California leads winter farmers markets
With the benefit of relatively mild winter weather and year-round crops, California has expanded its offerings of winter farmers markets to more than 280. That’s nearly double last year’s total and the most in the nation.
The US Agriculture Department says year-round and winter markets lead to more stability for farmers and help people access fresh fruits and vegetables, even as temperatures cool. USDA offers a listing of winter farmers markets online.
Orchards chill out
Many tree crops, including apples, pears and cherries, benefit from chill hours, when the temperatures drop below 45 degrees. The cold helps trees develop flower and leaf buds.
The University of California allows farmers to track chill hours online, and calculate how the trees are progressing. So far, many areas in the Central Valley have seen fewer chill hours than a year ago. Farmers will continue to monitor chill hours until springtime.
Farmers put holiday flavor in candy canes
The cool mint flavor of a holiday candy cane may have started on a California farm. Farmers in the Pacific Northwest, including far Northern California, produce peppermint oil that is used to flavor everything from toothpaste to ice cream.
The University of California has created a video to explain the distillation process. According to UC, each acre of peppermint can produce between 40 and 120 pounds of oil.