Buy local eat local

  • Apples and oranges are great.

    No one refutes their solid nutri­tional value or culi­nary ver­sa­til­ity.

    By the time June rolls around, it’s time to mix things up in the fruit depart­ment. We crave the taste of sum­mer in all its stone fruit and berry glory.

    Every trip to the gro­cer or farm­ers mar­ket is a delib­er­ate pur­suit for what’s new in the sea­son.

    Early Cal­i­for­nia cher­ries have found their way to the stands. The sea­son looks to be a short and sweet one with a lim­ited crop this year. North­west cher­ries will quickly fol­low. No need to pout with Rainiers and red vari­eties like Chelan, Teiton and Bings rushed to mar­ket upon harvest.
  • The Blos­som Hill orchards are located in Pat­ter­son, Cal­i­for­nia. Some sug­gest this loca­tion to be the world’s best apricot-​growing region.

    Lucich — San­tos Farms have been family-​owned for more than 90 years. For over 35 years, they’ve devel­oped exper­tise in grow­ing, pack­ing and ship­ping Cal­i­for­nia apri­cots and apri­ums under the Blos­som Hill Orchard name.

    Four gen­er­a­tions over­see the daily oper­a­tions. Their over­ar­ch­ing goal is to pro­vide cus­tomers with the best eat­ing, sweet­est, juicy apri­cots.

    Jim Lucich, sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Blos­som Hill, said the 2018 crop in Pat­ter­son is lighter than usual. Weather played a part with the crop set. Chill hours were lower than needed, and some cold and rain that came after the bloom had an effect on the crop.

    The com­pany grows its apri­cots in a sustainable-​minded envi­ron­ment. Lucich and San­tos Farms and Blos­som Hill Packing’s objec­tive is to pro­duce pre­mium deli­cious fruit with food safety in mind.
  • By Kath­leen Weaver

    Most con­sumers believe pro­duce comes shrouded in plas­tic; per­fectly selected apples pre­sented in a pris­tine pack­age ready to enjoy. And while any­one eat­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles excites me for all the obvi­ous rea­sons; health and com­merce related, there is one sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between the eater of today and that of the past. Eighty years ago most folks knew how an apple was grown, which is no longer the case.

    Eighty years ago a sub­stan­tial chunk of the work­force was employed in agri­cul­ture; 22% of work­ers rep­re­sent­ing roughly 27 of 123 mil­lion peo­ple who called the US home at the time. They farmed on small farms in all regions of the US pro­duc­ing mostly for their own sub­sis­tence. How­ever, trends began to shift with elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, mech­a­niza­tion, and infra­struc­ture and trans­port improve­ments, allow­ing peo­ple to seek off-​farm work. This is where we see the most sub­stan­tial change in our food sys­tem that until recently remained unchallenged.

  • Nes­tled between Mount Dia­blo and the Sacramento-​San Joaquin Delta in the East Bay, Brent­wood, Cal­i­for­nia is renowned for grow­ing excep­tional fresh mar­ket pro­duce.

    In par­tic­u­lar, sum­mer cher­ries, peaches and delec­table sweet corn are what local mar­kets and chefs cel­e­brate.

    Hot Cen­tral Val­ley days and cool, off-​shore breezes at night make it the per­fect loca­tion for grow­ing sweet corn.

    The cobs are picked dur­ing the early milk stage of ker­nel matu­rity, when sugar con­tent and mois­ture lev­els are high. This is in con­trast to field corn, which is har­vested in the dry, starchy dent stage. Over the last cen­tury, sweet corn pro­duc­tion in the U.S. has increased as farm­ers and geneti­cists have devel­oped hardier and sweeter vari­eties.

    To clar­ify, most of the corn grown in the United States is the com­mod­ity crop known as field corn. It is used as ani­mal feed, ethanol, whiskey and goes into all kinds of processed foods and food ingre­di­ents. High-​fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and corn oil.

  • There has been a resur­gence of Cal­i­for­nia gar­lic, both in con­sumer demand and also in pro­duc­tion. The 2018 Cal­i­for­nia gar­lic crop will heighten that trend.

    Christo­pher Ranch, California’s largest gar­lic sup­plier, reports fan­tas­tic pro­duc­tion lev­els this year, the likes of which have not been seen in years. Great news for gar­lic lovers.

    Ken Christo­pher, Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent for the com­pany, announced their fore­cast this sea­son to be about 100 mil­lion pounds of gar­lic.

    “Demand for organic gar­lic has been explo­sive and it is the fastest-​growing busi­ness seg­ment”, Ken Christo­pher said.

    The com­pany har­vested 5 mil­lion pounds of organic gar­lic last year and expect to har­vest 10 mil­lion pounds of organic gar­lic in 2018. By far, this is the biggest organic crop ever for Christo­pher Ranch. This will be the first year they are expected to have a 100 per­cent Cal­i­for­nia organic program.

  • Cal­i­for­nia pear farm­ing areas are arguably in some of the most desir­able and beau­ti­ful places in the state.

    The beauty of his­toric pear orchards con­tributes sig­nif­i­cantly to the appeal of com­mu­ni­ties such as Court­land and Clarks­burg, located in the Sacra­mento River Delta grow­ing region.

    Lake­port and Kelseyville rep­re­sent the Lake County pear grow­ing dis­trict. Ukiah, in the Men­do­cino grow­ing dis­trict, rounds out the real estate.

    Together these grow­ing areas pro­duce approx­i­mately 150,000 tons of pears each year. The vol­ume of pears pro­duced in Cal­i­for­nia has declined in recent years, as has the num­ber of pear farm­ers.

    Even so, the Cal­i­for­nia pear indus­try remains a lead­ing sup­plier of pears to the world.

  • We’ve said it before-​California grows over 400 dif­fer­ent crops, some grown nowhere else in the coun­try. A few crops include wine and table grapes, almonds, arti­chokes, cit­rus, straw­ber­ries, and walnuts.

    Cal­i­for­nia pro­duces nearly all of the country’s almonds, apri­cots, arti­chokes, dates, figs, kiwi fruit, nec­tarines, olives, pis­ta­chios, prunes and wal­nuts.

    Fifty eight coun­ties make up the lush Cal­i­for­nia land­scape. All but three con­tribute to the total agri­cul­tural econ­omy. Once tran­si­tion hap­pens from win­ter crops in Mex­ico mov­ing north, the fer­tile Cal­i­for­nia soil pro­duces a bounty for our nation’s hun­gry tables.

    Pick any county in the sum­mer­time to find a work­ing fam­ily farm. We speak of “locale” when we men­tion who or where the mel­ons, onions, squash and green beans are com­ing from.

    “Brent­wood” is syn­ony­mous with “super sweet“ white corn. Located in Con­tra Costa County, this delta town is steeped in a rich agri­cul­tural heritage.
  • A Mediter­ranean diet incor­po­rates the basics of healthy eat­ing — plus a splash of fla­vor­ful olive oil and per­haps a glass of red wine.

    Touted as one of the health­i­est ways to eat, this tra­di­tional cook­ing style of coun­tries bor­der­ing the Mediter­ranean Sea is more a way of life than pre­scrip­tion for a diet reg­i­men.

    Key com­po­nents on the Med menu are fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles, fish, whole grains, fresh herbs, beans and lim­its to any unhealthy fats.

    Red meat is more rarely con­sumed and poul­try, eggs, cheese, and yogurt only in mod­er­a­tion. Processed foods, refined grains and sug­ary bev­er­ages are avoided.

    What needs to be con­sid­ered is how inte­grated diet and lifestyle are woven together. Eat­ing any meal is an event. Meals are shared with fam­ily and friends and peo­ple take their time to enjoy every bite.

  • The word veg­etable is based on culi­nary and cul­tural tra­di­tions, not science.

    Edi­ble plants used to make savory dishes are typ­i­cally con­sid­ered vegetables.

    Herba­cious plants that have edi­ble leaves, stems, flow­ers, or roots all claim the veg­etable moniker.

    We exclude some plants that bear fruits, nuts, legumes, pulses and grains. Iron­i­cally, we then arbi­trar­ily deem cour­gettes (squashes, pump­kins, cucum­bers, and the like) in the veg­gie group.

    As Spring emerges, flow­ers are in bloom. There are some veg­eta­bles that tech­ni­cally are flow­ers too. We’re eager for them as the shift of sea­sons hails to locally-​sourced Cal­i­for­nia vegetables.

    Aspara­gus– Cal­i­for­nia pro­duces more than sev­enty per­cent of the nation’s fresh mar­ket aspara­gus. Peak of sea­son depends entirely on weather. This flow­er­ing peren­nial blooms and sprouts on cue depend­ing on the elements.

  • Sum­mer is fad­ing fast. Vaca­tion days in the rear view mir­ror bring a dif­fer­ent focus with some new rou­tines shap­ing our plates. Before com­pletely let­ting go of sum­mer, how about tak­ing one last bite?

    The best of late har­vest sum­mer fruits and veg­eta­bles are ready for the final soirée. Act quickly, as the win­dow is clos­ing on the late bloomers.

    That glo­ri­ous camp includes heir­loom toma­toes, egg­plants (in all shapes, sizes and color), sum­mer and early fall squashes (zuc­chini, eight ball, spaghetti and but­ter­nut), and even some squash blos­soms still on the stem.

    Last of sum­mer basil makes for pesto for pasta, pizza or bruschetta. Use the toma­toes for tomato and herb salad or Cap­rese with a bal­samic driz­zle. Both are fresh, light and the per­fect com­pli­ment to any Sep­tem­ber din­ner party.

    Off the vine pep­per choices, make us dream of sump­tu­ous stuffed bells, chile rel­lenos and roasted Ana­heim, poblano, Hatch and jalapeños. South of the bor­der delec­tables go far beyond salsa. Pep­per pop­pers keep things lively for al fresco appetizers.
  • Cal­i­for­nia avo­ca­dos have arrived! They are gen­er­ally avail­able from April to Sep­tem­ber, but for the nearly 5,000 grow­ers in the state, the avo­cado sea­son is a year-​round endeavor.

    Farm­ers walk their avo­cado groves every month to check on the trees, assess weather affects and grove con­di­tions. They must ensure avo­ca­dos are on the right track for pro­jected har­vests. Each stage in the growth cycle is crit­i­cal.

    Avo­ca­dos, grown on trees, have a tree growth cycle with six stages: flow­er­ing, shoot growth, root growth, fruit set, fruit growth, and har­vest.
    That’s a lot to watch and care for dur­ing each sea­son.

    Cal­i­for­nia pro­duces about 90 per­cent of the nation’s avo­cado crop. Ninety-​five per­cent of Cal­i­for­nia avo­ca­dos are the Hass (rhymes with pass) vari­ety.

    The Hass vari­ety accounts for about 80 per­cent of all avo­ca­dos eaten world­wide. By now, most of us under­stand that an avo­cado is actu­ally a fruit.
  • A 300 mile radius, or less, to define locally grown may not mat­ter much to those that are able to pick straight from a hoop house out back every­day.

    That real­ity doesn’t exists for most fresh pro­duce cus­tomers.

    For three sea­sons out of the year, regional grow­ers make it easy for us to scratch our local itch. That fourth sea­son is tougher to rely on for close to home grown.

    Liv­ing in the mid-​west, or other cold belt states, poses real chal­lenges for sourc­ing fresh pro­duce from inside the USA dur­ing win­ter.

    Cal­i­for­nia, Ari­zona and Florida man­age to eek out a fair amount of crop pro­duc­tion through the dead of win­ter. The desert regions (Yuma and Huron) do the heavy lift­ing for Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia let­tuce and wet veg­etable production.