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."