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Archive for November, 2012

Pistachio Nuts

Pistachios are harvested starting in early September through October depending on the area they are grown.  The trees are shaken with a mechanical shaker onto tarps, instead of the orchard floor.  They are collected on the tarps to be dried and de-hulled and no human hands will touch them during harvest because any hand oil would stain the shells.

Pistachios are a cholesterol free snack, a one oz serving of pistachios has as much potassium as an orange and pistachios contain more than 10% of the daily value of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals like B6, thiamin, copper and phosphorous. Earl’s just got a shipment of delicious roasted and salted pistachios from Nurses Pistachio Orchards in Paso Robles.

Learn more about how nuts are grown and harvested.

GO NUTS

In the midst of the holidays, nuts are one of the most popular party snacks and many of those nuts are grown right here in California.  Some of the most popular nuts include almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios.

All of the commercially grown almonds in the United States are grown in California in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.  Almonds are California’s largest tree nut crop and are also the top agricultural export with 70% of the crop being sold to Spain, Germany, Japan and India.

Bees are very important because the almond tree is not self-pollinating.  Bees are brought from 49 states to the orchards to carry pollen between alternating rows of almond varieties during the bloom phase in late February or early March. If the weather is stormy or cold during the critical bloom stage the bees won’t pollinate and the crop size will be reduced. For optimal cross-pollination and crop development, an orchard must have more than one variety of almond tree and most orchards have three.

All nuts are covered in a green protective hull. When the nut has matured the hull will split open exposing the shell of the nut which is a sign that it is the optimal time to harvest. Inside the hull is the shell and inside the shell is the nut or seed.

Almond harvest occurs mid-August through October. There are over 30 types of almonds, but 10 varieties comprise the majority of almonds produced in California.  Nonpareil is the largest single variety. Prior to harvest nut growers need to prepare the orchard by leveling and clearing any debris from the orchard floor. This provides a smooth clear surface when the nuts are shaken from the trees by mechanical tree shakers.  The machine grabs the tree and then vigorously shakes the nuts out of the tree.  Almonds need to stay on the ground for another 8-10 days to dry out their shell and hull. Then they are swept into rows and picked up by a machine which can sort out all the branches and leaves from the nuts.

California Almonds are cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat.  Research now shows that they may also help maintain a healthy heart.

Walnuts are another nut that is grown almost completely in California.  99% of the commercial supply in the United States is grown in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and the remaining 1% in Oregon. California exports 75% of their walnut crop.

There are two main kinds of walnuts. English Walnuts are native to Persia and have a thin shell and nearly all commercial varieties grown are hybrids of the English Walnut. Black Walnuts are native to eastern North America and because of their hard shell they are not grown commercially

Harvest time starts in the central valley in September and October in Sacramento.  Mechanical tree shakers are also used to shake the walnuts onto the ground where they are swept into rows and then picked up by a machine. Check out this cool 2 minute video showing you how it’s done.

http://www.walnuts.org/about-walnuts/growing-and-processing/

Walnuts are rich in omega 6 fatty acids, high in Vitamin E and a rich source of minerals like manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Walnut oil has a flavorful nutty aroma and is used in cooking and for massage therapy, aromatherapy, and in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. It can also be used on your skin to protect from dryness.

Pecans are the only native nut in the United States. Georgia is largest producer followed by Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, California, Arizona, South Carolina and Hawaii.

Pecan varieties are called native, seedling or hybrid. Native pecans developed under natural conditions, usually wild along river bottom areas. Seedling pecans are of the same parentage but produced from seed(nut) and have not been budded or grafted. Hybrid varieties have been genetically altered through breeding and grafting.

Pecans are typically harvested around mid-October. You can tell when they are ready to harvest when the hulls start to split and they start to fall to the ground. Smaller growers will wait until they fall off the tree and larger growers will use a mechanical shaker.

Pecans are a good source of protein and unsaturated fats. They only have half the rich omega 6 fatty acids as walnuts but they can double the cholesterol-lowering effectiveness of a traditional heart-healthy diet. Did you know Earl’s favorite pie is pecan pie?

Hazelnuts have consistently been an important staple in the diet of man since prehistoric times. Turkey is the largest producer in the world with 75% of the worldwide production. In the U.S. they are commercially grown in Oregon and Washington.

There are many varieties but the most popular in the U.S. is the Filbert.  Most commercial growers wait until the nuts drop on their own rather than use mechanical equipment to shake them from a tree.

Hazelnuts are rich in protein and unsaturated fat and particularly high in two minerals: manganese and copper. Consuming just 1.5 ounces of hazelnuts per day may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the USDA. The seed has a thin dark brown skin which has a bitter flavor and is sometimes removed before cooking.  Hazelnuts are used in pastries, paste such as Nutella and even the vodka based liqueur Frangelico.

Pistachios are one of the oldest flowering fruit, at least 9000 years. They began to be commercially grown in the United States in 1976 and now are primarily grown in California, New Mexico and Arizona. Almost all of California’s pistachios are grown in the southern San Joaquin Valley in Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties with a small amount in Paso Robles and Sacramento Valley.

Pistachios are harvested starting in early September through October depending on the area they are grown.  The trees are shaken with a mechanical shaker onto tarps, instead of the orchard floor, like the other nuts we just discussed. They are collected on the tarps to be dried and de-hulled and no human hands will touch them during harvest because any hand oil would stain the shells.

Pistachios are a cholesterol free snack, a one oz serving of pistachios has as much potassium as an orange and pistachios contain more than 10% of the daily value of dietary fiber and essential vitamins and minerals like B6, thiamin, copper and phosphorous. Earl’s just got a shipment of delicious roasted and salted pistachios from Nurses Pistachio Orchards in Paso Robles. Click here to read the full story about NPO.

Earl’s Organic carries a variety of nuts including almonds, walnuts and pistachios, perfect for that holiday party!

 

Sources:

www.almondboard.com

www.walnuts.org

http://californiapecangrowers.org

http://www.oregonhazelnuts.org

Satsuma Weather Update

It’s raining in the Bay Area this morning but luckily for Rich Ferreira from Side Hill Citrus in Lincoln the rain hasn’t started yet.  Rich has hired extra labor to pick as many Satsumas as possible before the rain starts and his citrus becomes compromised.  Rich’s ultimate goal is “to grow a good piece of fruit that will last.”  Now his biggest worry is that the rain will cause the citrus to be waterlogged which can cause molding, possible rind breakdown and a shorter shelf life.  Rich will need to wait until his Satsumas dry out before he can pick again.

As a quick FYI, Earl had the chance to buy Satsumas from two more growers in the valley, think Fresno area. The Brix or sugar level tested a 12 while the Satsumas from Side Hill tested a 17. This translates to 30% higher sugars and a sweeter Satsuma.  Satsumas also look beautiful this holiday season in a centerpiece bowl.

Sweet Potato Varieties

Earl spent an evening baking and taste testing different sweet potato varieties. His findings? Japanese Sweet have an intense sweetness with a floral scent. Hannah Sweet have a light cream colored flesh with a dry texture like a potato. Garnet is the classic sweet potato with deep orange fluffy moist flesh. Jewel is aromatic and spicy with a stringy firm textured flesh.

What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? Read the full blog here.

A few examples of sweet potatoes from Earl’s

 

Is It A Sweet Potato Or A Yam?

So what exactly is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?  Trying to figure this out can be very confusing when you’re at the grocery store.  The U.S. government decided to label sweet potatoes by their color to make things easier but it just ended up confusing everyone more.  The creamy white flesh ones are labeled sweet potatoes and the orange fleshed ones are sometimes labeled yams.  The USDA requires that sweet potatoes labeled as yams also be labeled as sweet potatoes. Chances are likely that you are buying sweet potatoes regardless of what the label says.

In reality sweet potatoes and yams are two totally different vegetables.  Yams are tubers and are usually found imported in ethnic markets in the United States. They are originally from Africa, where over 95% of the world’s crop is harvested, and Asia.  Yams are grown in tropical climates and are very popular in Latin America and the Caribbean.  A few varieties can grow up to 7 feet in length and weigh almost 200 pounds! The skin of a yam is rough and scaly and the taste is very starchy.  Yams are an extremely important part in the diet of the people in Nigeria and West Africa.  Yams provide more than 200 calories per person per day for more than 150 million people in West Africa while also providing a necessary income for local farmers.  Yams are high in vitamin C and B and potassium and low in saturated fat and sodium.  The flavor can sometimes be sweeter than a sweet potato depending on the variety.

Sweet Potatoes are thought to originate in either Central or South America at least 5,000 years ago.  In the U.S. they are grown in temperate climate zones.  North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes followed by California, Louisiana and Mississippi.  In California 80% of the sweet potatoes are grown in Merced County followed by Fresno and Stanislaus County. When you sit down for the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner you will be eating sweet potatoes regardless of their color.

There are 4 main types of sweet potatoes grown. The orange flesh varieties become moist when cooked and the white flesh varieties become dry when cooked with a crumbly texture similar to a baked white potato. The Garnet is the classic sweet potato that most people think of when making mashed sweet potatoes, pies, cakes and breads.

  1. Red Skin/Orange Flesh (Varieties include Dianas, Reds & Garnets)
  2. Orange Skin/Orange Flesh (varieties include the Beauregard, Covington & Jewel)
  3. White Skin/White Cream Flesh (Varieties include the O’Henry, Jersey Sweet, Hannas or Hanna Golds)
  4. Red Skin/White Flesh (Varieties include the Murasaki & Kotobuki-most commonly referred to as “Orientals”)

A few examples of sweet potatoes from Earl’s

Sweet potatoes are relatively low in calories and have no fat. They are rich in beta-carotene , having five times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A in one sweet potato, as well as loaded with potassium. These nutrients help to protect against heart attack and stroke.

As you can imagine sweet potatoes are consumed the most during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Easter.  Try these wonderful recipes from Whole Living Magazine. What is your favorite recipe for sweet potatoes during the holidays?  Please share your favorite recipes on our Facebook wall.

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