Growers are looking for alternative crops and drought tolerant ones are better than water intensive ones, right? So, here's a recent question from someone who wants to grow the latest, new food crop. “What about growing a drought tolerant (in fact, it doesn't need any water) cactus fruit that will make money?” Cool.
My first response is that it should do no harm. That should be a mantra when it comes to food, especially in this age of hyper-food safety vigilance. People are clever, though and foods that might be dangerous are often produced so that they can be eaten by most people. We do have acorns with tannic acid that need to be leached if you don't want to get severely sick. Olives that need to be processed to edible. Puffer fish that with a wrong slice of the knife can kill you. There are any number of other foods that people have figured out a way to safely eat.
Rumpa is cactus fruit from Chile that has a lot going for it – high nutrient content, high polyphenolic antioxidants, high C, small seeds like kiwi and pitahaya, and tada, drought resistant for our drought prone state. So, it's a cactus, yeah, but it doesn't have the teeth crunching seeds of opuntia cactus fruit – the tunas or prickly pear – that can scare some people. Too vigorous chomping on the wondrously flavored prickly pear fruit leads to the small, hard seeds. Shocking, although they are safe to swallow, mostly.
There are spines, but the fine spines on the rumpa fruit surface can be removed by rubbing on an abrasive surface. Not too vigorously, though since the fruit is quite delicate. This would be the same for the tuna fruit, too. You can get rid of those spines with rubbing, too. So, eating the rumpa should be relatively safe.
The safety issue pops up with the spines on the stems. They are wicked thorns that protect the fruit with all the defenses needed to protect fruit in a hostile environment. This is going to be a tough fruit to harvest. Which may add to it glamour, like puffer fish. Although in this case, it's not the consumer who is taking the risk, but the harvester.
Or you could grow dragon fruit, which is a cactus relative, which has no spines on the fruit and a few on the modified stem/leaves. It's got entirely edible, beautiful seeds. The right variety of dragon fruit can be quite tasteful, although many are quite bland.
So back to the question posed by the grower. If it's safe to eat, do you want to grow it?
According to Francisco Meza in the link below (google translation):
“Its fruits, called rumbas, have a bitter taste similar to lemon, but less tart, which would prevent them from being consumed fresh. However, thanks to its nutritional qualities, such as a high content of vitamin C, and good flavor once sweetened, could be used in the processing of processed foods such as jams, juices and drinks. But that's not all, since according to experts it can also be used in the manufacture of cosmetics.”
So, the advantage California coastal ag has is its climate. That's the competitive advantage. If it can be grown cheaper, processed and shipped here from somewhere else, it's not going to work competitively here. It's hard enough competing with similar climates like Mexico's and Chile's where the shipping becomes a problem for perishables. But that is being dealt with and it's becoming hard for out-of-season coastal blueberry growers to compete with imported fruit in the season that the coast has dominated for the last several years.
So grow rumba/rumpa/copao in Ventura commercially? It's safe to eat. But it doesn't sound like something that you gotta have….now. It sounds like it needs to be jazzed up, which means processing. It's hard to pick. And the market needs to be developed. So, it's probably not a good idea to grow it commercially on the coast.
- Author: Sonia Rios
The University of California Cooperative Extension in conjunction with the California Macadamia Society and the Gold Crown Macadamia Association will hold their Annual Field Day on Saturday 30 September 2017, 8:45 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. at the home of Thomas & Bobbi Rastle's, 1115 Valencia Drive, Escondido, California.
We will have classes on topics germane to the macadamia industry, with plenty of opportunities for you to ask questions, both general in nature and about the specifics of your operations. We will also be serving a continental breakfast and a delicious lunch. Please plan to join us for a fun and information filled day.
From I-5 & I-15, Exit on 78 east, Right on Broadway in Escondido, Left on Washington Ave, Right on Ash Street (it will become San Pasqual Valley Road), Right on Summit Drive, Right on Valencia Drive to 1115.
From I-15 north, Exit Via Rancho Parkway east (it becomes Bear Valley Parkway), Right on San Pasqual Valley Road, (Note: it is about four miles to San Pasqual Valley Road – Do Not Take San Pasqual Road), Right on Summit Drive, Right on Valencia Drive to 1115.
Cost: $20.00 per person if you pre-pay by 10 September 2017, $25.00 per person after that.
Visit www.macnuts.org/fieldday.htm for a registration form. Mail registration form along with your check to:
California Macadamia Society, P. O. Box 1298, Fallbrook, CA 92088
Questions? (760) 728-8081/Cell 760-580-5516 or RussellFarms@Roadrunner.com
Rain is unusual in that it germinates weed seeds and then the need to manage them in some fashion arises. Many subtropical tree growers do not like the potential impact of pre-emergent herbicides on tree growth due to potential damage to shallow roots. Lemon growers rely fairly heavily on the post-emergent glyphosate, especially since there are cheap generic versions available. I don't know of many avocado growers who use a pre-emergent, using the natural mulching effects of fallen leaves, introduced mulch, the natural shading of the canopies and glyphosate.
I am not aware of any field studies that have shown that pre-emergents can cause root damage or reduction of tree growth or yield. There are a number of registered chemicals with different modes of action, so one would expect to see more use as practiced in other tree crops, but there is a reluctance that is based on some possible damage to trees. So, a lot of glyphosate is used and to some extent another material, glufosinate, is also used in citrus.
One of the issues that has arisen with glyphosate use has been the resistance of some weed species to this material. There are some thirty-seven species of resistant weeds in the world. In California orchards, the biggies are Hairy Fleabane, Horseweed and Johnson grass. Resistance means that you can spray the plants, even in their small stages and there's little or no effect. A non-resistant species would just wither, turn yellow and die down to the roots.
There are always plants like horsetail or purslane which have a surface that does not absorb material very well. They appear to be resistant, but aren't. Once you use the maximum dose, with a spreader-sticker or another adjuvant, the herbicide gets into the plant and it dies. Also, the key is timing, young plants being much more susceptible than bigger plants with a less absorptive surface.
This year, though with all the rains, there've been calls about not just horseweed being tough to get, but also nutsedge. Nutsedge, as far as I know, has no documented resistance, but it does have a waxy surface that gets thicker with the age of the plant. With all the weeds, people have gotten behind and the weeds have gotten out of hand and the older plants are harder to spray out. It takes more tact to get at them when they get older.
Nutsedge also reproduces from swollen underground stems called tubers or “nuts”. They aren't nuts – seeds – and some people mistake them for a grass, which they are not. They are a sedge. They reproduce primarily through the “nut” and they form lots of “nutlettes”, each of which can form a new plant. If you pull the plant up and don't get all those nutlettes, you are actually increasing the number of plants that will form. It is tricky to deal with and a good thorough spraying can control them, if done at the right stage.
It turns out that these nuts are eaten by lots of animals – pigs, chickens, humans. In the South, pigs and chickens have been used to clear fields of nutsedge before planting rice. The presents of nutsedge around the world is quite likely due to humans having spread it around the world as a food. A poor person's nut.
So, this brings me to the title of this article. Why not grow it for sale? Intercrop it with lemon. Drip irrigate the nutsedge separate from the trees and figure out the pesticide schedule and other management issues and there's a new crop for sale. Foraging for malva, nettle, mustard, pursalane, dandelions and other unconventional edible plants has become a big deal in urban agriculture. You see “wild plants” for sale in the farmers markets. Euell Gibbons has become not just fashionable but commercial. Kale has taken the country by storm. Who would have thought it?
Root System of Yellow Nutsedge
USDA Specialty Crops, the Agricultural Marketing News Service and What's Worth Planting
The AMS Specialty Crops Program helps buyers and sellers of all sizes in the U.S. produce industry to market their perishable products in the most efficient manner. They partner with State agencies and other industry organizations for the benefit of nationwide growers, shippers, brokers, receivers, processors, retailers and restaurants, direct to consumer sales, and the foodservice industry.
The program offers a wide array of services that span from helping market the quality of products to ensuring that there is fair trade in the produce industry. The program also helps specialty crops growers and handlers to combine their resources to help their respective industries overcome marketing barriers.
This is also a great website for trolling for potential alternative crops – what is selling, where, for how much and whether it might be a good idea to plant that crop. Check it out:
Main page of AMS:
Choose from different fruits:
For avocados you can see what the various prices are in different markets and times:
If you are interested in coffee prices, it's still considered a "commodity" and a California grown coffee will not be listed:
The USDA Specialty Crops Program also has a food safety certification program that might be of help to growers. In April 2016, the Specialty Crops Program's Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) launched GroupGAP, a new food safety certification program that is part of our USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) suite of services. Our voluntary USDA GAP programs help verify that produce growers and handlers have taken measures to reduce the risk of contamination. Commercial buyers look for USDA GAP-certified suppliers to source safe specialty products. While larger operations can devote the resources needed to become GAP certified, some smaller entities cannot. Until now. GroupGAP allows farmers, food hubs, and marketing organizations of all sizes to band together and pool resources to achieve USDA GAP certification.
An increasingly sought after health product are the fruit and flowers of elderberry – Sambucus mexicana. It is a nutraceutical which has more antioxidants than other dark fruit like blackberry and pomegranate. It's a California native, but it is estimated there may 30 species worldwide. And some are not that edible because of hydrogen cyanide which can lead to displeasing reactions. The bulk of production is in Europe – Hungary, Germany, France and much of the other countries. They make, jams, wines, topping for yogurt, pies and other tasty things. Most of the elderberry that comes into the US comes from Europe. Oregon used to have large commercial plantings, but the big players today are Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Minnesota. Rather than selling pills made of elderberry, growers are finding consumers want the juice.
It's hard to find statistics on elderberry – acreage, sales, number of growers, etc. - but it's a growing industry, with varietal selections and a harvesting machine developed. The trees get to about 30 feet in height, handle drought and wet feet, alkaline soil. They are attractive to bees and other beneficials. The fruit is attractive to birds which might be a food safety issue. It would also bring back some windbreaks that have disappearing.
To read more about the potential market go to: