Last November, driving north of Guadalupe, California, we found fields of celery being harvested. The stalks looked much bigger in their natural surroundings than in the grocery stores. Some workers harvested the celery, which grows in clumps, close together, while others hefted the stalks into waiting boxes in nearby trucks.
We have been watching with interest the cycle of agribusiness in the Golden State. The vineyards which cover so much ground throughout the state change from month to month: during the summer the leaves provide canopies for the grapes, then after picking the vines Vineyard with mustard dry slowly. During the late winter the workmen return to the fields where they prune the vines and repair the supports, then begin the process of making sure the new tendrils will be attached to the wires which run the length of each row. During this part of the year, the vineyards are a lush carpet of yellow, as wild mustard springs up between the rows of leafless grapevines. There are several explanations: some say the mustard helps prevent fungus and microbe attacks on the vines, some say the rotation Field of mustard provides a second cash crop or nutrition for the grape roots. One vineyard farther north is running an experiment in which they will press oil from the mustard seed to turn into biofuel.
We live in a grocery-rich area of the state. For example, a part of our neighboring town of Berkeley is named the Gourmet Ghetto, where butchers and bakers and organic grocers and tea and coffer merchants vie for business, and shoppers can lunch at world-famous restaurants, A stalk of brussels sprouts stowing their bags filled with organic vegetables under their tables.
Here is where we saw our first Brussels Sprouts stalk. Our friend Rita gave us the stalk in the photo, and introduced us to the gigantic Berkeley Bowl, a major market at the edge of the Gourmet Ghetto,where the stalks of Brussels sprouts are stacked waist-high. A mother pushed her shopping cart containing a toddler happily munching a broccoli floret. The produce is arranged partly by color -- peas and beans and broccoli and cucumbers and avocados modulate to eggplant and purple potatoes, just across from the orange and yellow Fruit at the Berkeley Bowl aisles.
We are beginning to see schedules for farmers' markets and farm fairs and festivals and now that we have almost completed our first year here, we're happily anticipating the exploration of more tree-lined country roads, more varieties of apples, more local honey -- more odd corners of this amazing state, which grows fruits and nuts and vegetables shipped all over the country.
One tip for tourists -- do stop for produce along the road, even that sold from the back of a pickup truck. We buy a lot of our oranges that way!