Last October, I visited the buckwheat farms in Pasco, East Washington during harvest time, and got to ride on a combine for the first time in my life. Here is a link to the story I wrote about the visit on Zester Daily. This year, I visited Pasco in time to see the buckwheat fields in full bloom. In a couple of weeks, the buckwheat will be harvested. I visited Pasco with Mutsuko Souma, a Seattle based chef and soba maker, her husband Ken. Ken offered to be the designated driver and took us wine tasting in Walla Walla, which was the extra attraction during this trip.
Our first stop in East Washington was to see Al Pine, who was my generous host in Pasco when I did a soba workshop there with Akila Inouye, soba master last year. Al who is tall Afro-American who looks more like a jazz musician than a Canola farmer, retired policeman. Al is interested in growing buckwheat but for the moment, he grows mainly canola. Together with a wildlife botanist/landscaper Bill Mast, he contacted me about growing buckwheat when he read about the story on my search for buckwheat in the US in the Tri-Cities newspaper. When he heard we were coming this time, Al got all excited. He said he spent 3 days cleaning house that hadn't been clean in 5 years. "5 years," he exclaimed. "5 years!" we exclaimed. "That's what bachelorhood does to you." he says. Al's house was decorated with lots of interesting art that he collected in China many years ago - one that struck me in particular was the Great Wall of China, inlaid in parts with mother of pearl. There was also a grand piano in the dining room. "Do you play?" I asked him. "I am going to start taking lessons," he answered with a smille. He made coffee and offered us chocolate chip cookies out and apples he got from an apple farmer. "Take as many as you like," he said. The apples tasted very sweet. Later, Al took us out to lunch at the local grill where I ate a grilled cheese sandwich, Souma a BLT and Ken a hamburger in a hogie.
The buckwheat fields were beautiful. Darrel said he recently took a family picture in another buckwheat field that were knee high with flowers. He said it was a magnificent sight. Darrel never gets tired of talking about buckwheat. No wonder they call him Darrel buckwheat. He is the real thing.
Darrel also showed us a maturer buckwheat field. When 75% of the seeds are brown and mature, it is ready for harvest. He even offered me a job to come and help with the harvest. "I will pay you minimum wage," he said, smiling. Maybe next year, I said. He better be serious because I am.