berries


  • David John offers ideas for enjoy­ing this year’s Cal­i­for­nia blue­berry crop.


  • “Back to school”. Three words that push fam­i­lies into tem­po­rary mad­ness.

    New back­pack, book and sup­ply pur­chases tax fam­ily bud­gets. Clothes shop­ping adds another bur­den on already stressed out par­ents.

    The last demand for launch­ing kids back to school might be the sin­gle most sig­nif­i­cant one in terms of A+ per­for­mance.

    Appeal­ing break­fast and lunch meals are impor­tant for get­ting stu­dents on track to a good year of learn­ing. How we approach these meals has a broad range of tac­tics.

    Past gen­er­a­tions of school kids (ages 612) ate what was put in front of them. The “take it or leave it” mes­sage was enforced to the baby boomers.

    Today’s young peo­ple are far more exposed to a vari­ety of foods with vary­ing degrees of nutri­tional value. Many life-​long food habits are formed dur­ing these crit­i­cal years.
  • Even though straw­ber­ries are grown year-​round in Cal­i­for­nia, it seems like we appre­ci­ate them more when they are at peak of sea­son.

    Inclement weather this year has kept us guess­ing as to when the robust strawberry-​producing regions around the state will see some good spring vol­umes.

    From San Diego to Mon­terey (Watsonville/​Salinas), Cal­i­for­nia has sev­eral straw­berry vari­eties in com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion. Each one has its own char­ac­ter­is­tics, advan­tages and har­vest time.

    Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia sci­en­tists have bred straw­berry qual­ity stan­dards for size, firm­ness, shelf life, yield, and resis­tance to dis­ease. By name, some vari­eties include Aro­mas, Camarosa, Camino Real, Chan­dler and Ven­tana.

    Con­sumers usu­ally never see the vari­etal named, but we know what we like. Sup­ple, juicy, sweet-​tart berries that make us grate­ful for short­cake, waf­fles and chocolate.

  • Memo­r­ial Day and week­end are focused on cel­e­bra­tion and remem­brance for those who’ve made the ulti­mate sac­ri­fice. We honor those who’ve died while serv­ing this great nation.

    Invari­ably, the week­end also ends up being the unof­fi­cial start of sum­mer. Vaca­tion travel, pic­nics, camp­ing, bar­be­cues and patio par­ties bring fam­i­lies and friends together.

    Lucky for us all then that with warm weather trend­ing, sum­mer berries are com­ing into peak play. Cal­i­for­nia grow­ing regions are now har­vest­ing sen­sa­tional blue­ber­ries, straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries, boy­sen­ber­ries and black­ber­ries.

    Multi-​dimensional, berries add that burst of color and fla­vor zing, just where expected. Plan­ning for break­fast, smooth­ies, sal­ads or sum­mer desserts? Berries are a knock­out for pre­sen­ta­tion and get an A+ for taste.

    Straw­ber­ries always seem to top the list for favorite fruits. Blue­ber­ries are inch­ing up with kids and those adults who like to power up with super foods.

    The antiox­i­dants in berries just seem to be an added bonus. We eat them because we love them. The fact that they are a health­ier alter­na­tive to other pos­si­ble warm weather treats makes them all the more desirable.
  • Music venues and out­door con­certs get a lot of traf­fic all sum­mer long. Indi­vid­ual tastes run the spec­trum from rock, blues and coun­try to reg­gae, pop and rap.

    Clas­si­cal sum­mer choices fea­ture Mozart and Bach. If sym­phonies and operas don’t res­onate, try a dif­fer­ent type of sum­mer jam.

    Peak of sea­son fruits beg for pre­serv­ing in some fash­ion. We can’t eat it all no mat­ter how hard we try. Jams, jel­lies, com­potes and mar­malades allow the essence of sum­mer to be cel­e­brated in a jar.

    Sin­gle small batched jams can be achieved in a short period of time, mak­ing the process rel­a­tively pain­less. In just an hour of invest­ment, fruit can be trans­formed in to a mag­nif­i­cent jarred treat.

    Like most other food endeav­ors, we get out of it what we put in to it. Qual­ity going in means qual­ity in the jar. Pick or pur­chase high-​quality fruit at its peak for fla­vor, tex­ture, and color. Skip mushy, over­ripe, and dis­eased fruit.

  • Essen­tial to any good cook’s essen­tial ingre­di­ent list is the globe onion. A well stocked pantry will have on hand at the very least, one or two vari­eties.

    The two main types of globe onions are pun­gent and mild. Both are clas­si­fied into either long-​day or short day bulbs, the length of day­light time required for the actual bulb to form.

    Mild vari­ety onions are typ­i­cally large and juicy with thick rings and thin, papery skins that peel eas­ily. They can be cooked, but are the likely can­di­dates to be used raw on sand­wiches, in sal­ads and the like. These are the ones that make great onion rings.

    Unfor­tu­nately, mild onions are very poor “keep­ers”. Even in ideal stor­age con­di­tions, they will only main­tain their eat­ing qual­ity for a cou­ple months. Ide­ally, a wind­fall of mild onions can be pre­served in pick­les, sal­sas and chutneys.