Submitted by Laura on Tue, March 6, 2012

Figs: 

     What do you know about figs?  Last fall, I visited a fig farmer, Kevin Herman, during the heart of harvest.   He answered a few questions that I had about figs. Have you every wondered why they have the small crunch seeds inside the fruit? Kevin said the figs have blossoms INSIDE the fruit instead of on the branches.  The seeds are produced by the tiny flowers in the fig that develops the unique texture. To grow figs, you will need full sunshine, plenty of water and a large space for the roots to grow.  A wild fig tree in South Africa holds the record for longest roots at 400 feet!

      Mission figs were brought into California by the Spaniards in the early 16thcentury.  The sweet and dark purple figs were actually given their name, “Mission” because they could be found around the San Diego mission.  The other type of fig common in California are “Calimyrna” figs.  These figs are light in color and have a slightly nutty flavor. California produces 100% of our nation’s dried figs and 98% of the fresh figs.

 

Blueberries:

     How are they grown?  Simple!  Blueberries prefer two conditions: acid soil and LOTS of water.  The most common blueberries to reach our supermarkets are highbush blueberries.  These berries are grown on bushes that average at 6 ft tall but may grow to 12 ft!  During Spring time, many white blossoms will appear on the bushes that are then pollinated by bees.  When these blossoms fall, they will be replaced with small berries.  When the berries are brilliant blue, they are ready to be picked.  Although blueberries are sometimes machine harvested, they are mainly picked by hand because they are so delicate.   After being picked, these berries are sent to a packing plant that will sort the berries and remove any that are bruised or unripe.  These little dynamos will be packaged into clamshells and stored in a refrigerated room until they are ready to be transported to your store. 

 

Lettuce: 

     Lettuce is a widely used produce in the United States.  Have you noticed that it is never dried, canned, frozen or preserved?  That’s because lettuce is best FRESH and it has a very long growing season.  Here in California, lettuce is grown year round.    

      Originating from the sunflower family, there are four main types of lettuce.  These types are:

  • Butterhead- Butter textured lettuce known for it’s loose heads, grassy green leaves, and mild flavor.   
  • Crisphead-  This pale green lettuce grows tightly packed together and takes on the appearance of cabbage.  It has a crisp texture, very mild flavor and is the least nutritious of the salad greens. 
  • Looseleaf- These leaves are joined at the stem and grows differently than other types of lettuce. 
  • Romaine or Cos-  This lettuce has darker outer leaves and a loaf-like shape.  It has a strong

     Understanding lettuce helps us maximize the health benefits that we receive from them.  A general rule of thumb is that the darker the color, the more nutritious it is.  One of the main disease fighting nutrients found in darker colored greens is Beta-carotene.  This antioxidant helps battle cancers, heart disease and cataracts.  The dark green color also indicates the presence of folic acid.  Folic acid aids in preventing neural tube birth defects and also has a role in the prevention of heart disease and inflammation.  Salad greens are also well known to be a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

      It is no wonder that lettuce is the #2 consumed vegetable in the United States and Americans consume about 30 pounds of lettuce every year.  

     Want to make a great salad with local ingredients?  Try this salad of Romaine Hearts, local strawberries, roasted pistachios and marinated feta cheese from Chef Luca Rutigliano!  http://www.bringingithome.com/recipe/romaine-hearts-and-local-strawberries-roasted-pistachios-and-marinated-feta-cheese-and-black?play=true

Keep it fresh!

Laura McIntosh

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