Homemade gifts are many times the ones most cherished during the holidays. With that in mind, let Oregon agriculture help you put together the perfect present for friends and family. After all, Oregon is largely responsible for the traditional colors, fragrances, and flavors this time of year.
“Oregon adds the greens, the reds, and the holiday cheer,” says Laura Barton, trade manager with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “Once again, do-it-yourself is popular this holiday season. We are lucky because Oregon has a wide array of wonderful agricultural products that gift makers can work with.”
DIY– which stands for do-it-yourself– has been a common term to describe home improvement projects. In recent years, DIY has encompassed arts, crafts, and now food items.
With so many specialty crops produced in Oregon, it should come as no surprise that a number of the state’s 225-plus commodities fit into a special season like the holidays. Many of the season’s icons can be connected to Oregon. Christmas trees, holly, Christmas greenery, poinsettias, reindeer, peppermint candy canes– all owe a great deal to Oregon producers, who are working overtime right now to supply the market. But even commodities not necessarily tied to the holidays can take center stage in a gift that truly comes from Oregon.
“You can make things from scratch or you can purchase something somebody else made and add to it with even more Oregon products,” says Barton.
As an example, a Portland bakery makes its own puff pastry using Oregon butter. It would be relatively easy to take the ready-made pastry and fill it with local berries or maybe local artisan cheese. Even non-food products like holly or greenery can be purchased to make a wreath. Other Oregon products like hazelnuts or pears can adorn or decorate the wreath, creating a unique Oregon gift.
“For somebody who likes to garden, you could put together a gift of Oregon vegetable and flower seeds, and creatively package them with a gardening tool,” says Barton, noting that Oregon is a major seed producer. “That would be a very welcome gift.”
Homemade food products are still a big hit for both gift givers and receivers. It’s no surprise to anyone who has visited such retail outlets as Harry and David or Made in Oregon that local fruits and nuts are key ingredients in holiday gift baskets. Do-it-yourself advocates have many options for creating their own gifts packed with Oregon flavor.
“Those who like to cook should try infusions,” says Barton. “Fruit-infused items are very well received and fit any type of life style, including those on a health kick.”
Fruit infusion has been used in teas and alcohol beverages for years. But now there’s a holiday application with a local flavor. As an example, take an Oregon berry, infuse it into vinegar, letting it sit for a week or two. The concoction turns a beautiful color and becomes a wonderful gift. The vinegar solution is shelf stable, doesn’t need to be refrigerated until it’s opened, and makes a great salad dressing, among other delights.
For those with a sweet tooth, the DIY crowd can find plenty of Oregon agricultural commodities to satisfy the gift recipient. Whether it’s for candy or baked goods, hazelnuts and mint are two seasonal ingredients that call Oregon home. In fact, Oregon grows virtually all of the nation’s hazelnuts and is the leading producer in the US of peppermint.
Oregon wheat and some of the new legume crops being planted in the Willamette Valley offer another option for homemade gifts.
“You can have an Oregon milled flour and make somebody a loaf of bread,” says Barton. “Or you can take the legumes, dry them, and make somebody a delicious soup mix. We have wild rice that is grown in the valley as well, so you can put together a mix with soup or stuffing. You can add dehydrated vegetables. We have commercial dehydrators and some people do the dehydrating themselves. The possibilities are endless.”
Seafood lovers would enjoy a gift from the Oregon coast– perhaps smoked or canned albacore tuna.
Don’t forget Oregon wines and microbrews. The wine grapes and hops used to create the finished product come from local producers. An Oregon pinot is a popular and well-received holiday gift.
Barton is one of many Oregonians who relish the idea of using local products to make a do-it-yourself gift. Her friends and family count on receiving something delicious and unique.
“One item is a homemade granola that uses Oregon hazelnuts, dried blueberries, cranberries, and local oats,” she says. “You can also offer a food-of the month for the coming year, featuring seasonal Oregon foods as they become available throughout the year with cards indicating to the recipient what items are coming up.”
With so many dog and cat lovers, homemade pet treats is a gift option. A number of online recipes can make use of locally grown foods. For instance, a dog trail mix recipe calls for such Oregon staples as potatoes, vegetables, and fruit– no grapes or raisins, please.
For those unsure of their ability to do-it-themselves, there are numerous cooking classes and new cookbooks that focus on homemade gifts using local food products. Also, a little bit of creativity might work. Community Supported Agriculture is an option.
“Even something as simple as gifting a share in a CSA will be appreciated and will provide access to locally grown Oregon produce,” says Barton.
And for those who want to feature Oregon agriculture but aren’t a DIY type, wrapping up a pre-made gift basket of Oregon products that was purchased in a store is the next best thing.
‘Tis the season to highlight Oregon agriculture, especially when you can do-it-yourself.
News release: Oregon Department of Agriculture