Merced County Cooperative Extension
Merced County Cooperative Extension
Merced County Cooperative Extension
University of California
Merced County Cooperative Extension

Posts Tagged: orange

More than a TikTok trend, preservation is the future of food

UC Master Food Preservers Booth at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, CA.

UC Master Food Preservers give live canning demonstrations at Orange County Fair

If you visited the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa during the past month, you might have seen the Master Food Preservers of Orange County in their rustic farmhouse-themed kitchen located in the OC Promenade exhibit hall.

If the decor did not catch your eye, the colorful rows of glass jars lined along the walls certainly would have. For an entire month, three volunteers conducted live canning demonstrations from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. five days a week. They are with the UC Master Food Preserver Program, a public service and outreach program under UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The OC Fair is UC Master Food Preserver's largest event in Orange County. Last year, the UC Master Food Preservers engaged 7,000 people at their booth.  

Canned food by UC Master Food Preservers of Orange County.
For over 30 years, the UC Master Food Preserver program has trained hundreds of volunteers statewide to keep Californians safe as they use culturally appropriate and research-based practices to preserve food in the home and provide engaging ways to explore healthy food.

Food preservation has a deep history rooted in human survival. Whether freezing, drying, fermenting or pickling, preservation is a practice that has prolonged the life of food and humans. Other benefits include reducing food waste and increasing food security.

The latest form of preservation, called canning, was introduced in the early 1800s according to a Smithsonian article. By placing food in a glass jar and heating it to a certain temperature for a prescribed period of time, oxygen is removed and a vacuum is created. This process prevents the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts and molds, thus keeping the food from spoiling.  

This is what you would have found the UC Master Food Preservers demonstrating at the OC Fair.

During her shift, Flo Vallejo, UC Master Food Preserver since 2018, carefully chopped carrots and daikon into thin slices and placed them inside small mason jars with spices inspired by Vietnamese cuisine.

Between the produce donated by Melissa's Produce and the diverse spices donated by Tampico Spice, the possibilities of what you will see the UC Master Food Preservers canning are endless.

“This is something my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother did. I never understood it because they didn't let the little kids in the kitchen,” said first-year UC Master Food Preserver Alice Houseworth.

Many of the UC Master Food Preservers have some experience with canning, whether it be a practice passed down from generation to generation, or, in Houseworth's case, something they watched their elders do as a child. 

Some might view canning as a hobby, but according to the UC Master Food Preservers, food preservation is an opportunity to prepare for economic and climatic change. 

UC Master Food Preservers Alice Houseworth and Flo Vallejo engage visitors.

Esa Kiefer, another UC Master Food Preserver since 2018, expressed her concern for the rising prices of food and decline in arable land. “I feel like now is the time to prepare for these changing times,” she said. “Who knows what the future will look like for food?”

Perhaps the future of food will come from glass jars. 

“You can even can chicken,” Houseworth said. “When it's cheap at the grocery store, you can buy it and use the pressure canner and then eat it when chicken prices go up.”

Vallejo recalls when pickling and canning were trending on social media during the stay-at-home phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it difficult to find mason jars.

“Preservation has been done for a long time. When I saw a lot of people doing it during the pandemic, I thought it was just because people had time on their hands. But I realized that many became concerned about the food supply and accessibility,” she explained.

The resurgence in food preservation interest makes the work of the UC Master Food Preserver program much more essential. Whether you are feeding a large family, living in a food desert or managing a tight budget, food preservation ensures you are fed today, tomorrow and beyond.

To learn more about the Master Food Preserver Program or to locate the nearest program in your area, visit:



Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2022 at 9:47 AM
Focus Area Tags: Food

You, too, can grow California’s oldest living orange variety

German Rafael Villalba-Salazar, nursery technician, harvesting budwood from mother citrus trees at the UC Citrus Clonal Protection Program facility. Photo by Stan Lim, UC Riverside

Sweet Mother Orange Tree released from quarantine

The 1000th tree okayed for growing by California's Citrus Clonal Protection Program happens to be the oldest living orange variety in the state.

The program, housed at UC Riverside, is the first of its kind in the world. It began in the 1950s, and its scientists spend up to three years testing and clearing citrus trees of disease so they can be released to commercial and private growers.

By law, every citrus tree newly propagated in California can be traced back to one mother tree created at UCR through the protection program. Program Director Georgios Vidalakis and his group begin their process by testing incoming trees for more than 30 citrus diseases, whether the diseases are known to have emerged in the state or not.

Georgios Vidalakis, director of the Citrus Clonal Protection Program, posing with VI1000, the Bidwell's Bar orange tree. Photo by Stan Lim, UC Riverside

The treatment for any disease identified in that first round of testing is to make a new mini tree from a few cells of the original budwood — short, leafless twigs with buds meant for propagation. “We use special plant cells for this process that diseases cannot penetrate,” Vidalakis said.

After the mini tree grows large enough, program scientists go back and do a second round of testing for disease, making sure they picked the right cells for propagation and eliminating any prior trace of illness.

If it passes the arduous second set of tests, the new tree gets a variety index or VI number that accompanies it for the rest of its life, and it is released to the public.

Dubbed the Mother Orange Tree, Bidwell's Bar is a sweet Mediterranean orange brought to California from Mazatlán, Mexico, and planted in 1856. It was first planted near the Bidwell Bar Bridge near Oroville, then dug up and replanted twice.

Its survival skills are some of the reasons Tom Delfino, former California Citrus Nursery Society director, recommended the old orange tree for the protection program.

“Apparently this variety is very rugged,” Delfino said. “Not only has it survived a lot of cold Northern California winters, but the tree has been dug up and replanted twice — once to protect it from impending flood, and again to make way for the Oroville Dam.”

Much of the state's orange industry is based in areas with warm weather. Delfino, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, finds citrus an exciting challenge to grow. By suggesting Bidwell's Bar for approval, he was hoping the protection program would clear it so he could buy its budwood.

On the occasions he has visited the original tree, Delfino said the fruit in reaching distance was always gone. “I think it must be tasty because locals grab it for themselves,” he said. “Makes me even more eager to grow and eat my own. I'm extremely pleased the VI testing is completed so I can acquire it.”

Program scientists graft citrus trees using budwood. Photo by Stan Lim, UC Riverside

Delfino also hopes that this variety will catch on with commercial growers.

“My thought is our citrus industry is concentrated in the southeastern San Joaquin Valley and is subject to a number of pests that like the warm climate there,” Delfino said. “Though this has seeds, which may be a deterrent, it can be grown in colder areas that discourage some of those insects.”

The tree arrived in California nearly two decades before the better-known Washington Navel orange grown by Eliza Tibbets in Riverside. The navel is named for a structure at the bottom end of the fruit, which resembles a belly button. This structure is actually a separate fruit inside the larger fruit. The Washington Navel is also seedless, contributing to its popularity.

“Bidwell's Bar is an example of what was grown in California before the Washington Navel came to dominate, and now that it has a VI number, others can grow it too,” said Tracy Kahn, curator of the Givaudan Citrus Variety Collection at UCR.

Kahn says it's important to preserve the genetic material from a tree with such significance to California. “Some people were worried it was going to die, but now we have an officially cleared source of this historic tree, and it is protected for future generations,” Kahn said.

Posted on Thursday, June 9, 2022 at 9:47 AM
  • Author: Jules Bernstein, UC Riverside
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Food

Avocado growers to get irrigation tools, strategies from UC ANR’s Montazar

University of California Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor Ali Montazar visits an avocado orchard in San Diego County to assist a grower with irrigation and salinity management issues. Photo courtesy of Ali Montazar

CDFA grant supports research to optimize water use for iconic California crop

California growers, who account for more than 90% of avocado production in the U.S., will soon be getting some help in weathering the extreme fluctuations of climate change.

Ali Montazar, a University of California Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor, recently received a grant to develop tools and strategies that optimize growers' irrigation practices across Southern California – the state's avocado belt. California avocados are valued at more than $411 million, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“This region faces uncertain water supplies, mandatory reductions of water use, and the rising cost of water – while efficient use of irrigation water is one of the highest conservation priorities,” Montazar said. “Water is the most critically important input to avocado production.”

New tools for avocado growers will take into account the slope of their orchards' rugged terrain. Photo by Ali Montazar
Montazar will be conducting field experiments in six commercial fields of Hass avocados, located in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties, in collaboration with the California Avocado Commission and supported by a California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant.

At the California Avocado Commission's suggestion, Orange County was added to the study to better capture the range of climates and cropping systems across the region, Montazar said.

He hopes to develop “crop coefficients” that avocado growers can use to determine the optimal irrigation for their crop based on a host of factors: soil type and salinity, canopy features, row orientation, slopes, soil and water management practices, and more.

“Growers are unclear on how much water the crop actually needs under those conditions,” Montazar said.

He will incorporate data from the actual water use in the experimental orchards – including information from the newest soil moisture and canopy temperature sensors – to help ensure growers do not under- or overwater their crops. Overirrigating contributes to a devastating disease, avocado root rot, caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.

Another component of the grant supports outreach in disseminating these resources and best practices to the broader agricultural community.

“Developing and adopting these tools and information may have a significant impact on water quality and quantity issues and bolster the economic sustainability of avocado production not only in the well-established production region of Southern California, but also in Kern and Tulare counties where new avocado plantings are growing,” Montazar said.

Preliminary findings and recommendations are expected at the end of 2022.

Posted on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 8:51 AM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Food

Los Angeles and the “Orange Empire”

Colorful orange crate labels helped to brand Los Angeles and Southern California as a new Eden, the land of sunshine and good health.
Over the years, I’ve heard quite a few people, including my parents, talk about getting an orange in their Christmas stocking when they were children. Apparently, this custom dates back many years. It was a special treat, in a time when oranges were expensive.

An interesting book called “Orange Empire: California and the Fruits of Eden” by Douglas Cazaux Sackman tells the story of how oranges went from being an occasional treat to a mainstream part of the American diet. In fact, Los Angeles was once the center of the “Orange Empire” which developed into a massive industry in California.

Oranges were brought by the Spanish as they settled the missions, and the first sizable grove in Alta California was planted at the San Gabriel Mission, near Los Angeles, around 1804. Oranges were grown on a very limited scale until a frontiersman and entrepreneur named William Wolfskill decided to try growing oranges commercially, using seedlings from the Mission. His initial two-acre orchard was planted in 1841 in what is now downtown Los Angeles. During the Gold Rush, he was able to ship his citrus crop north to miners who were willing to pay a premium to protect themselves from scurvy.

The citrus industry in Southern California grew slowly at first, then really took off in the 1870s due to two innovations. First, a family in Riverside obtained two trees of an orange variety from Brazil. The fruit from these trees was larger, sweeter and easier to peel. This variety, which came to be known as the Washington Navel, created a surge of interest in growing oranges. In the same decade, the transcontinental railroad system connected to Los Angeles, and the very first railcar load of oranges, from the Wolfskill orchard, was shipped east in 1877. In the late 1880s, with the advent of refrigerated rail shipping, the growing citrus industry got another boost. Many new growers entered the citrus farming business, and numerous towns along the foothills of the Los Angeles basin were formed as the industry grew up in those areas.

“Centered on the Los Angeles basin, a vast citrus landscape was coming into being,” said Sackman (p.42). “In 1870, only 30,000 orange trees were growing in the state. Twenty years later, 1.1 million trees were producing fruit." By 1893, local citrus growers had organized themselves into the Southern California Fruit Growers Exchange, which later became known as Sunkist. Sunkist was instrumental in driving the demand for oranges, promoting oranges and orange juice as health aids, with national advertising campaigns beginning in 1907. Sunkist advertisements, along with colorful orange crate labels, helped to brand Los Angeles and Southern California as a new Eden, the land of sunshine and good health. This image helped to drive migration from to Southern California for many years.

Commercial citrus production in Los Angeles County began to decline after World War II, as orchards were rapidly sacrificed to the growing, sprawling suburbs of the Los Angeles basin. As recently as 1970, there were still more than 50,000 acres of citrus in the county; but today, most orange trees in Los Angeles are in backyards rather than in groves.

The citrus industry, still critical to California’s agricultural economy, has long since moved to other counties and other parts of the state. While there is no longer an “Orange Empire” here in Los Angeles, oranges are still a treat, especially if grown in our own backyards. As I prepare for the holidays, I know that today, an orange in a stocking might not be as special as it once was. But to pluck an orange off a tree, on a 75 degree day in December, still makes Los Angeles seem like Eden to a former Midwesterner like me.

Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 8:08 AM
Tags: citrus (15), history (2), los angeles (3), orange (3)

It's a fruit...It's a mandarin...It's ‘KinnowLS’!

On the Jeopardy show, the clues could easily be: “It’s new and attractive.  It’s juicy and sweet.  And it’s low-seeded and peels easily.”

To which the answer would be, “What is ‘KinnowLS’?”

‘KinnowLS’ – the LS is short for low seeded – is the latest citrus variety released by researchers at the University of California, Riverside.

Large-sized for a mandarin, the fruit has an orange rind color. The rind is thin and extremely smooth. The 10-11 segments in each fruit are fleshy and deep orange in color.

‘KinnowLS’ matures during February through April, and does well in hot climates. It was developed by mutation breeding of the mandarin cultivar ‘Kinnow,’ a mid-to-late season maturing variety developed by UC Riverside nearly 100 years ago. While ‘Kinnow’ has 15-30 seeds per fruit, ‘KinnowLS’ has only 2-3 seeds per fruit.

“People who like very sweet fruit are going to find ‘KinnowLS’ to be very appealing,” says Mikeal Roose, a professor of genetics, who developed ‘KinnowLS’ along with staff scientist Timothy Williams. “When other citrus varieties mature to reach the level of sweetness of ‘KinnowLS,’ their other qualities – such as rind texture – are in decline. Neither ‘Kinnow’ nor ‘KinnowLS’ suffer in this way.”

Yet another attractive quality of ‘KinnowLS’ is that it can be grown in California’s desert regions because the fruit, which matures during February through April, does well in hot climates.

Indeed, ‘Kinnow’ is the most important mandarin in the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan, where ‘Kinnow’ fruit trees constitute about 80 percent of all citrus trees.

“But the fruit, which is popular there, is seedy,” Roose says. “Therefore, ‘KinnowLS’ has very good potential in this area of the world.”

Growers in India and Pakistan will have to wait a few years, however, before ‘KinnowLS’ trees can strike roots there. Currently, plans are to distribute ‘KinnowLS’ budwood, starting this month, to only licensed nurseries in California.  (For three years, only California nurseries will be permitted to propagate ‘KinnowLS.’ Licenses for ‘KinnowLS’ propagation outside the United States will be issued thereafter.)

So when will we find ‘KinnowLS’ in U.S. produce aisles?

Alas, not for at least five years.  It generally takes about that long to propagate citrus trees.

2602 1hi
2602 1hi

Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 9:14 AM
Tags: citrus (15), genetics (5), Mandarins (3), orange (3), Punjab (1)

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