Posts Tagged With: California

National California Strawberry Day

March 21st is a day for all you Golden Staters to show your pride. It’s National California Strawberry Day!

I’m surprised we didn’t celebrate any strawberry-themed holidays during our yearlong food challenge in 2013, especially considering the widespread popularity of this fruit. Wild strawberries have been around for eons. The ancient Romans used them for medicinal purposes, no doubt to help heal gladiatorial wounds. The French developed a fondness for them in the 1300s, transplanting the wild berries from forests to their gardens; King Charles V had some 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden alone. Demand grew over the following two hundred years, as strawberries were seen as a kind of wonder cure for treating depression, in addition to a variety of physical ailments. The “modern” strawberry is native to Eastern North America, and was brought to Europe by explorers in the 1600s. Just think: if it weren’t for some brave adventurer who crossed the Atlantic – twice – the world might never know Strawberry Quik, and that would be a sad thing.

Strawberries are prized for their sweetness, fragrance, and complex flavors. They are made into jellies and jams, ice cream, yogurt, smoothies, pies, shortcake, perfumes, and cosmetics. Hint: those last two not edible. (Well, they probably are, but I’d stick with dipping them in chocolate or cherishing them with a glass of champagne myself).

California is the nation’s leading strawberry producer; in 2014, 2.3 billion pounds were harvested – about 88% of the country’s fresh and frozen berries. Which is pretty impressive! However…

The best strawberries in the world are grown right here in the Pacific Northwest. I suppose I’m biased, but our berries are much more succulent and juicy, and pack a lot more flavor than California strawberries. Unfortunately, our growing season is a lot shorter, limited pretty much to the month of June. But that’s okay – I don’t mean to hog the spotlight from our neighbors to the south.

I picked up some California strawberries in a nearby produce store and ate them plain. And I have to say, they weren’t too bad!

CAstrawberries

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318/365: National Guacamole Day*

Holy moley! You’ll be green with envy if you don’t get to participate in today’s food holiday. November 14 is National Guacamole Day!

It’s also National Pickle Day (so the “green with envy” joke works either way). I love pickles, but we already celebrated them with the oddly-named National Snack A Pickle Time back on September 13, so today we’re giving guacamole its due. (Interestingly, according to some sources, there was also another guacamole holiday right around the same time – September 16 – but we celebrated Cinnamon Raisin bread that day).

Guacamole was invented by the Aztecs back in the 15th century when some klutz stepped on a ripe avocado. That story may not appear in history books, but c’mon, how else could it possibly have happened?! The Aztecs called their avocado sauce, which they mixed with onions and tomatoes, ahuaca-mulli (“avocado mixture”). You’re going to have a ball with this, because it gets better: the word “avocado” is derived from the ancient Nahuatl word for “testicles.” Yummy. Spaniards were enamored with the dish and brought avocados back to Spain, but they didn’t grow very well in Europe, so they remained a treat for people traveling to the Americas. The English made an avocado paste they called “Midshipman’s butter” and spread on their hardtack to give it flavor (only this being the English, it’s flavour). The majority of American avocados are grown in California, and an estimated 30 million pounds of guacamole is consumed on two particular days: Super Bowl Sunday and Cinco de Mayo. Guacamole comes in many forms: it can be thick and chunky, or smooth and almost soupy. Typical ingredients include onions, serrano and/or jalapeno peppers, cilantro, lime, and tomatoes.

I am particularly proud of my homemade guacamole. It’s simple to make and delicious! I adapted the recipe from that found in a local Mexican restaurant, only mine tends to be smoother. I take two avocadoes, one tomato, half an onion, 1 serrano pepper, a handful of cilantro, a tablespoon of jalapeno juice, lime juice, and kosher salt to taste. Mash/mix/stir them all together, and let the flavors blend for 1/2 an hour in the fridge. That’s exactly what we did tonight! So, so good.

National Guacamole Day

Categories: Appetizers, Fruit | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

124/365: National Orange Juice Day*

Orange you glad today’s food holiday is fresh and fruity? May 4 is National Orange Juice Day!

It’s also National Homebrew Today and National Candied Orange Peel Day. I don’t like beer, and even if I did, it’s doubtful that I’d be brewing my own anyway. And candied orange peels? Do people really eat those?? Choosing to celebrate with a tall, cold glass of orange juice is what we in the biz like to call a “no-brainer.”

Orange juice is one of the most popular juices in the United States. Spanish explorers planted the first orange trees in St. Augustine, Florida in the 16th century. The warm climate and abundant rainfall proved to be the perfect growing environment, and Florida oranges became wildly popular. As delicious as the fresh-squeezed juice was, there was no way to make it available commercially, as it would only last a day before going bad. In 1910, an overabundance of oranges in California (which had also begun growing the citrus fruit) forced growers to destroy 30% of the state’s orange trees, as they had nothing to do with the excess fruit. Soon after, pasteurization was developed, allowing citrus growers to juice the excess fruit and ship it to grocery stores all over the country, where it could be stored for longer periods of time. Growers began touting the health benefits of vitamin C, and by the 1920s orange juice had become a breakfast staple in America, replacing stewed fruit (a popular British breakfast accompaniment) as the go-to choice. Frozen concentrated orange juice was invented in 1948, inspired by the lack of fresh fruit available to soldiers during World War II. The slang term “OJ” popped up around this time, referring to both the juice and, later,  a wife-murdering-former-NFL-star-who-took-an-infamous-ride-in-a-white-Ford-Bronco.

We poured ourselves a tall glass of orange juice in order to celebrate the holiday!

IMAG0794

Categories: Beverages, Fruit | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

120/365: National Raisin Day

You might just shrivel up and die if you don’t get to experience the sweet succulence of today’s food holiday. April 30 is National Raisin Day!

I talked about the history of raisins back when we were eating them dipped in chocolate, so I won’t rehash all of that. It does explain why some of these posts are shrinking in size, however (hey, just like dried grapes!): we’re starting to get into variations of the same things we’ve already eaten. This is where it’s time to get creative. So, here goes:

Man, I got nothin’.

OK, I kid. I did learn that National Raisin Day is one of the older American food holidays that we celebrate. It dates back to 1909, when Fresno resident James Horseburgh Jr., in an effort to save the fledgling San Joaquin Valley raisin industry and raise awareness of the dried fruit, held a giant festival celebrating all things raisin. Local hotels and the railroad industry pitched in, and residents were served raisins with every meal. The festival was a success, and the industry took off in central California. To this day, the San Joaquin Valley is the world’s largest raisin producer.

There are so many different ways to enjoy raisins, we weren’t sure what to do to celebrate today. But one thing was certain: we are getting sick of desserts. (This does not bode well for June, where at least 10 of the first 15 food holidays are dessert-centric). So Tara took some in to work to snack on, and I added a generous handful to a bowl of oatmeal this morning.

Raisins

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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