I want to finally come correct on something. Two years ago, I went on a farm tour with the California Farm Water Coalition, and it was eye opening. I’ve been on a few of these tours, and I have thoroughly enjoyed them all. I’ve always wanted to write this post, but after the tour something tragic happened to our family, and I was in a state of grief. I could only get one post out, but I desperately wanted to get this post out – the one about Lundberg Farms.
When we went on this tour, I had already had a bag of Lundberg Farm’s rice in my pantry, but I didn’t know it. You’ve probably seen their rices on shelves too, but sometimes, I know, we don’t always pay attention to brands. After this trip, I was hooked. The facility is LEED certified, which means that they’ve taken steps to ensure the building is environmentally friendly. It’s gorgeous to boot!
You can only get one crop of rice per season, because the winters in California are just too cold for the rice to withstand. So, they try to improve the varieties of rice for growth in the region, which is what you see here. It’s SO RAD to see the rice plants in person and up close. Look at those kernels!
At this point of the tour, the crop harvest was about 80% complete. I was floored when they asked me if I wanted to drive the rice harvester. Of course I said yes! Tim showed me the ropes, and I delightfully harvested Brown Basmati rice! The $700K machine was amazingly responsive – it was thrilling! The harvester “combs” through the field, cutting the rice about 6″-8″ off the ground. It separates the rice from the plant matter as it drives, and fills up a chamber in the harvester.
Once the harvester is full, a truck that they call a “runner” comes up alongside, and the harvester offloads the haul so it can remain in the field and continue harvesting.
This is the runner, fully loaded, and headed to the factory! Here are some fun facts: California produces a majority of the nations rice, and a whopping 98% of sushi rice for the United States. Oh, California! How I love thee.
Once the rice is harvested, they’ll flood the fields, which aids in the decomposition of the leftover plant matter. They used to burn the plant matter, but all of the carbon gets lost in the atmosphere, which isn’t good! Flooding happens a second time when they’re ready to plant. They want the field to be wet to aid in the germination of the rice seeds. They “fly the seeds” when planting, which means that they put those seeds on a plane, and distribute them from the air, as they’re distributed more evenly. The third scenario for flooding happens when the rice is growing, as the rice can withstand the water, while the weeds drown and die. No need for pesticides!
You may be thinking, “that’s a lot of water”. Well, this water isn’t wasted. It comes from the Sacramento River, and once the farm has used it for its purpose, it drains the field via ditches, and returns the water back to the river so the next farmer can use it! I think that’s pretty amazing! It makes its way down the valley, and eventually flows out into the ocean.
This is my good friend Sue from It’s Ok To Eat The Cupcake and I after the tour. Such happy gals!
And so, armed with the knowledge of where our rice comes from, and how it’s grown, let’s make some!
This is a completely vegan dish (what can I say, I’ve been on a vegan kick lately)! Creamy carbs, nutty pine nuts, crunchy asparagus, and poppy peas. I even procured some pea sprouts/tendrils from the farmers market to top the dish. Isn’t it pretty?!
Plenty of herbs add to the “green” part of the risotto, but the star is the tarragon! It’s such a wonderful herb. Though you can put whatever herbs you want into this dish, the tarragon elevates it to royalty status. It’s not used nearly enough!
* Pro Tip! Always wash your grains before you cook them. We were told this by Lance, the Lundberg Farms’ Grower Services Manager. He said it’s always good practice to wash your rice, quinoa, any grain that comes into your house. I always wash my quinoa, but never my rice. Great time to start!
Green Goddess Risotto
- 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts
- 1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/3 Cup Finely Diced Shallots
- 2 Cloves Garlic, finely diced
- 1/2 Cup White Wine
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground White Pepper
- 4 Cups Vegetable Stock
- 1 Bunch Asparagus
- 1 Cup Frozen Peas thawed
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Chopped Basil
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Chopped Tarragon
- 1 Cup Fresh Pea Tendrils (optional)
- In a small skillet over medium heat, add the pine nuts. Flip the pan every 10-20 seconds (or stir the nuts with a wooden spoon), until the pine nuts are light golden brown and smell fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
- In a medium pot over medium heat, add the 4 cups of vegetable stock. Bring the stock up to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. This will be used for the risotto shortly. Make sure you have a ladle on hand.
- Rinse the asparagus, and remove the woody ends. I do this by taking one spear, and holding it by the ends, pushing the asparagus together, until it snaps easily. This separates the tender part from the woody part. I like up the asparagus guide with the others, and cut the others at this point. Discard the woody stems.
- Cut the asparagus into small, 1/4 inch disks, about the size of a pea.
- While the stock comes up to temperature, place a large pot or rimmed pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and shallots. Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook one minute more.
- Add the rice to the pan, and toast lightly for 1 minute, then add the white wine to deglaze the pan, stirring continually. From here, you'll need to really babysit the risotto, so don't leave the stove un-attended.
- Add in salt and pepper.
- Once the wine is almost completely absorbed by the rice, add a half cup of hot stock to the rice. Continually stir until it is mostly absorbed. It is very important to continually stir, as the stock absorbs into the rice evenly. Repeat this for the remaining stock, adding in 1/2 cup increments.
- When you have about 1 cup of stock left to add, test the rice for done-ness. It should be firmly al-dente (literally "to the tooth") at this point, still having a little hard-ness to it. At this point, add in the asparagus and peas, and one more ladle of stock.
- Once this stock is absorbed, test again. When the rice is perfectly al-dente, turn off the flame, and add the chopped herbs, mixing until well combined.
- Divide among 4 bowls, and top with the toasted pine nuts and pea tendrils or basil leaves.
*Disclaimer This tour was provided to me by the California Farm Water Coalition, who financed the whole trip. I was not compensated in any other way, and all thoughts contained within are completely my own.