Nutty Medicine

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A Bend food artisan reinvents nut butter

STORY BY MATTIE JOHN BAMMAN

For most of us, nut butter conjures up memories of lackluster PB&J sandwiches wolfed down in an elementary school cafeteria, or hiking trip pit stops where calorie density is more important than culinary sophistication. Banish those thoughts from your mind. Jem Nut Butters are unbelievably delicious, and their uses go far beyond spreading on toast.

Jen Moore, Tim Moore, and Nik Rueth founded Jem in Bend in 2010. Jen holds a bachelor of science degree in nutrition-food science and exercise physiology, and she developed Jem because she saw how much people struggle when faced with dramatic dietary changes — from those with autoimmune deficiencies to people who just needed to eat healthier. “The goal was to create medicine chocolate,” says Jen.

Jem’s approach to making nut butter is three-fold. First, Jen and her partners sprout, dehydrate, and stone-grind the raw nuts. “For maximum flavor and nutrient absorption, we sprout our nuts for no less than 14 hours,” says Jen. “During this sprouting process, phytic acid and enzyme-inhibitors are removed, making the seed and its nutrients easier to digest and assimilate.”

Then the JEM team develops startlingly unique flavor combinations using 100% certified organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan ingredients. This includes everything from chocolate to rare “superfood” fruits with exceptional nutrition, including some lesser-known tropical fruits like lucuma, featured in the Cashew Cardamom Almond Butter. “Lucuma is a sweet fruit from Peru, Chile, and Ecuador,” Jen explains. “It has a maple-like flavor.” No wonder it’s the most popular ice cream flavor in South America.

JEM makes four flagship nut butters: Cashew Cardamom Almond Butter, Superberry Maqui Camu, Cinnamon Red Maca Almond Butter, and Hazelnut Raw Cacao. At room temperature, the butters have a thick yet pourable, texture, which makes them great for drizzling over fruit or ice cream. Or add them to steel-cut oats to update the classic breakfast dish. The Cashew Cardamom even works well as a creamer alternative in coffee.

While many eat Jem’s butters simply because they taste good, others treat them like medicine. Jen shared the story of one woman whose daughter was battling a rare cancer, and while the daughter desperately needed nutrients, she had no appetite. The nut butters were the only food she wanted. “They are very gentle on the stomach,” says Jen.

The butters are also popular among athletes, although anyone lucky enough to try them risks getting hooked. Although you’ll pay more for Jem nut butters than a jar of Skippy, in 2017, the Good Food Awards recognized Jem for its mission-driven approach to business. “We are very honored that we’re getting recognized for sticking to our values,” says Jen. What makes Jem Nut Butters so special is they should be a guilty pleasure, but aren’t.

Mattie John Bamman is a culinary travel writer focused on the Pacific Northwest, Italy, and the Balkans. Wine, wilderness, and words brought him to Portland, where he regularly contributes to Edible Portland and other publications, including Northwest Travel & Life Magazine. Mattie is also the editor of Eater PDX.

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