Serving up a taste of Mexico (almost) gone

Off the Beet Farms has a mission to produce heirloom herbs, peppers, corn, squashes, tomatoes and beans that stem from ancestral roots.

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Border states like California have unique blends of culture, people, and specifically, food. While the cultural amalgamation has evolved into its own blends of tastes with its fare, there are still some locally that are dedicated to preserving the flavors of Mexico, that without such individuals, could be lost forever. Sydney Knudsen of Off the Beet Farms has made it her mission to produce heirloom herbs, peppers, corn, squashes, tomatoes and beans that stem from ancestral roots that call the Yucatan and surrounding Mexican States their home. Knudsen grew up in Albany and spent her childhood on farms where she developed a love for agricultural life. After a heart-wrenching stint as a Juvenile Public Defender Investigator, she started working for Fullbelly Farms to return to her passion of earthly enrichment. With a wider range of knowledge, and the spirit of entrepreneurship, Knudsen is now in her first year of solo production, right in Winters’ back yard along Putah Creek Road.  The majority of Knudsen’s produce is shipped to Bay Area restaurants, but Off the Beet Farms also indulges in you-pick events, as well as “Farm Dinners” that offer guests a chance to savor the farm bounty in a vine-to-fork manner. This year’s harvest has included chile de aqua, a pepper with lots of flavor and a small amount of heat; cushaw squash, whose flesh is sweetened and slow-cooked and whose seeds are roasted and eaten like those of the pumpkin and roselle, or Flor de Jamaica. Roselle is a species of hibiscus that is also related to okra, and Knudsen describes it as “super tangy and fun,” to be used in java fresca or panna cotta.  Tepary beans, hurikan squash, multi-colored Don Quique corn, papalo, hoja santa–Knudsen grows them all then uses all of her reapings to create meals that are in short supply due to heritage lost. On Saturday, Sept. 7, Knudsen hosted a farm dinner. Her menu included (but was not limited to) such dishes as: Pasture 42 Pork Belly Sope with an elderberry reduction and okra “caviar,” gazpacho shots and forbidden fish. The “Not Easy Bean Green” was a salad-esque combination of fresh bean sauce over poblanos and tomatillos on top of Oaxacan green polenta, with woodfired squash blossoms dotting the plate. To round it all off she served Jeannie Cotta Jamaica, a rose panna cotta covered in Jamaica syrup and finished with elephant heart plums.  Knudsen’s dinner had an even bigger turnout than initially expected, with over forty-five patrons in attendance. To secure a seat at the next Farm Dinner table, or to schedule a you-pick adventure, Knudsen can be reached via email at, or via Instagram @Off_Beet_Farm  ]]>

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