- Author: Kathy Thomas-Rico
Here’s a suggestion that, if acted upon, may add some names to Santa’s “Nice” list. What if we all donated our surplus, homegrown produce and it was distributed to those in need?
Solano County is a longtime fruit-growing region. Agriculture is still king here, largely because our climate is perfect for growing a variety of crops. Homeowners have long taken advantage of our glorious climate, planting citrus trees, pomegranates, persimmons, or maintaining old walnut, pecan and almond trees that happen to stand in their yards. Right about now, all of those trees are heavy with fruit and nuts.
Sadly, a good deal of this bounty goes to waste. Homeowners are often too busy or physically unable to harvest in time. And, ironically, there are lots of Solano County residents who don’t have regular access to fresh, locally grown produce.
See where I’m heading with this?
Wouldn’t it be cool if we all could step up and help, either by donating fruits or nuts from our own yards, or by volunteering to help with the harvesting? It can be done, and quite easily. Here are two local volunteer organizations that exist to share the wealth of Solano County produce. Share this information with your neighbors who have an overabundance of produce:
— The Vacaville Produce Pipeline. Call Fern Henry, 448-4792, or visit http://vacaproducepipeline.blogspot.com
— The Fairfield-Suisun Produce Pipeline. Call Karyl Hendrick, 399-7080, or visit http://fsproducepipeline.blogspot.com
Merry Christmas and happy New Year. May all your citrus be Solano grown!
- Author: Riva Flexer
When my friend Donna told me that roof rats were eating all her persimmons, I was incredulous. Roof rats? And what a mess they made, too! Eating half the fruit (the half you didn’t see), so that when you reached to pick it, your unsuspecting fingers sank into squishy soft, wet flesh, rather than the firm cool surface you had been expecting. She eventually had her husband put out large snap traps for them, traps that resembled oversize baited mousetraps, and her problem ended for this season.
So it’s my turn now. While cleaning up the windfalls under my unknown species apple tree (perhaps a variety of Red Delicious) I came upon what initially looked like edible windfalls which I collect and use, and some lovely firm fruit still hanging. But only half of the apple was there – the rest had been eaten on the tree. Oh dear. Roof rats…so that’s what my dog was barking at some nights ago. She was actually trying to climb that apple tree. At this point I’m reluctant to put out traps. I may have to, but I’m hoping that my dog’s presence will deter future foraging. We’ll see about that!
For more information about dealing with roof rats, see this link http://ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74106.html.
- Author: Betty Homer
If you are a gardener, a history buff, someone who enjoys cooking, and/or cares about social causes, consider sowing some heirloom seeds (flowers, fruits and/or vegetables) the next time you do any planting.
Although there is no consensus on what an heirloom seed is, it is at a minimum, a plant whose seed is openly pollinated, or in the case of certain fruit trees, propagated through grafts and cuttings. Heirloom seeds are rich in history (frequently, the varieties date back at least 50 or more years, and sometimes, hundreds of years old), as they are often passed on by family and friends from one generation to the next, and often bear interesting names which offer insight into their fascinating history. Take for instance, the popular tomato that we know as 'Mortgage Lifter'. The story goes that during the 1940’s, an auto mechanic nicknamed “Radiator Charlie,” spent seven years breeding a tomato plant until he developed a sufficiently stable tomato plant which had all the traits and characteristics that he desired. Radiator Charlie, who was apparently, quite the marketer, sold his tomato seedlings for a $1.00 each (a small fortune in his day) and used the proceeds from those sales to pay off the mortgage on his house; hence, the name, 'Mortgage Lifter'.
Heirloom fruits and vegetables are difficult to find in supermarkets, as they tend to be delicate, have a shorter shelf-life than their commercial counterparts, and are not standardized in shape or size such that they can be packed and shipped over long distances. You may have better luck finding heirlooms at farmers markets. People who love to cook, swear by the texture, flavor, and appearance of heirloom vegetables and fruits, as no two vegetables or fruits of the same variety, look exactly alike.
Also, by growing heirlooms, and better yet, saving their seeds and passing them onto others, you help maintain genetic diversity and prevent the extinction of certain varieties of flowers, fruits and vegetables, which have been, and continue to, disappear at an alarming rate.
So as you peruse through your seed catalogs this winter while daydreaming of spring, consider giving heirlooms a try!
- Author: Karen Metz
I have had a bumper crop of pineapple guavas, Feijoa sellowiana, this year. Originally from South America, these drought tolerant shrubs do well in our climate. They can grow up to fifteen feet high and wide, but with the annual pruning they get for our Wreath Workshop the ones in my yard don't quite make that. The leaves are a leathery green on top and a silvery gray underneath. They bloom in early summer. The fruit are ready between October and December and you know it's ripe when they fall on the ground. You just gather them up off the ground and clean them off.
The fruit are 1-2 inches long , dull green on the outside. They are neither pineapple or guava related, but someone thought they tasted like a cross between the two flavors. When I first started growing them about 20 years ago recipes were few and far between. Now on the Internet I've been able to find quite a few. We like the jam, muffins, chutney, and salsa the best, but I've also seen recipes for shrimp dishes and even ice cream.
- Author: Karen Norton
A recent article in the July-August Smithsonian magazine, “Cultivating Art” talks about early American fruit growers enlisting artists to make hand colored lithographs of their fruit. This was done to protect their new varieties of fruit. In 1848, several Eastern seed and nursery leaders initiated what became the first national organization of fruit growers, the American Pomological Society. In 1852, Charles Harvey gathered a series of prints to publish The Fruits of America, Vol. 1, because patent protection did not extend to living organisms. It wasn’t until 1930, that Congress passed the Plant patent Act. This act authorizes a patent to anyone who invented, discovered, or asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant.