In her previous life as a high-tech human resources executive, Elizabeth Osterman-Brown liked hosting appetizer hours with gourmet treats for nibbling. “Every time I put together a charcuterie plate, it was easy to get great cheese and great cured meat and maybe a good cured olive,” she explains. “But there was always that limp pickled veg on the platter. Why not have a luxury pickled vegetable? Who said you can’t?”
When she left her corporate job after years of being the family’s breadwinner, Osterman-Brown, who splits her time between Santa Barbara and the Bay Area, decided to tackle that gap in the market by starting her own pickle company, which she branded as Last of Seven (LOS). “I just dove right in and asked a lot of questions,” the mother of two said of how she figured it out. “I really enjoyed being a student and was surprised and delighted at how welcoming people were.”
Taste was only one component, as her daughter — then taking an environmental studies class in high school, now at USC — was sharing lessons about regenerative agriculture and other sustainable concepts. So Osterman-Brown spent about a year developing recipes, investigating eco-friendly packaging, and building relationships with farmers as well as her co-packer, Bradley Bennett of Pacific Pickle Works.
Because Bennett’s packing house is based in Santa Barbara, most of Osterman-Brown’s contracted farmers are also nearby in order to maintain freshness. “From harvest to brine should not be more than four days, so you can keep it crunchy,” she said, noting that Solvang’s Sunrise Organics is a primary supplier.
Sign up to get Matt Kettmann’s Full Belly Files, which serves up multiple courses of food & drink coverage every Friday, going off-menu from our regularly published content to deliver tasty nuggets of restaurant, recipe, and refreshment wisdom to your inbox.
In February 2021, Osterman-Brown launched Last of Seven with three types of pickled carrots, later adding pickled asparagus and cornichons, all packaged in petite jars designed for gifting. She also sells a tote bag with the “somewhat naughty” phrase “I Like It Dirty,” with 50 percent of those sales going to regenerative farming projects. Earlier this year, the company was honored with a Good Food Award, which recognizes craft food producers for both “superior taste” and “responsible environmental practices.”
The name is a nod to her upbringing, as the last of seven siblings born to a former Catholic nun. “It was a bit scrappy — if you turned your head, your meatball would be gone from your plate,” she explained. “Being the youngest, I was often left with vegetables, so I developed a fondness for them at an early age.”
The flavors also relate to her life: The bourbon carrots honor her dad, the spicy carrots recall her post-college stint in Tokyo, and the LOS original carrots reflect the herb and jalapeño flavors of California that she’s eaten her entire life. “I wanted to do something special and something personal,” she explained.
Originally, Osterman-Brown actually wanted to do cornichons, which are the dilled variety of tiny gherkin pickles common on charcuterie plates. But her research quickly revealed that they are no longer grown in California or even America — they’re mostly grown in India, because they are incredibly labor-intensive.
She decided to remedy that situation and worked with Sunrise Organics and a farm in Temecula to grow the first batches for her. Those quickly sold out, but she’s doing it again. “I’m determined to bring back cornichon growing to the U.S. from India,” said Osterman-Brown, already determined to tackle her next challenge.