Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences
University of California
Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences

UC Food Blog

Grow it: Gardening tips and resources

Gardening is fun…and it's an important activity. What we grow in school, home and community gardens can improve our health, and the health of our families and communities. What we grow can increase the resiliency of food systems in our communities. And what we grow, ultimately, can connect us more closely with the earth that sustains us. There are valuable lessons in gardening…too many to list here.

Home, school and community gardens improves family and community health and resiliency. (Photo: Jill Wellington, Pixabay)

Even if you live in a small apartment, you can grow food. If you have a yard, you can grow quite a lot of food. View the transformation of a front yard in an urban area…from lawn to lush, productive food garden in only 60 days. You'll love the progression photos, and the simple explanation about how the garden came together.

Need more inspiration? Roger Doiron, founder of SeedMoney, talks about his (subversive) garden plot in this remarkable TedX talk. Roger created and led the social media campaign that called for a garden at the White House. This campaign ultimately led First Lady Michelle Obama to plant a vegetable garden at the White House. (And it may have also inspired the People's Garden at the USDA, which broke ground on Abraham Lincoln's birthday 10 years ago. Lincoln referred to the USDA as the “People's Department,” so it makes sense that the USDA would refer to its garden as the “People's Garden.”)

Need practical advice? The UC Master Gardener program has more than 5,000 certified volunteers ready to assist if you live in California. UC has also created a California Garden Web portal that provides a treasure trove of gardening resources for all parts of the state. It's not too early to begin planning your Fall garden, and you'll find information about that, too.

If you're interested in school gardens, read this brief history, written by UC ANR's UC Food Observer.

Happy gardening!

Posted on Friday, July 12, 2019 at 9:00 AM
Focus Area Tags: Family Food Health

Summer safety: Tips to avoid foodborne and heat illnesses

Happy summer! It's time to get the barbecue grilling and the pool party started. To keep your summer healthy and fun, UC ANR offers some important safety tips.

Check the internal temperature of meat cooked on the barbecue with a thermometer to make sure it has reached a safe temperature - 145 degrees for roasts, 160 degrees for ground meats. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Food safety

Food poisoning is a serious health threat in the United States, especially during the hot summer months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans suffer from a foodborne illness each year, resulting in thousands of hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. 

Both the CDC and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest four key rules to follow to stay food safe:

  • Clean: Clean kitchen surfaces, utensils, and hands with soap and water while preparing food. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water.
  • Separate: Separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards. And be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs away from other items in your refrigerator.
  • Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature; be sure to check internal temperature by using a food thermometer.
  • Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly.

Here are some additional tips from the USDA. Be sure to check out the CDC's comprehensive food safety website, which also has materials in both Spanish and English. For food safety tips in real time, follow USDA Food Safety on Twitter.

Summer also means more outside grilling, which can pose unique food safety concerns. Before firing up the barbecue, check out these five easy tips from UC Davis.

Don't let potato salad or other foods sit out for more than two hours; no more than one hour if the ambient temperature is 90 degrees or above. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Handling food safety on the road 

Before you take off on a road trip, camping adventure or boating excursion, don't forget to consider food safety. You'll need to plan ahead and invest in a good cooler.

Remember, warns the USDA, don't let food sit out for more than one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees F. And discard any food left out more than two hours; after only one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees F.

If there are any doubts about how long the food was out, it is best to throw it out!

Get more food safety tips for traveling from the USDA.

Avoid heat illness

“Summer can be a time for fun and relaxation, but in warm climates, we need to stay aware of the signs of heat illness and help keep our family members and co-workers safe,” says Brian Oatman, director of Risk & Safety Services at UC ANR.

“UC ANR provides comprehensive resources on our website, but it's designed around California requirements for workplace safety.” But, Oatman notes, much of the information applies.

“The training and basic guidance – drink water, take a rest when you are feeling any symptoms and having a shaded area available – are useful for anyone at any time.”

To increase your awareness of heat illness symptoms – and to learn more about prevention – Oatman suggests a few resources.

“Our Heat Illness Prevention page has many resources, including links for training, heat illness prevention plans, and links to other sites. One of the external sites for heat illness that I recommend is the Cal/OSHA site, which spells out the basic requirements for heat illness prevention in the workplace. It's also available in Spanish." 

For those on the go, Oatman also recommends the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) mobile heat safety app.

 

Posted on Friday, July 12, 2019 at 8:53 AM
Focus Area Tags: Family Food

Can you taste barley varieties in beer? UC ANR scientist wants to know.

Different varieties of hops can be used to create an array of flavors and styles of beer. Does the variety of barley used in beer-making affect the flavor of the brew?

This is a question UC Cooperative Extension advisor Konrad Mathesius hopes beer drinkers will answer on Friday, July 12, at YOLO Brewing Company in West Sacramento.

To find out if barley makes a difference, the public is invited to taste a flight of five beers – four beers made from the specially grown barley varieties and YOLO Brewing's own Chinook SMASH DIPA – then fill out a short survey about what they taste.

Several varieties of malting barley were grown by a Woodland farmer in the same field, under the same conditions, then brewed with the same recipe by YOLO brewing company.

The taste test is part of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Malt Project evaluating malting barley's potential as new crop in California. Mathesius is also studying whether barley can be grown well in California and which varieties perform best for growers, maltsters and brewers.

“We'll conduct a consumer preference survey to answer the questions: Can the average consumer pick up on differences that come about solely from the barley variety used in the brew recipe? Are there any particular favorites that stand out?” Mathesius said.

If there is a clear favorite among the specialty barley beers, Mathesius will compare it with notes from Sierra Nevada's tasting panel to identify the flavor characteristics people tend to favor.

The beer tasting will be Friday, July 12, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at YOLO Brewing Company, 1520 Terminal St, West Sacramento, California 95691.

A pre-selected flight of the four specialty beers plus YOLO Brewing's Chinook SMASH DIPA costs $10.

Sacramento calls itself the Farm-to-Fork Capital. Could it also be the Farm-to-Pint Capital?

Posted on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at 2:51 PM
Tags: barley (1), beer (5), Konrad Mathesius (1)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

With access to native foods, Native American families less likely to face food insecurity

Nearly all of the Native Americans surveyed in the region said they want more native foods such as salmon. Photo courtesy of Klamath Tribes Food Security

Native Americans suffer from the highest rates of food insecurity, poverty and diet-related disease in the United States. A new study finds that Native American communities could improve their food security with a greater ability to hunt, fish, gather and preserve their own food.

“How food security is framed, and by whom, shapes the interventions or solutions that are proposed,” said Jennifer Sowerwine, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at UC Berkeley, who led the study in partnership with the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa, and Klamath Tribes. “Our research suggests that current measures of and solutions to food insecurity in the United States need to be more culturally relevant to effectively assess and address chronic food insecurity in Native American communities.”

The study conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley and four Native American tribes shows that 92% of Native American households in the Klamath Basin suffer from food insecurity.

Native American tribes in the Klamath Basin seasonally harvest, consume and store diverse aquatic and terrestrial native foods including salmon, acorns and deer. In survey responses, 86% of the participants said they consumed native foods at least once in the previous year. Yet significant barriers, including restrictive laws and wildlife habitat degradation, limit availability and quality of these foods.

While 64% of Native American households in the Klamath Basin rely on food assistance (compared to the national average of 12%), 84% of the Native Americans using food assistance worried about running out of food or had run out of food. This suggests the need to consider more effective solutions rooted in eco-cultural restoration and food sovereignty to address food insecurity in Native American communities.

Ben Saxon field dresses a deer. Tribe-led workshops on native foods gathering, preparation and preservation was among solutions suggested to improve food security for the Native American community. Courtesy of Karuk Tribe Food Security

Study participants strongly expressed the desire for strengthened tribal governance of Native lands and stewardship of cultural resources to increase access to native foods, as well as strengthening skills for self-reliance including support for home food production. Community members suggested solutions including tribe-led workshops on native foods gathering, preparation and preservation; removing legal barriers to hunt, fish and gather; restoring traditional rights to hunt, fish and gather on tribal ancestral lands; providing culturally relevant education and employment opportunities to tribal members; and increased funding for native foods programs.

While growing evidence suggests that native foods are the most nutritious and culturally appropriate foods for Native American people – and over 99% of people surveyed in the region said they want more of these foods – nearly 70% said they never or rarely get access to the native foods they want.

“We know our efforts to revitalize and care for our food system through traditional land management are critical to the physical and cultural survival of the humans who are part of it,” said Leaf Hillman, program manager for the Karuk Tribe's Píkyav Field Institute. “This study will support our ability to bring that message to the decisionmakers who need to hear it.” 

With the study results indicating that increased access to native foods and support for cultural institutions such as traditional knowledge and food sharing are key to solving food insecurity in Native American communities, Sowerwine and the research team propose including access to native foods as a measure for evaluating food security for Native people.

Removing legal barriers to hunt, fish and gather food would improve Native Americans' access to native foods. Courtesy of Yurok Tribe Food Security

The assessment is based on 711 surveys completed by households from the Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa and Klamath Tribes, 115 interviews with cultural practitioners and food system stakeholders, and 20 focus groups with tribal members or descendants.

In addition to Sowerwine and Hillman, the study was conducted by post-doctoral researchers Megan Mucioki and Dan Sarna-Wojcicki, and research partners from the Yurok, Karuk and Klamath Tribes.

“Partnering with tribal community members in the research makes the research stronger, and that is especially true in this unique food security assessment,” said Sowerwine. “With the study design grounded in nearly a decade of relationship-building and respectful engagement with our tribal partners, we are confident that our results reflect their priority questions and concerns while contributing valuable new information to the field of indigenous food systems.”

Reframing food security by and for Native American communities: a case study among tribes in the Klamath River basin of Oregon and California” is published in the journal Food Security.

This research was part of a $4 million, five-year Tribal Food Security Project funded by USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Food Security Grant #2012-68004-20018. For full results and recommendations from the project team, visit https://nature.berkeley.edu/karuk-collaborative/?page_id=1088.

Posted on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 at 1:38 PM
Focus Area Tags: Family Food

California takes the lead on hybrid sunflower seed production

Rachael Long takes notes on sunflower seed production.

Enjoying a tasty sunflower seed snack? Cooking with sunflower oil? Thank a California sunflower seed grower for producing the hybrid seed that's used for planting sunflower crops throughout the United States and the world, for confectionery and oil seed production.

California farmers grow about 70,000 acres of sunflower, mostly in the Sacramento Valley, for hybrid seed stock.

“We have perfect conditions for growing sunflowers, with hot, dry summers and plenty of good irrigation water for producing high quality seed,” says Rachael Long, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Yolo, Solano and Sacramento counties. “We also have good pollination by honey bees and field isolation from wild sunflowers, needed for high yields and genetic purity of planting seed stock.”

Indeed, take a look at the lovely fields of sunflowers blooming in the summertime. Their striking show of bright yellow faces across the valley's vast agricultural landscapes elicit feelings of warmth and happiness.

“But don't stop there!” says Long. “Take a closer look at the fields and you'll see rows of plants with single large flowers alternating with rows of smaller plants with multiple flowers. Stalks with single flowers are female, smaller ones are male; cross pollination occurs by honey bees to produce the hybrid planting seed, harvested from the single female flowers.”

To assist farmers in producing hybrid sunflower seed crops, Long led a team of researchers to produce a new 2019 sunflower hybrid seed production manual for California. The manual provides information on production needs, such as irrigation and nutrient management, as well as a color guide to insect pests, diseases, and weeds of concern for hybrid sunflower seed production.

“In order to ship seed to worldwide markets, strict field certifications are in place to ensure that pests endemic to California are not spread elsewhere,” Long says. Weeds, insects and diseases growers should watch for are identified in the manual. 

“Sunflower Hybrid Seed Production in California” is available for free download at https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/Details.aspx?itemNo=8638. In addition to Long, authors of the manual include UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors Sarah Light and Konrad Mathesius, retired USDA plant pathologist Thomas Gulya, UC Cooperative Extension irrigation specialist Khaled Bali, and emeritus UC Cooperative Extension soils specialist Roland Meyer.

“A special thanks to the sunflower seed industry and associate editor Dan Putnam, UC ANR agronomist at UC Davis, for their extensive contributions to this manual to make it a valuable resource for sunflower seed growers,” Long adds. “All of us are also grateful to UC ANR Communication Services for putting together a high quality publication!”

 

Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 11:45 AM
Tags: Rachael Long (3), sunflowers (1)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

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