UC Garden Blogs
Did you read the article in today's New York Times about tsetse flies and the scientists who research them? Totally fascinating. Tsetse fly expert Geoffrey Attardo, a medical entomologist and assistant professor with the UC Davis Department of...
Close-up of a gravid tsetse fly (Glossina morsitans morsitans). (Photo by Geoffrey Attardo)
Medical entomologist Geoffrey Attardo in his office in Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Winter is the time when many backyard citrus trees and roadside fruit stands are laden with mandarins, lemons, navel oranges and limes. A UC Cooperative Extension expert is traveling the state to teach how the fresh taste of citrus can be preserved for year-round enjoyment.
UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preserver coordinator Sue Mosbacher recently taught a roomful of attentive Mariposa County residents how to safely make marmalade jam, preserve lemons in salt to add flavor to savory dishes, and can grapefruit and orange sections with a little sugar to produce a fresh-tasting citrus cocktail high in vitamin C.
Mosbacher is a community education specialist based in El Dorado and Sacramento counties. But she has been driving up and down Highway 99 to bring research-based food preservation lessons to residents as far south as Madera County as part of a special project that was funded with a $140,000 specialty crops block grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Mosbacher has made dozens of appearances at county fairs and community meetings.
“It's been fabulous,” Mosbacher said. “People want the information and are using what they are learning.”
The series began last year with lessons focused on preserving summer fruit. The citrus classes are being offered in the winter. And in late spring 2019, Mosbacher will be on the road again to teach more fruit preservation classes and, in summer and fall of 2019, she will offer vegetable preservation lessons. The project is slated to conclude in 2020.
Mosbacher said she is energized for this journey by knowing that she is making a difference in California communities. She shared a telling story from a Georgetown vegetable preservation class. A participant said she had canned peas using the boiling water method; the Master Food Preserver Program guidelines require the use of a pressure canner for low-acid vegetables to prevent the growth of bacteria that produce the botulism toxin.
“She said she always canned peas in a water bath, and no one had ever died. But she came back the next week and told us she decided not to risk it and to throw the veggies to her chickens,” Mosbacher said. “And the next day, half her chickens died.”
Mosbacher has a background in computer science and the financial industry. During the 2008 downturn, she was laid off and spent time as a 4-H volunteer in the UC Cooperative Extension Office. While there, she learned about a part-time job opportunity working with UC Master Gardeners and UC Master Food Preservers.
At the time, she had no food preservation experience, so she took Master Food Preserver training.
“I learned everything I know from our own Master Food Preservers,” Mosbacher said.
Master Food Preservers are volunteer food preservation enthusiasts who have been trained in research-based preservation methods. Every food preserver training begins with a food safety primer with proven methods to decontaminate kitchen surfaces and tools, detoxify canned low-acid food and guard against spoilage.
At the citrus training, Mosbacher demonstrated canning a delicious orange jelly spiced with cinnamon, allspice and cloves. After cooking the juice with sugar and pectin, she canned the jelly using the boiling water method and with a steam canner. Either option is okay with high-acid citrus fruit.
Options for preserving lemons abounded. The juice can be frozen in an egg carton or ice cube tray, and used throughout the year in salad dressings, fruit salads, soups and ice cream. Slices of lemon can be dried to flavor ice water, seafood and casseroles. Mosbacher demonstrated preserving lemon wedges in salt water seasoned with bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and whole black peppercorns. She provided a recipe for a gourmet chicken tagine and roasted fingerling potatoes with preserved lemons to give participants guidance for using their preserved fruit.
At all the classes, participants are surveyed at the beginning and end to document the impact of the training. The preliminary results calculated with responses from 75 participants reflect positive results. After the class, nearly half of participants intended to preserve more fruit at home than they previously preserved. Two-thirds of participants intended to dehydrate more fruit than before.
"The results are great," said Katie Johnson, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor in the Central Sierra. "We never see results this high with regard to health behaviors, so I think it's pretty exciting."
To learn about food preservation programs around the state and search for classes, visit the UC Master Food Preserver website.
Early in its development, Los Angeles bound itself tightly to the rest of California by securing a water supply piped in from locations across the state. The preference for distant water sources had far reaching ramifications for the region, including dependence on the happenings – weather and otherwise – in those faraway places. It also functioned to mask the local water supplies that LA actually has.
The penchant for long-distance water led to the creation of a vast and expensive infrastructure system. It also spurred the development of a plethora of agencies – over 100 at this point – created to manage that imported water.
In a recent paper, Stephanie Pincetl, director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, and co-authors argue that investments made over the years to fortify the city's supply with additional imported water have not solved LA's water shortages. Moreover, these approaches appear even less likely to help LA successfully navigate an uncertain water future.
Actions for a water independent LA
Erik Porse with the Office of Water Programs at Sacramento State and a co-author on the paper asserts that LA could become water self-reliant by strategically investing in local supplies, and offers several concrete strategies for improving LA's water security. These include focusing on better groundwater management, and improving the capacity to utilize stormwater and recycled water.
In addition, the researchers suggests that landscaping in LA be overhauled to dramatically reduce outdoor water usage. At the same time, they acknowledge that landscaping changes will have consequences, such as the potential for increasing urban heat islands, and therefore must be phased in over time.
Climate change underscores need for water reforms
Cities like LA that are reliant on distant water sources are also facing big complications due to climate change. For example, Pincetl notes that LA's continued dependence on already precarious water supplies from other regions of the state, such as the Sierra Nevada, will only exacerbate its own climate challenges.
This is particularly true during times of extended drought. “Amending LA's water supply with distant sources only during years where water is abundant in those places is a critical, and ultimately positive, shift that we have to make,” says Pincetl.
Instead, recognizing that LA does indeed have its own water supplies and that those can be bolstered with strategic investment—versus the sense that the region is doomed to a water-less, apocalyptic fate beyond its control—is reason for optimism.
Institutional reform is biggest challenge
In transitioning from a dependence on distant water sources to enhancing and protecting local supplies, Pincetl suggests that infrastructural and institutional reform are key. And, she emphasizes that the latter is the larger challenge.
Porse says that groundwater basin management offers a good example of the institutional challenges that managers will face in enacting these changes. “Groundwater pumping rights are adjudicated and codified by agreements that took decades to craft. Based on those agreements, some users do not have rights to pump or store groundwater, even though it will be a critical source of supply in the future. The change is conceptually straightforward, but much more difficult to enact.”
"The hardest part is really to alter the institutions that were created in the 20th century so that they can better deal with the challenges of the 21st century. Although it will take effort, I do really believe it's possible. We just need to get to work,” says Pincetl.
Reference: Pincetl, S., E. Porse, K.B. Mika, E. Litvak, K.F. Manago, T.S. Hogue, T. Gillespie, D.E. Pataki, and M. Gold. 2018. Adapting Urban Water Systems to Manage Scarcity in the 21st Century: The Case of Los Angeles. Environmental Management doi.org/10.1007/s00267-018-1118-2
Oh, the butterflies you'll see at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during the eighth annual UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day on Saturday, Feb. 16. Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) collection, says "I believe we...
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera collection at the Bohart Museum, holds some of the Morpho specimens. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue morpho butterflies are among the "Wow" displays at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The Bohart Museum has five drawers of monarch butterfly specimens. Here curator Jeff Smith shows some of them. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you like chocolate, thank the midges. These tiny flies (about 1 to 3mm) pollinate the intricate flowers of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. From those seed pods, known as cocoa beans, come the chocolate that we crave. In fact, we Americans consume...
Ernesto Sandoval, collections manager for the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory, checks out the cacao tree, aka "chocolate tree." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)