Lars Norgren has been a farmer since 1984, the same year he launched Peak Forest Fruit. And while the first ten years were rough, he is now in his eleventh season at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, selling wild mushrooms, Oregon white and black truffles, wild huckleberries, and stone fruit and rhubarb from his neighbor’s farm.
In addition to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, Peak Forest Fruit produce can be found at Uwajimaya, Food Front Co-op, and in restaurant dishes across the country. Despite steep overnight shipping costs, restaurants from all over depend on Lars for wild mushrooms of excellent quality from his 40-acre farm in Banks, Oregon. On the day we spoke, Lars was preparing a shipment of chanterelles to a restaurant in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. There are plenty of restaurants in our region, plus a couple of college campus food services, that also depend on the high quality that Peak Forest Fruit supplies.
With his 24 years of farming experience, Lars is a wealth of information. He explained that the white truffle grows close to the surface of the ground, just under the mossy layer. In contrast, the black truffle grows about a foot underground. Truffles, unlike mushrooms, are picked a bit green and ripen over a few days. Lars told me that Oregon truffles were discovered in Lane and Benton counties in the 1970s. While truffles have a rich European history (and price), Oregon truffles add an intense flavor to a dish at a far less cost.
Lars depends on about 20 people (especially in the fall) to help run his business. When asked why he chose farming as a way of life, he told me he enjoys being self-employed, being his own boss, and spending lots of time in the fresh air. The father of two young adults (the youngest will be attending the University of Oregon next fall) Lars now has the grandchildren of the original mushroom and truffle pickers bringing him the fruits of their labors. The black truffles and all the mushrooms are picked away from the farm while he grows the white truffles himself.
Stop by Peak Forest Fruit’s booth during these last couple weeks of the market. Mushrooms are at their peak right now and Lars has many tips on storing and preparing these earthly beauties!
Written by Sasha Kaplan, HFM Board Member and Volunteer, 2008