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Baker Creek Heirloom Seed founders Jere Gettle and his wife, Emilee, are on a mission to make the world a better place, one vegetable at a time.

Not only do they want to keep heirloom varieties alive for future generations, but they are also trying to teach folks how to grow their own produce and encourage them to eat healthier, plant-based meals.

The couple, who also co-founded The Seed Bank store in Petaluma and launched a "world's fair" of heirloom vegetables in Santa Rosa last year, publishes their own seed catalog and a quarterly magazine, The Heirloom Gardener.

Just in time for the second annual National Heirloom Exposition Sept. 11-13 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, "The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook" by the Gettles is scheduled to hit local bookstores this week.

The cookbook features 125 vegetable-centric recipes for everything from Heirloom Apple Pie to Cambodian Yellow Cucumber Salad with Crispy Shallots.

The cookbook explains traditional ways to cook, preserve and eat the harvest, drawing inspiration from veggie-loving cultures such as Morocco and Asia. It is organized by vegetable type, from artichokes to zucchini.

"That way, if people have carrots ready, they can turn to the carrot chapter and find several recipes," Gettle said. "There are recipes for asparagus and cauliflower, apples and berries, tomatoes and eggplants."

The cookbook, co-written with Adeena Sussman, reflects the way the couple likes to cook and eat.

"The recipes came from family and friends, and dishes we developed at the restaurant," Jere Gettle said. "It's our take on different cuisines."

Gettle, who has been a vegan for the past 20 years, hopes the cookbook will encourage folks to branch out and try different kinds of vegetables, such as parsnips.

"People in restaurants are starting to serve them again," he said. "But a lot of people are hesitant to do it at home."

The cookbook also rides the wave of the locavore movement, encouraging readers to eat from their own garden or local farm. For that reason, it begins with a chapter on preserving.

"The front of the book is about canning and freezing, drying and pickling — all the basic steps," he said. "We're trying to get people to eat locally."

At the restaurant in Missouri, most of the produce is harvested right outside the door, from the Baker Creek garden beds or a neighbor's farm.

"It's brought out fresh every day in the spring, summer and fall," Gettle said. "In the winter, it's a combination of what we preserved and stuff from other farms and other areas."

Most of the recipes are fairly easy to execute. They range from salads and roasted vegetables to a few more exacting recipes, such as dumplings.

The cookbook often gives recommendations for heirloom vegetables to use, such as the Pink Pearl apple with its unusual pink-tinted flesh. But you can always substitute a store-bought Granny Smith or whatever you have on hand, Gettle said.

The cookbook is aimed at people who may not want to eat like a vegan every day but still want to incorporate more vegetables into their diet.

"Everybody knows we need more plant-based meals, instead of meats and starches and fats," Gettle said. "And that's what we're trying to include, a broad source of vegetables and produce."

This summer, Gettle has been growing hundreds of varieties of heirloom vegetables in Solano and Yolo counties for display at the National Heirloom Festival next week.

"We're leasing a little farm in Suisun Valley and a couple of acres in Esparto," he said. "We're hoping to have 800 varieties from the squash and cucumber family, 200 (varieties of) watermelons, 300 (varieties of) squash and 70 or 80 varieties of eggplants."

The expo will be greatly expanded this year, with a larger lineup of 100 speakers in four venues, a bigger art display, two music stages, additional food vendors, and more tastings.

"We're going to have two full-time tasting stations going all the time," Gettle said. "I'll be in the produce hall, answering questions and piling up vegetables."

Last year, between 10,000 and 11,000 people attended the non-profit event, including 800 schoolchildren. Organizers hope to double that attendance this year by bringing back fun activities like the giant pumpkin contest and the mountain of squash at the entrance to the Hall of Flowers building.

"There were people last year who said they hadn't been to a fair like this since the 1940s," Gettle said. "That's really what we wanted to hear, because they remembered the fairs that were focused on agriculture and food."

The following recipes are from Jere and Emilee Gettle's "The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook." Energ-G Egg Replacer is a vegan egg substitute made from tapioca and potato starches. Evaporated cane juice crystals are less processed than sugar, but you can use regular sugar if you can't find it.

Sunshine Parsnip Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

2cups unbleached all-purpose flour

? cup evaporated cane juice crystals

1tablespoon baking powder

1teaspoon salt

1medium parsnip, finely grated (about a cup)

? cup coconut milk

? cup vegetable oil

? cup unsweetened applesauce or crushed pineapple

4 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer, dissolved in 4 tablespoons water

? cup chopped toasted pecans

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together flour, can juice crystals, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Combine parsnips, coconut milk, oil, applesauce and reconstituted egg replace in another bowl; fold in pecans and orange zest.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and combine until moistened.

Grease a 12-compartment muffin tin and spoon about 1/3 cup batter in each compartment.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Sweet-and-Sour Walnut-Filled Lettuce Cups

Makes 8 lettuce cups

114.5 block extra-firm tofu, drained

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup shelled walnut halves

? cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger

4 scallions, greens and whites thinly sliced and kept separate

? large red bell pepper, seeded, rinsed and finely diced

1 had Butter-style lettuce, such as Brune D'Hiver, dark outer leaves saved for another use, inner leaves separated (8 leaves total)

Place tofu between two plates and cover top plate with cans or a heavy skillet for about 30 minutes, then drain off extra liquid. Finely mince and reserve.

Heat 1 cup of oil in a small saucepan until very hot but not smoking. Gently lower nuts into skillet and fry until toasted and browned, being careful not to burn, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels and reserve.

In a bowl, whisk together hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili-garlic sauce and sesame oil; reserve. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a large saute pan or wok. Add ginger and scallion whites and cook until whites of onions are translucent and ginger is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tofu and cook, stirring, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add reserved sauce, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring, an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Add fried walnuts and peppers and stir to incorporate. Cook until peppers just begin to soften, an additional minute. Remove mixture from heat.

Fill each lettuce leaf with 1/3 cup filling and top with scallion greens.

"In my estimation, blackberry syrup drizzled over pancakes, waffles or ice cream is the ideal dessert," Gettle writes. "It's almost laughably easy, so I added some interesting spices to give the syrup an edge."

Spiced Blackberry Syrup

Makes 1 cup

4 cups blackberries

? cup water

1 cup light agave nectar

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

2 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring and mashing fruit. Remove from heat and strain through a fine-meshed sieve, pushing down on solids to release as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com.

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