Today was THE DAY!
There was a major sign that spring has arrived. No, it was not the day I saw the first robin, or the first daffodil, or the last snowflake!
It WAS the first day that I saw the semi’s loaded with vegetable harvest equipment headed home to Salinas from the desert! There were convoys headed up Highway 101! The Salinas fields are ready to be cut with their first shamrock-green heads of iceberg lettuce and romaine sizing up nicely.
You will never know the difference, but very soon, your lettuce will be originating from a very different part of the world. Instead of the desert, it will be coming from The Salad Bowl of the World, The Salinas Valley.
As I drive through the Salinas Valley, I consider the precise rows of cool season vegetables and ponder emerging attitudes. Some regulators believe that growers need to find alternative crops to cool season vegetables and this will protect and conserve water.
Hmmm…What alternative crops could be grown?
- We know it is too cold for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, and most c-4 plants, such as corn and sorghum.
- Alfalfa uses too much water.
- The sugar beet market has been destroyed by fructose corn syrup, trade and labor issues.
- It is too windy for tree crops.
- Canola? Would it grow? But, it can grow on marginal land, why would we put it on high-rent, highly productive land?
- Soybeans don’t like California.
- Beans and peas will grow, but the markets are limited.
- We could grow potatoes, but potatoes, apples, and garlic are mostly grown in China, these days. But, maybe, Ag would produce more vodka?
- Grapes? Yes! We could grow MORE wine grapes!
- Hops? Maybe…
- Pot! We can transition from emerald, healthy salad greens to medicinal greens.
Bottom line? The Salinas Valley would be perfect to produce alternative crops that will either get you drunk or high. Who needs to eat?
In the fall, the trucks loaded with red Bell peppers* are intense splashes of color heading south to the processing units just north of Los Angeles. I am especially fond of the brightly yellow Dusi Bros. trucks, carrying the crimson loads. The contrast of red and yellow against an azure autumn sky is stunning!
Note: the Central Coast is a composition of fascinating pockets of microclimates. Red bell peppers are grown in Gilroy and King City because those areas are warm and have enough heat units to produce peppers.
Central Coast Crop Report:
- Wine grapes received their last powdery mildew spray and grape growers are now preparing for harvest.
- Celery harvest is in full swing!
- This is the best Avocado fruit load in years! Get ready for some great California avocados in a supermarket near you!
- Peak vegetable planting was the last week in July. Over 10% of the crop acres were planted in just a few days. This is the last crop of the year.
- Strawberry harvest continues. In marginally producing fields, growers have begun to pull up their irrigation drip tape up in preparation for the next crop.
- Red bell peppers plants are polka-dotted with tiny white flowers in their deep green foliage. Summer heat should create a great crop in a few weeks.
San Joaquin Valley Crop Report:
- The California table grape harvest continued with the Flame Seedless and Summer Royal varieties harvested in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV). The Thompson grape harvest began.
- Wine grapes colored and sugared as the SJV harvest was expected to start in several weeks. Harvest started in a few early champagne grape vineyards. (Note: Champagne grapes are harvested when they have very low sugar. Other varieties will be harvested when they have very high sugars. The higher the sugar, the higher the alcohol content.)
- Almond hull split continued while harvest started in some Nonpareils.
- Walnuts are harvested by shaking the nuts off of the trees and then using big machines to pick them up off of the orchard floor. The nuts are sent to almond hullers to remove the soft green outer covering.
- Pistachio nut fill continued as growers saw some nut splitting.
I adore the Dog Days of Summer!
This morning, the colors at the Farmer’s Markets were shifting from fresh, cool tones early summer to brilliant golds and intense purples and glossy reds of late summer.
It’s time for sunflowers and dahlias, watermelons and tomatoes, eggplant and peppers!
Wandering around south Monterey County yesterday:
- Garlic and bean harvests were in progress.
- Red bell peppers are starting to glisten in the sun.
- Fennel is being picked in a patchwork of vivid jade and faded celadon.
- Brix (i.e. sugars) are increasing and wine grapes are hanging heavy on the vine.
The veggie fields resembled sharp shards of vitreous green stuck in the dry crust of the southern Gabilan hills.
Small, impoverished communities give testimony to the tattered remnants of Victorian dreams of railroads, prosperity, and hope.
Today and yesterday were just gorgeous! The shadows were getting longer, yet the sun was still strong. Thus, the contrasts were phenomenal!
Let’s talk harvest! On the Central Coast, vegetable prices must be strong because the crews are working like mad! I mean running! I mean! They are precision machines. When I asked my client about the prices, he said that labor is so short that the crews are really hustling.
What was being harvested today? Pearly Garlic, Emerald Anaheims peppers, Ruby-red Bell peppers, Garnet-red grapes, Alabaster cauliflower, Jade-green broccoli, and Citron-green lettuce! It was a virtual treasure chest of fruits and vegetables.
Thank you Mother Earth for our bounty!
Jan. 17 – I saw my a herd of about 30-40 elk this morning! Going east on Hwy 46 at the intersection of Hwy 41. This an area where I usually see antelope on cold and frosty mornings.
Jan. 30 – Elks revisited! The second (and separate) herd of elk in the area was only about 100 yards from Highway 101 as I headed south at dusk two nights ago! The bull was regal standing watch over his herd!
For today’s BIG excitement, Berny, my husband, saw a mountain lion cross the highway at about the same place as where the elk herd had been! It’s been a while since we have had a lion sighting!
Yesterday was a clear, brisk, winter day on the Central Coast.
The rainbird sprinklers were spritzing the soil to prepare for seedlings and transplants of leafy greens and cole crops. Mini-rainbows and prisms danced in the arch of the sprinklers’ sprays.
Think about this the next time you eat a salad! You are consuming rainbows – literally!