Jay Ruskey, left, and Mark Gaskell, shown at a coffee tasting in 2015. They planted their first California coffee field trial in 2002.
Coffee is being commercially grown in California and coffee drinkers can't get enough of the locally produced beverage, which currently retails for about $18 per cup. Anyone who is interested in growing, processing or marketing specialty coffee in California is invited to a Coffee Summit on Jan. 18 at Cal Poly Pomona.
Until recently, American coffee was grown commercially only in Hawaii. To make the most of their precious water, California farmers have begun experimenting with coffee plantings and producing beans that fetch a premium.
“There are about 30,000 coffee trees now planted on about 30 farms and that acreage will continue to grow during 2018 with programmed new plantings,” said Mark Gaskell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor who works with coffee growers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. “Only a relatively small amount of the planted acreage is now producing, but the market interest and demand continue to outpace anticipated new production for the foreseeable future.”
At the Coffee Summit, participants will learn about new opportunities for this high-value crop from industry professionals. Summit topics will include development of estate coffee, coffee production, pests and diseases, processing methods and marketing.
Coffee is planted from Morro Bay to San Diego, with production concentrated in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Diego counties, according to Gaskell.
California coffee industry leaders from Santa Barbara and San Diego counties and agriculture professionals with University of California Cooperative Extension, University of Hawaii and U.S. Department of Agriculture will give presentations and answer questions.
Good Land Organics grower Jay Ruskey, who has been growing coffee in Santa Barbara County since 2002, and Gaskell will discuss growing coffee in California.
Based on their coffee variety research trials, UC Cooperative Extension advisors Ramiro Lobo and Gary Bender, both based in San Diego County, and Duncan McKee of Cal Poly Pomona will discuss which varieties are suitable for production in California.
“We are working collaboratively with UC Cooperative Extension to determine the best coffee varieties for our area,” said Valerie J. Mellano, Cal Poly Pomona professor and chair of the Plant Science Department. “Much of the California coffee is grown along the more coastal areas, but we are really interested in determining what will do well in the more inland areas, where it is a little hotter in the summer and a little colder in the winter.
“We are starting the second year of our trial and will be able to see how certain varieties hold up in the colder weather this winter, but we will not have any coffee yield data for a couple more years.”
Andy Mullins of Frinj Coffee, a cooperative of 24 farms including Good Land Organics, will discuss business and marketing opportunities for new California coffee growers.
The Inaugural Coffee Summit will be hosted by the Huntley College of Agriculture on Jan. 18, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the AgriScapes Conference Center at Cal Poly Pomona. Registration is $75 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and coffee tasting. For more information and registration, visit http://bit.ly/2jtXyFP.
Nestled in the rolling foothills of Placer County, just northeast of Sacramento, are more than 35 beautiful small family farms growing mandarin oranges. The warm days and cool nights in Penryn, Newcastle, Loomis, Lincoln and Auburn make this area a perfect place to grow sweet, juicy, seedless mandarins. Welsh settlers in the town of Penryn first planted Satusuma mandarin orchards in the 1880s; some of their descendants are still tending Satsuma groves today. These original growers have been joined by other families in providing tree- ripened, hand-picked fruit to Placer County and beyond.
Mandarins ripen from late November through January, just in time to find a favored spot in millions of Christmas stockings and Chinese New Year celebrations. The Mountain Mandarin Growers Association members welcome the public to visit the mandarin groves throughout the winter months when the fruit is at its peak, but during the first and third weekends in December visitors enjoy extra family-friendly activities as part of Mountain Mandarin Orchard Days.
Enjoy Mountain Mandarin Orchard Days
Orchard Days started eight or nine years ago, according to Mountain Mandarin Growers Association President Rich Colwell, owner of the Colwell Thundering Herd Mandarin Ranch in Penryn. Although growers' association members sell to stores and distributors and at farmers' markets, they decided to try to celebrate the harvest at the ranches, taking advantage of the example of the Apple Hill Growers Association in nearby El Dorado County. Colwell says, "If they like Apple Hill, we think they'll love coming up here to see what we have to offer."
To plan visits on Orchard Days, Dec. 2, 3, 16 and 17, visitors can visit the Mandarin Growers map page to find the groves and a list of activities at each ranch. First, enjoy the beautiful small family farms by taking a walk through the groves. Savor the fresh fruit itself, either by picking your own straight from the trees or by purchasing a bag of just-picked mandarins to take home or give to friends and family. Then sample some of the delightful products made from or infused with mandarins. Products created by the small-scale farmers include oils, sauces, honey, juice, cookies, cakes, fudge and spreads. Orchard Days activities include local wine and ale tasting, artists and crafters, visit with Santa, petting of goats and other farm animals and other winter fruits and vegetables. Visitors can see painted quilt squares on local barns as well as fabric quilts on display.
On Sunday Dec. 3, visitors may join the "Orange is the new Pink" 5K Walk for Breast Cancer, an un-timed walk along part of Penryn's Mandarin Trail, starting and ending at Mandarin Hill Orchards, 2334 Mandarin Hill Lane. To learn more and register, visit MandarinWalk.org.
Nutrition and recipes
As well as being tasty, mandarins are nutritious. According to the California Department of Public Health's Network for a Healthy California, one average size Satsuma mandarin contains only 47 calories and 39 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin C. Also, in a 2008 USDA study, Placer County Owari Satusuma mandarins showed concentrations of the phytochemical synephrine that were up to six times higher than values previously determined for orange juice. The study concluded that 10 ounces of mandarin juice contains as much synephrine as one over-the-counter decongestant pill.
Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges
SALAD: 4 cups fresh spinach leaves 1 cup chopped center leaves of Romaine lettuce 1/4 cup sliced red onions 24 sections fresh mandarin segments
TOPPINGS: Toasted pecans or candied walnuts Several thin slices of Mandarin orange 1 tblsp. feta or blue cheese Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss. Chill. Plate and top each serving with your choice of toppings (see suggestions).
Mandarin Orange Scones
SCONES: 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup buttermilk Zest of 1 orange 11 ounces fresh mandarins, chopped
GLAZE: 1 cup confectioners' sugar 1 teaspoon orange zest 3 drops orange flavoring Fresh orange juice
SCONES: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. By hand, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter. Add buttermilk, orange zest and Mandarin oranges. Turn dough onto well-floured board. Add flour as needed. Knead dough; make eight 1-inch round wedges. Score the eight wedges. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes.
GLAZE:Combine confectioners' sugar, orange zest, orange flavoring and enough fresh orange juice to make a runny glaze. Pour glaze over warm scones.
Cindy Fake, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Placer and Nevada counties, is working with the Mountain Mandarin Growers Association to keep the groves healthy as they face a serious threat.
Citrus from outside Placer County may carry the Asian citrus psyllid. This tiny insect carries the deadly bacterial disease called Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening. HLB kills citrus trees and could destroy California citrus production and Mountain Mandarins. The insect is already in Southern California and efforts are being made to keep it out of Placer County.
Help protect the Mountain Mandarin industry by following these guidelines:
Do not bring any citrus fruit, trees, or leaves into Placer County from other California counties, other states, or countries.
Buy your mandarins from local Placer County growers.
Buy only certified disease-free citrus trees from a reputable nursery. Do not share any uncertified citrus rootstock or budwood, as it could carry the disease.
Candied sweet potatoes – dripping with butter, brown sugar and pecans – or a casserole of mashed sweet potatoes smothered with toasted marshmallows are common sides on the Thanksgiving table. These rich dishes belie the true nature of sweet potatoes, which are nutrient packed, low-glycemic root vegetables that can be a part of a healthy diet year round.
Research by UC Cooperative Extension advisor Scott Stoddard is aimed at making sweet potatoes an even more healthful and attractive food. Stoddard is working with sweet potato growers in Merced County to see if sweet potatoes with dusky purple skin and vibrant purple flesh, called purple/purples, can be grown by more farmers in California. The unusual color and health benefits command a higher price, opening a potentially profitable niche market.
The Stokes sweet potato, right, has better color than the L-14-15-P experimental cultivar.
“Purple flesh sweet potatoes have beta-carotene, like the more common orange varieties, plus anthocyanins,” Stoddard said. “It's like eating a handful of blueberries with your sweet potato.”
California is a significant producer of sweet potatoes. About 80 percent of the California crop – 16,000 acres – is grown in Merced County, on farms ranging from 5 acres up to several thousand acres. In 2015, the crop's value in Merced County was $195 million. About 1,000 acres are grown in Kern County and 2,000 acres in Stanislaus County. These locations have the sandy and sandy-loam soils ideal for sweet potatoes to develop their distinctive shape and smooth skin.
Sweet potatoes with purple flesh are not common, but they have been around for quite some time. They are the main type of sweet potato grown in Hawaii, for example. Several years ago, growers in Stokes County, N.C., selected a particularly beautiful and tasty cultivar, naming it the Stokes Sweet Potato and marketing nationwide with Frieda's Specialty Produce. In California, A. V. Thomas Produce in Livingston acquired an exclusive agreement with the company to grow and market Stokes purple/purple sweet potatoes.
“The number of acres of Stokes has really expanded in just a few years,” Stoddard said. "There is a lot of consumer interest in purple-fleshed sweet potatoes."
That doesn't close the door on purple/purples for California's other growers interested in the niche. Stoddard conducts field trials in cooperation with local farmers that include purple/purples. In one trial, 50 types of sweet potatoes of many different colors are being grown to determine whether they have key characteristics needed for local production. From there, he selects a limited number to grow in replicated trials, to determine their potential to produce a high yield, store well, and develop good size, shape, color and flavor. Of these, only one purple/purple made it into the replicated trial.
“In some purple/purples, the flavor can be off, or bitter,” Stoddard said. “We get rid of those right away.”
One of the cultivars in Stoddard's study, which goes by the experimental code number L-14-15-P, was bred in 2014 by Don La Bonte, a plant breeder at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. The potato has some good attributes, but lacks the uniform deep purple color of the Stokes variety.
“Unfortunately, it's probably not good enough to displace Stokes,” Stoddard said. “It's a good start, but we have to continue screening purple/purples to find a variety that offers disease resistance, good yield, and consistent deep purple flesh color."
Sweet potatoes can be eaten raw or cooked. To eat raw, simply peel, cut into sticks and serve with low-fat ranch dressing or apple sauce for dipping. Grate fresh, uncooked sweet potatoes and add to burritos or tacos or sprinkle on salads for a sweet, nutritious crunch.
Cooked sweet potatoes can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, skin and all, plain or with a small pat of butter.
Microwaving is a great way to quickly prepare the vegetable. Wash potatoes and pat dry. Prick skin with a knife in 2 to 3 places. Cook on high for 5 minutes. Turn over. Then cook for another 5 minutes, more or less.
UC Cooperative Extension's sweet potato expert Scott Stoddard says he prefers his sweet potatoes baked.
“Baked is way better,” he said. “Baking gives time to convert to starch to maltose.”
Sweet potatoes are mostly starch, but have a special enzyme that breaks down starch into maltose when cooking. Slower cooking in the oven provides time for the conversion, imparting a subtly sweet caramelized flavor.
To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the lower oven rack with foil, then prick sweet potatoes with a fork and place directly on the middle oven rack, above the rack with foil. Bake 45 minutes for sweet potatoes 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
“What if, today, we were grateful for everything?” asks Charlie Brown.
You don't need to be a beloved cartoon character to understand the meaning of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks seems like an excellent goal for this year's celebration … and every day, really. Here are some important steps for a healthy, delicious and memorable holiday.
First, be safe Millions of Americans will be celebrating this Thanksgiving. Foodborne illness is a real concern. So, let's make sure everybody enjoys the meal and doesn't get ill.
From safely thawing a turkey to making sure it's properly cooked, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers a range of tips to keep your holiday safe. (One hint: take care with the stuffing). The USDA's famous Meat & Poultry Hotline will remain open on Thanksgiving Day until 11 a.m. PST; their team of experts is on hand to answer any questions you may have.
No, Thanksgiving feast would be complete without pie. Whether you're a sweet potato or pumpkin pie fan, good crust is essential. Making a good pie crust isn't rocket science...but it does involve molecular science. In this video, University of California researcher Amy Rowat uses science to show you how to make the best pie crust ever.
Second, savor the meal
Did you know that there's a science to eating? Before you pile lots of food on your plate, take time to consider these seven steps from University of California scientists and researchers; they will assure that you savor every bite of your meal.
Third, don't waste
Enjoy your meal, but make it a point to reduce food waste this holiday season.
“Food waste presents a major challenge in the United States. Estimates suggest that up to 40% of the food produced nationally never gets consumed, causing substantial economic and environmental harms. Wasted food utilizes vast quantities of precious land, water and human resources, yet rather than nourishing people, it feeds landfills, producing methane gasses that poison the environment. Much of the food waste (43%) occurs at the household level.”
We sought out experts from UC ANR's Master Food Preserver Program for advice on how to use leftovers. Some takeaways: refer to this food storage chart to determine how long you can safety store leftover food. For more tips, click here. Leftover turkey can be used to make a delicious homemade stock that can serve as the base for additional meals. We provide a recipe and information about how to safely preserve stock here.
However you celebrate Thanksgiving, the staff of UC ANR wishes you a safe, happy and healthy holiday.
Editor's Note: UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers and educators draw on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. We operate the 4-H, Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver Programs. We live where you live. Learn more here. Are you a #veteran or #beginning farmer interested in learning more about poultry production? UC ANR is co-hosting a series of poultry workshops beginning in December and throughout 2017. Get the details here.
Learn more about native and indigenous foods from Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot Tribe in the Pacific Northwest; the post appears on the UC Food Observer blog.
When the weather cools in the fall and the holidays draw near, orange orbs ripen on persimmon trees in California to offer a fresh autumn sweetness in time for Thanksgiving recipes and holiday décor.
At the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center (SCREC) in Irvine, a collection of 53 persimmon varieties are at their peak in November when the public is invited for tasting and harvesting at the annual persimmon field day.
“We want to raise awareness about persimmons,” said Tammy Majcherek, SCREC community educator. “It's a beautiful tree and a great addition to any landscape. Persimmon trees provide shade in the summer, healthy fruit in the fall, then drop their leaves and allow the sun's warmth to come through in the winter. It's a win-win situation as far as landscape trees go.”
The persimmon collection came to the research center in the 1960s, when the late UCLA subtropical horticulture professor Art Schroeder arranged to move his collection of persimmon varieties to another venue because the pressure of urban development at the Westwood campus became too great.
Persimmons are native in two parts of the world, China and the United States. The Chinese persimmon made its way to Japan, where its popularity soared. The American persimmon comes from the Southeastern United States, however, most California persimmons trace their lineage to Asia.
California leads the nation in persimmon production, according to the California Department of Agriculture Crop Report, but with a value of about $21 million in 2012, it represents just a small fraction of the state's $19 billion 2012 tree fruit and nut value.
Nevertheless, to the visitors who came out to tour UC's collection at SCREC, persimmon is a choice fruit. Participants on the early-morning VIP tour received a large shopping bag to fill with various varieties of fuyu and hachiya persimmons. Fuyu are flat, yellow-orange fruit that can be eaten right off the tree like apples or allowed to mature to a super-sweet soft pulp. Hachiya are redder, heart-shaped and astringent when not fully ripened. “If you bite it, it will bite your mouth right back,” said one participant.
However, after ripening to a jelly soft pulp or dried, the hachiya is equally delicious.
Shirley Salado, the UC Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program supervisor in San Diego County, attended the persimmon tasting to gather fruit and information for her education program.
“The fuyu is great to eat,” Salado said. “When they ripen and become very soft, you can put the pulp in a blender and then freeze in zipper bags to add to healthy smoothies.”
Salado collected two large bags of persimmons to share with her nutrition education staff.
“Not everybody knows about these,” Salado said. “This gives them a chance to look at the fruit. This is what we promote.”
Following the tour, coordinator of the UC Master Food Preserver program at SCREC Cinda Webb demonstrated safe consumption by making cinnamon persimmon jam, dried persimmon chips, and a gourmet persimmon, basil, beet and rice salad.
Wild or brown rice persimmon salad
4 cups wild or brown rice, cooked 2 Fuyu persimmons, chopped 1 cup cooked, chopped beets 1 cup basic, chopped 8 oz feta cheese ½ cup orange cumin vinaigrette
Vinaigrette (makes about 1 cup)
½ cup orange juice ¼ cup olive oil 2 tsp rice vinegar 1 Tbsp maple syrup 1½ tsp cumin 1 tsp coriander ½ tsp salt
Whisk together vinaigrette dressing ingredients
Stir basil, beets, persimmons and feta into rice and toss with ½ cup vinaigrette.
Top with persimmon slices and extra chopped basil for presentation.