Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When there is water.... Things growing by Mrs. Dr. V (with comments by Mr. Dr. V)

Where ever we drove in California, especially in the Imperial valley and the Salinas valley, we were amazed by the variety of crops that we saw growing. We learned that the value of Monterey area farmland, for example, varies wildly. Around the turn of the 21st century, grazing land in the foot hills might be worth $200/acre, while bottom farmland might be valued at $35,000/acre (You may remember a discussion of the relative merits of land in the beginning chapters of Steinbeck's "East of Eden"). If land is zoned residential and can be subdivided, an acre may sell for as much as $100,000. And remember, this was 15 -20 years ago (data from the Steinbeck center in Salinas).

We saw towns that were completely devoted to one crop, the "Olive Capital of the world", the "Artichoke Capital of the world", the "Lettuce Capital of the world". There were towns smelling like garlic, towns surrounded by rice fields, date palm groves (btw, dates are delicious (Mrs. Dr. V was in heaven and ate an ENTIRE box of dates by herself.  Ok, she tried to share, but they were too sweet for me), almonds,... Seems whatever you want to grow, you can grow here, provided you have water of course.

Following is a selection of crops we saw, admittedly incomplete. Some of the identifications are "drive-by" identifications, as most farms are fenced in and protected by gates and "No Trespassing" signs. Feel free to correct or disagree.

Mandarin oranges (I am pretty confident about this one :) )


Almonds Avocados? (Thanks D. E.)

Assorted lettuces (miles and miles of lettuces, including the same brand of Romaine Heads that we buy at the Stop and Shop)

Date Palms

Olive trees (I didn't even know that we grew olives in the US, but there were miles and miles of olives.  We stopped at the Olive Pit, a store specializing in olives and olive products (olive oil, soap, wooden utensils, etc), and bought a jar of olives.  They are delicious)


Garlics  (As you might imagine, the air smelled pretty ripe for quite a few miles when we passed by the town claiming to be the garlic center of the country)

Not sure what this is, but a nice shot showing what water can do

Aqueduct  (realize, all the pictures on this blog are of food grown in a desert, where the water is taken from some other watershed and plumbed in to irrigate crops.  For us in Massachusetts, the average distance the food on our table travels is something like 2,500 miles.  What you're seeing in these pictures is the food that will be on your table in a couple weeks, and the water management system it takes to put the food on your table.)

This may be a left-over sign, there has been a lot of rain in the last few months

Grapes.  (We saw hundreds of vineyards, and probably about 100 or more miles of grapes.  It's hard to figure how everyone can drink all that wine.  We stopped at a place to taste and buy a bottle of locally grown wine, but all the vintner had was very dry, acidic wine (yuck - I'm more of a sissy sweet wine person).  It was $37 a bottle.  Oh well.)

Maybe cork oaks? (I didn't know it till quite recently, that cork (like bottle corks and cork boards and cork shoe beds) grows on the cork oak tree.  The tree has a very thick outer bark, that is peeled off and used to make the products - without killing the tree.)

Definitely a cork oak.  (Its hard to see in this picture just how thick the bark is, but it is WICKED thick.)

Six foot tall rosemary

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