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Healthful macadamias can enhance a California landscape

In many of California's coastal areas, the climate is ideal for growing crisp but buttery, high calorie yet healthful macadamia nuts.

Macadamia nuts, native of Australia, have the highest amount of beneficial monounsaturated fats of any known nut. They also contain protein, potassium and minerals. A quarter cup serving is about 240 calories; for comparison, a quarter cup of almonds is about 100 calories less. Macadamia's unique texture and delicate flavor complement salads, baked goods and main dishes. The nut's oil has a long shelf life and may be used in salad dressing, for frying and as an ingredient in cosmetics.

UC Cooperative Extension horticulture advisor Gary Bender said macadamias make beautiful backyard trees, planted in the landscape or in large pots or tubs. They prefer fertile, well-drained soils and temperatures that range year-round from the 50s to the mid 70s, although established trees can withstand light frosts.

In their natural rain forest habitat, macadamia trees can grow to 60 feet in height. In California backyards, they will rarely exceed 20 to 30 feet, he said.

Gardeners who plant macadamia trees will have to be patient. Seed to tree takes 5 to 7 years; full production may take as long as 10 years. Once established, however, macadamia trees may continue bearing for over 100 years.

Although commercial macadamia production levels in California pale compared to Hawaii, where farmers harvest 54 million pounds of the nuts a year, macadamias have been grown in the Golden State continuously since 1879. The largest mainland industry is in San Diego County, where the ag commissioner reported growers harvested 192 tons of macadamia nuts from 128 acres of macadamia plantations in 2006, a crop worth $342,336.

UC Cooperative Extension in San Diego County and the California Macadamia Society will sponsor a field day for current and aspiring macadamia growers from 8:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at the farm of Garry and Patricia Prather, 6686 Via de la Reina, Bonsall, Calif. Registration is $20. At the field day, Bender will explain irrigation scheduling for macadamias. UC Integrated Pest Management advisor Cheryl Wilen will discuss chemical and organic weed control in macadamia production.

More information about the field day is on the San Diego County UCCE calendar. A registration form is on the Gold Crown Macadamia Association website.

Posted on Friday, October 8, 2010 at 6:17 AM

Growing support for local foods

A recent Economic Research Service report from the USDA called Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts and Issues provides an overview of the country's local food systems. Some of the findings include:

  • Direct-to-consumer marketing sales of agricultural products more than doubled from 1997 to 2007.
  • The number of farmers markets nationwide tripled from 1994 to 2009.
  • In 1986, there were two community supported agriculture organizations (CSAs). In 2001, there were 400. Early 2010 estimates exceed 1,400.
  • The number of farm-to-school programs (schools feeding students local produce) rose from two in 1997 to 2,095 in 2009.
  • Most farms that sell directly to consumers are small farms with less than $50,000 in total farm sales.
  • Expanding local food systems can increase employment and income in those communities.

To read the report summary click here; to read the whole report click here.

Eating local foods is a great way for consumers to get good nutrition, help the planet and support the local economy. To find a nearby farmers market use USDA’s Farmers Market Locator.

Producers looking to begin direct marketing or wanting to increase sales, have a variety of resources available to them including: UC Agritourism Center, UC Farm and Business Marketplace, and your local UC Cooperative Extension office.

Posted on Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at 7:43 AM
  • Author: Chris M. Webb

Free information on food: Nutrition, food handling, safety, cooking, etc.

Mention that something is free and useful, and most of us will stop to take a look. And for good reason — the University of California has a number of websites that offer free information related to food.

Take your time to peruse the sites listed below. There is some fascinating and very handy information to be had. Many of these sites also offer terrific publications at nominal prices, but this blog lists only those that are free . . . and we all love a bargain! Many more publications and programs are available than those listed below.

After looking at these lists, you never know when you’ll be inspired to pickle some olives or field dress a deer. As for me, my latest food craze is cheese-making. Two weeks ago I made goat cheese (chèvre, to be sure), and last weekend I made camembert and blue cheeses. Now I just have to be patient for two months while they ripen . . .

Bon appétit and healthful eating!

UC Agriculture and Natural Resources publications [link]

  • Tomatoes: Safe methods to store, preserve, and enjoy [link]
  • Olives: Safe methods for home pickling [link]
  • Egg basics for the consumer: Packaging, storing, and nutritional information [link]
  • Guidelines for food safety during short-term power outages: Consumer fact sheet [link]
  • Key points of control and management for microbial food safety: Edible landscape [link]
  • Safe handling of fruits and vegetables [link]
  • Safe methods of canning vegetables [link]
  • The healthy brown bag: 15 lunches for school-aged children [link]

Postharvest Technology Research and Information Center [link]

  • Storing fresh fruits and vegetables at home – poster (first copy free) [link]

Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center [link]

  • The Backyard Orchard – A plethora of publications on growing and harvesting in the home orchard [link]

Nutrition publications from UC Davis [link]

  • Nutrition and health information sheets on everything from energy drinks to osteoporosis to anemia, and more [link]
  • EatFit - An interactive web program to aid middle-school students in personal dietary analysis and "guided goal setting" [link]
  • “Nutrition Perspectives” newsletter - Research-based information on ongoing nutrition and food-related programs [link]
  • “Nutrition to Grow On” - A curriculum for grades four through six that offers teachers a direct link between the garden and nutrition education [link]

Food Safety Videos

  • Take a look at these humorous — but serious — music videos on food safety by renowned food safety expert Dr. Carl Winter. Who knew that the Beatles’ classic “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” could morph into “You’d Better Wash Your Hands”? [link]
  • More food safety music [link]

Cooperative Extension Offices [link]

  • Many county offices have publications on food production that is specific to climatic or regional needs of that county.

Publication of the Day!

  • Protecting food safety when shooting, field dressing, bringing a deer home, and cutting the carcass [link]
Posted on Friday, October 1, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Growing organic farmers

Well bef

ore Safeway launched a line of organic products or Craigslist posted openings for school garden coordinators, UC Santa Cruz was training students for careers in organic farming.

The UC Santa Cruz Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture started in 1967 when the concept of organic was in its infancy. Forty-three years later, organic has gone mainstream and the apprenticeship program is more popular than ever.

A recently published study looking at the apprenticeship’s last 20 years found that a large percentage of its alumni are still involved in growing and marketing organic food and teaching others how to do so.

“It’s like an incubator,” said lead study author Jan Perez, research specialist with the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. “It’s a place for people to really experiment and live their values and be in a supportive community.”

The six-month residential apprenticeship program, which the center runs in conjunction with UC Santa Cruz Extension, features hands-on training in gardens, greenhouses, orchards and fields. The program combines theoretical and practical instruction, with students not only studying in the classroom but also taking fields trips and marketing organic produce on campus.

Of 299 alumni surveyed, more than 80 percent have done some type of farming or gardening work since graduating, with 65 percent still doing this work. Forty-two percent said they created jobs that did not previously exist and 35 percent are working in an educational area, according to the study in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

For example, two apprentice alumni started Pie Ranch, a working Peninsula farm that educates high school students from San Francisco to Santa Cruz about sustainable agriculture. The farm, which grows ingredients for pies on its pie-shaped ranch, even has its own apprenticeship program.  

“They’re really spreading what they’ve learned,” Perez said.

Meanwhile, interest continues to spread in the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture. Last year, applications rose to 187 for more than 30 slots. This year’s application period closed Thursday (Sept. 30).

The apprenticeship program takes place at UC Santa Cruz's farm and Chadwick Garden
The apprenticeship program takes place at UC Santa Cruz's farm and Chadwick Garden

Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 3:06 PM

Elementary school students learn food science

Sixth-grade students from Hamasaki Elementary School in Los Angeles were surprised to learn that they could actually see iron in their breakfast cereal through a simple experiment involving ground up cereal, water and magnets. These same students also found out that learning about science could be fun.

The students were taking part in a celebration of 4-H National Youth Science Day at UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County Sept. 24. LA County advisors and program coordinators teamed up to give the students the opportunity to learn about nutrition, physical activity and the environment through fun, interactive science-based activities. The students learned about the body’s need for iron in the diet, what types of foods are rich in iron and how to identify these foods by reading the nutrition facts label.

For the experiment, the students were given plastic bags filled with ground up, iron-fortified breakfast cereal and water. They learned that the small bag represents their stomachs after consuming a big bowl of iron-fortified cereal. The kids were instructed to move a magnet slowly across the outside of the bag. Lo and behold, they observed tiny black particles trailing behind the magnet – they could actually see the iron in the cereal mixture. The students learned that once the cereal makes its way into the stomach, the iron is separated and dissolved by stomach acid and absorbed into the body.

Everyone was eager to take a turn with the magnet, including the teachers and chaperones.

Ellen Sandor and Cynthia Avila, youth Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program and and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program program coordinators, and Brenda Roche, the nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor, worked with the students to uncover the seemingly invisible mineral that is commonly fortified in many breakfast cereals.

Variations of this experiment are described on a number of different websites, including:

Other information presented to the students at the event included:

  • Climate change by Keith Nathaniel, the 4-H Youth Development advisor
  • Environmental and watershed conservation by Sabrina Drill, natural resources advisor
  • Physical activity and the science of physiology by Carly Marino, coordinator of the Power Play Campaign

For more information about the event, contact Roche at bkroche@ucdavis.edu, (323) 260-3299.

Students find iron in their breakfast cereal.
Students find iron in their breakfast cereal.

Posted on Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 7:13 AM
  • Author: Brenda Roche

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