- Author: Sarah Arana
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Sarah Arana UCCE Master Food Preserver
I'm trying to stay away from processed foods, what are some staples that I could start with? -Beth S. Los Osos, Ca.
One of best things to keep on hand that is the base for many dishes is homemade stock. This can be used for soups and stews or in place of water for rice and pastas to bolster the flavor. Homemade stock also makes a great sipping broth when you're feeling under the weather. You can make veggie or bone broth using different ingredients to allow for personal preference or tailored for certain recipes. Try making broth in your multi-use pressure cooker, or use your slow cooker, or you can even make it on your stove top. Allow it to simmer all day creating a wonderful aroma in your home announcing winter is here! Your homemade broth can then be pressure canned or frozen for safe keeping to use later.
Another great staple and a fun skill to develop is making homemade sourdough bread. It can seem daunting at first, but with a little knowledge and some practice, you too can dazzle both friends and family with fresh baked bread right out of the oven, perfect on cold chilly nights with your homemade soup. Sourdough bread is the quintessential classic and is made using a fermented “starter” that requires a bit of attention, but it is worth the effort. You can unlock the mystery of making sourdough and keep it on hand for sandwiches, croutons, bread pudding or just plain toast.
Beyond bread, your starter can be used in a variety of recipes including cakes, crackers, pizza dough, muffins, biscuits, pancakes, waffles…You get the picture? Who would have thought something as simple as flour and water could create such magic! Incredibly versatile, sourdough starter opens your kitchen to a variety of baked goods that you never thought possible! It is important to remember that flour is considered a raw ingredient and should not be consumed uncooked. Utilizing basic food safety principles in your kitchen are critical when working with raw flour products.
Come to our next UCCE Master Food Preserver class and learn how to safely prepare and preserve both staples, bread and broth. The class is Saturday, Feb. 22 from 10am-12pm located at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. Register: http://ucanr.edu/warmwinter
- Author: Andrea Giacoletti
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Andrea Giacoletti UCCE Master Gardener
I've heard the term 'invasive.' How do I know if I have an invasive plant in my garden? Violet P.
If there's one thing that will throw a pall on your gardening, it's an invasive plant. Generally, these plants are introduced into the landscape by unknowing gardeners. They are known for their ability to grow prolifically, and as such, are often attractive to those searching for something that grows 'easily.' Invasive plants are usually non-native and quickly overrun native plants and quite possibly everything else in their path---including trees. To make matters worse, they are notoriously difficult to eradicate once established.
Outside the small home garden, invasive plants cause severe damage by overtaking and destroying natural habitat and the food sources they provide. Some of the most powerful of these plant species clog waterways, deoxygenate water supplies, increase fire intensity, cause flooding---and even alter the soil composition. California alone spends $80 million annually in efforts to control these out-of-control plants.
To confound the issue, invasive plants are sometimes considered 'regional.' This means that a particular varietal may not grow excessively in certain areas, while in others it may be highly invasive. For this reason, invasive are often sold in nurseries, particularly those in large chain stores that service a wide area. Knowing what is invasive in your area---before planting---can make the difference between a relaxing gardening experience and one that you swear will be the death of you.
Invasive plants are also different from weeds. Weeds are more often introduced to an area accidentally---not intentionally selected. Weeds also have specific requirements to become established, such as disturbed soil or some type of human intervention.
If you want to know more about invasive plants, please join us at the UCCE Master Gardener “Advice to Grow By” workshop on Saturday, February,15, in our demonstration garden at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo, 10:00-12:00. If inclement weather, it will be moved to the auditorium. Garden docents will be available after the workshop until 1:00 p.m.
- Author: Linda Lewis Griffith
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Linda Lewis Griffith UCCE Master Gardener
Common Name: Toyon, California holly
Planting Zone: Sunset 14-24
Size: 8-15 ft. shrub or small, multi-trunked tree to 25 ft.
Bloom Season: Flowers in summer; red berries in fall and winter
Exposure: Full sun or partial shade
Pruning Needs: None needed. But trimming to increase first-year wood enhances berry production
Water Needs: Drought tolerant; however, looks better with moderate watering
Narrative:This California native is a member of the rose family and best known by its Native American name, toyon. Dense foliage is comprised of dark green leathery leaves, usually 2-4 inches long, that have sharply serrated edges. Clusters of creamy white flowers bloom from late spring into summer and are frequently visited by butterflies. In the fall, blossoms are replaced by colorful, pea-sized orange to red berries that are a food source for birds and other wildlife throughout the winter. Toyons can be used as dense shrubs or small mounding trees. Attractive, evergreen foliage make it an excellent choice for screening and background plantings. Mature trees can be pruned to expose visually interesting branches as well as encourage a tree-like growth pattern. Toyon has long been admired and cultivated in California gardens. It grows well in coastal, inland and valley areas across the state and is tolerant of a wide variety of soils, moisture and exposures. It plays a prominent role in the coastal sage scrub plant community and is a key component of chaparral and mixed oak woodland habitats. It develops deep roots and grows on steep, dry slopes and canyons throughout California and Northern Baja California, from sea level to 4,000 feet. Toyon is often credited for influencing the naming of Hollywood. There are no native hollies in California. However, toyon is prolific in the chaparral-covered hills above Los Angeles and its holly-like leaves and berries are often mistaken for the popular Christmas berry. The genus name, Heteromoles, means different apple and refers to the fruit's similarity to pears and apples but without their culinary appeal. The species name, arbutifolia, refers to the fact that its leaves are similar to plants from the genus, Arbutus, including madrones.
- Author: Leonard Cicerello
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Leonard Cicerello UCCE Master Gardener
Common name: Ticks
Scientific name: Ticks are Arachnids in the Order Acari.
Size: Depending on species, sizes range from the size of the head of a pin, up to one inch.
Areas of county most prolific: Grasslands, chaparral, vegetative boarders of hiking trails.
Season most active: March through July
There are hundreds of species of ticks nationwide. They are ectoparasites which live on the blood of mammals, birds, and occasionally of amphibians and reptiles. They are only second to mosquitos as vectors of human diseases. Tick's are best known for transmission of Lyme disease.
These blood-feeding parasites are often found at the tip of grass blades as they ready themselves to attach to a passing animal. They do not jump. Physical contact is the only means of attachment and transport.
Ticks have a harpoon-like mouth structure, a hypostome, that allows them to anchor firmly in place while feeding. They will drop off of the animal when full, which could take several days.
Common ticks include the American dog tick and the brown dog tick, also called kennel tick because it is mainly found in kennels and in homes with dogs. Both can live indoors in cracks in floors, in upholstery, and near heaters. The deer tick, or black-legged tick, transmits Lyme disease, but this species does not occur in California. However, the Western black legged tick occurs in 56 of the 58 counties in California and also transmits the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
If you are camping or hiking where ticks will likely be, be diligent in preventing contact by dressing appropriately – long sleeve shirts, long pants, long socks, and tuck your shirt into your pants. Consider acaricides or repellants. Afterwards, perform tick checks on both yourself and your pets. Shower within two hours of possible exposure and wash and dry clothing using high heat to kill any undetected ticks
Use tweezers to remove ticks. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull straight out. Wash the wound with soap and water and follow with rubbing alcohol if available.
For more information on ticks and Lyme disease see the UC IPM Pest Notes on Lyme Disease in California - http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PDF/PESTNOTES/pnlymedisease.pdf
- Author: Carol Michael
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Carol Michael UCCE Master Food Preserver
It's raining satsuma mandarins and lemons in my neighborhood. What can I do beyond making juice and eating them fresh? Tim C., San Luis Obispo
Just when we need color most to brighten the shorter days, citrus trees through the Central Coast are dripping with ripening fruit. The sunshine colors of lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit are everywhere. Citrus, ripening to their sweetest and juiciest right now, are also abundant at farmers markets and grocery stores. Citrus fruits pack a potent dose of vitamin C and do double duty as a healthy snack during cold and flu season.
There are numerous ways to preserve familiar citrus: limes, lemons and grapefruit, as well as lesser known: blood oranges with their brilliant color and complex flavor; bite-size kumquats, with sweet edible peels; satsumas, a super-sweet tangerine with no seeds plus loose skins for easy peeling; and thin skinned Meyer lemons, often difficult to transport and store. Citrus and its juice can be made into marmalades, compotes, conserves, dried, candied, frozen, added to mustards, and salt preserved.
Too many lemons? Lemon curd is one tasty solution to your overflowing citrus wealth. Lemon curd, despite its curious name, is a thick, soft, and velvety cream with a tart yet sweet citrus flavor, cooked on the stovetop. No exotic ingredients required: just eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter. The same process can used to prepare lime curd, substituting lime juice and lime zest. Traditionally used as a spread for scones, citrus curds make a delicious filling or topping for tarts, pies, and cakes. Curds made from fresh lemon or lime juice are not safe to can in a boiling water canner due to the variability of their acidity. You must use bottled lemon or lime juice for those recipes. You can safely prepare and freeze curds made from fresh juice for up to one year.
Need more ideas? Check out the UC Master Food Preserver's California Citrus class on Saturday January 25, 2020, from 10:00 am to 12pm at UCCE Auditorium, 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo. UC Master Food Preservers will share a variety of ways to preserve citrus for year-round enjoyment. Pre-registration is required, and class size is limited. Register at http://ucanr.edu/calicitrusClass fee is $10.00.