Since I began the transition to eating as a locavore (a person who eats only locally grown food, as much as possible), I've been on the lookout for local flours. Whatcom County's climate is not reliably suited to growing wheat, so I use flour from Fairhaven Organic Flour Mills (originally located in Bellingham but now in Burlington). They make an effort to source their grains as close to home as they can find.
Recently, I found out that Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, near Lynden, makes flour from hazelnuts. Intrigued, I went to there to buy a couple of pounds so I could experiment with it.
I spoke with Richard Holmquist about their hazelnut farm operations. His great-grandfather, John Victor Holmquist, and son, Anton, started the family farm more than a century ago. Initially, they did row cropping, as most farmers in the area were doing at the time. Later, they switched to dairy products.
Their first hazelnut trees, around five to seven acres, were planted in the 1920s. Since the early 1990s, the farm has been used to produce only hazelnuts.
Richard is part of the fifth generation of Holmquists to work at the farm. His father, Gerald Holmquist, actively manages the farming operations while Richard focuses mostly on administrative work. Richard says there may be a possibility among his nieces and nephews for a sixth generation willing to carry on the family business.
I asked Richard how his family has been able to keep so many generations involved in the farm's operation, when the national trend is for young people to leave farming for other kinds of work. He said he didn't really know, but could tell me his own personal reasons. As he was growing up helping on the farm, he developed a love of labor. "Farming is hard work, you know," he said.
He also appreciates being in touch with Mother Nature. "Even on the worst days in the worst weather, you can always find something special, something worth seeing," he said.
Holmquist's farm is not an organic operation, although Richard sees increasing opportunities to move in that direction. They are surrounded by conventional berry farms, so for the hazelnuts to be certified organic they would have to leave large offsets around the edges of their property to ensure chemicals from adjacent fields couldn't drift into their orchards. That would remove a lot of land from production. For now, the farm still uses both pesticides and herbicides.
Richard was vigorous in asserting that he does not consider GMOs (genetically modified organisms) safe to eat, and that the farm would not be growing any. He is clearly committed to healthy food in his own life. He and his wife have shifted to vegan eating in recent years.
Among the greatest challenges the farm faces are the increasing regulations and policies that unfairly put disproportionate pressure on smaller farm operations.
Richard laughed. "Gerald would probably say more dependable weather is our greatest challenge, but for me it's the paperwork."
He is proud they have kept the farm a family-size operation. "We personally know the people we sell to, and that helps motivate us to constantly improve our products," he says. "Our customers appreciate our product, but also the family story behind it."
In my own cooking I've been using Holmquist hazelnuts for quite awhile. I was particularly excited when I found their hazelnut oil. In previous articles I've written about how cooking with hazelnut oil is almost identical to cooking with olive oil, except for the flavor, of course.
Hazelnut flour was new to me. The color is a rich chocolate brown, and the fragrance is warm and nutty. It's naturally gluten-free. About half of the nut oils are removed before the flour is made, and the flour contains no trans fats. In 100 grams of flour, there are 43 grams of protein, half of daily calcium recommendations, and lots of vitamin C as well.
Hazelnut flour is too dense to use by itself in baking, but you can replace about a third of the white flour in any recipe with hazelnut flour and the results will be excellent. And I do mean excellent. Try the recipe below and I think you'll see what I mean.
Besides baking, hazelnut flour works well in sauces, gravies and soups. It's a gluten-free substitute for bread crumbs in meat loaf, or as breading for chicken or fish. I'm betting it also would make a delicious pie or cheesecake crust when used as a replacement for graham cracker crumbs.
Holmquist hazelnut flour is available year-round at the Green Barn, 211 Birch Bay-Lynden Road, Lynden, and from April through December at Bellingham Farmers Market. They also sell online at holmquisthazelnuts.com, and at farmers markets in the Seattle area.
BLUEBERRY HAZELNUT MUFFINS
1 1/3 cup wheat flour (Fairhaven Organic Flour Mills, Burlington)
2/3 cup hazelnut flour (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup honey (Guilmette's Busy Bees, Everson)
1 large egg (neighbor, Lummi Island)
1/2 cup sour cream (homemade with cream from Silver Springs Creamery, Lynden)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (homemade with milk from Silver Springs Creamery, Lynden)
1/4 cup hazelnut oil (Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards, Lynden)
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (I used frozen berries from Bow Hill Blueberries, in Bow)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper cups, or oil well.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: Wheat flour, hazelnut flour, salt and baking powder.
In a separate small bowl, mix the wet ingredients: honey, egg, sour cream, yogurt and hazelnut oil.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix gently. Do not overmix. Batter should be thick.
Fold in the blueberries.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tin, filling each space about 2/3 full. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned.
Makes about a dozen muffins.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen, 1313 N State Street, Bellingham
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959
BelleWood Acres, 6140 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-318-7720
Bellingham Country Gardens (u-pick vegetables), 2838 East Kelly Road, Bellingham
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158
Five Loaves Farm, 514 Liberty St., Lynden
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151
The Green Barn, 211 Birch Bay-Lynden Road, Lynden; 360-318-8869
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190
Joe's Garden, 3110 Taylor Avenue, Bellingham, 360-671-7639
Lynden Farmers Market, Fourth and Front streets, Lynden
The Markets LLC, 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020
Reach Whatcom Locavore columnist Nancy Ging at 360-758-2529 or email@example.com. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, go to Whatcom Locavore on Facebook or @whatcomlocavore on Twitter. For locavore menus, recipes and more resources, go to whatcomlocavore.com.