really missing here is the hyoe part. To me they sort of fly under the radar. Other than a 2006 NYT brief mention, I don't seem much press about them.

      I guess reading thru the blog got me more enthusiastic about Tierra. It gave me some insight into what was going on. What is touching to me is someone keeps that damn blog up though I have yet to run across a comment on any of the entries.

      I can name other FP farmers that are more egregious to me ... Dirty Girls (I hate those snotty suckers with sub-par for the price produce), Frog Hollow (bring down those prices, those peaches aren't that great), Iocopi (once had decent produce and then started charging absurd prices), and probably a few others but they don't leap to my mind like those.

      I'll give you that my knowledge of Santa Rosa area farms isn't as extensive as in other areas, but in 2009 I visited every farm in the Sonoma Trails book (except for a few apple farms that I missed because they were only open the same time I had the flu) and I don't see any competition.

      Sure, Imwalle has less expensive produce, but it isn't in the same catogory. Tomato Heaven has better tomatoes, but that is pretty much their focus though they do it excellently ... and they hold the record as the most expensive tomatoes in the Bay Area.

      Who do you feel has better peppers or beans. I will admit not all the pepper jellies blow me over, but there are a few I really like. I guess I just see them doing stuff other don't Who else has all those different corn meal varieties? .

      So what exactly is your grip with Tierra?

      1. re: rworange

        Just for the record, Rancho Gordo beans are not "brokered". They are grown on one of four farms in California FOR Rancho Gordo from Rancho Gordo seed.

        Tierra is terrific and I can't see not liking it if you love chiles and beans or any of the other products they grow.

        1. re: Earl Grey

          Yes, what I meant. Just a bad choice of word. Thanks for clarifying. I got caught up in the emotion of the moment and was focusing on Tierra ... I mean, why pick on Tierra?

          For the most part, Tierra and Rancho Gordo don't have much duplicate bean varieties bean-wise. Tierra seems to focus more on USA heirlooms.

    2. It's probably worth cross-posting a portion of this post on Home Cooking: "Things to do with cornmeal." Maybe you'll get more ideas! :-)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cicely

        That's true, but what I was really googling for was color / variety specific ideas. I have to guess there's not much, if any, green cornmeal out there. Blue is a little more common but tends to get used for things like tortillas or chips.

        Also, my ambition for this doesn't rise much above polenta or mush. I'm pretty much almost finished with it at this point. Feta was a good taste for both. Gorgonzola only worked really well with the blue. I did a sweet version of the blue using lavender honey and a dollop of yogurt on top also mixed with lavendar honey.

        I'm beginning to understand the charm of grits. This is even easier to make than oatmeal. Still, I think oatmeal has more nutritional benefits though cornmeal lends itself more to savory preps.

        I'd buy more of other varieties from Tierra next year just to see what they are about.

      2. Harvest of 2009 I was harvest cook at a winery down the road. Most of the produce I used was sourced from the winery's own garden, the rest came from Tierra and other nearby farms. I made vegetarian chili with Tierra's black beans every week to have on hand as an alternate entree to give the workers another choice. I worked with almost every bean and chile pepper that Tierra grew at that time, and they discontinued one or two varieties that I didn't like. The Kenney's pinks are great. A friend gave me something he made with the badda beans, maybe I'll heat that for my dinner tonight.

        Here's a link to the harvest menus I posted on Home Cooking board a while ago.