Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hunting and Gathering in California's Farmland

Road Trip

California driving-- In California, once you get outside of the major cities,  you'll find roadside farm stands almost anyplace you go.  After all, most of the state is devoted to agriculture. 

Last week my sister and I were in Southern California and we decided to take a leisurely drive home in a somewhat northward vector.  After a wonderful lunch with old friends at a charming outdoor Pasadena restaurant, we hit the freeways. 

Yipes!  Traffic...let's get off these freeways.

From LA we selected an alternate route down a little known highway (126 out of Santa Clarita) that took us through a beautiful interior valley, Santa Clara River Valley.  This scenic valley is planted virtually wall to wall with picturesque orange and avocado groves.  It's pretty much undeveloped other than by ranchers and farmers, and looks like pictures you see of Southern California from the 20's and 30's. 

Santa Clara River Valley, absolutely stunning this time of year.  
As the miles flew by, this was the direct view we had our the car window...row upon row of orange trees bearing fruit.

Oh, oh!  Detour, emergency U-turn.  We just passed a roadside farm stand! 

And what did we find there?

Only the best oranges we can remember tasting in years, above.  We bought a box full. Later, at home, our kids ate them all up.  Lickety split! 

And lemons...

Gorgeous bright yellow lemons.  We bought a box of these, too.  And we made our mother use them to bake our favorite lemon meringue pie for Easter Sunday. 

The group voted.  This was not to be a gluten-free, sugar-free pie!

What else did we buy? 

Tangelos, and this caused some regret.  We only bought half a dozen of these, to discover later that they were fabulous.  We should have bought a box!

Once we were deep into the valley we detoured through Ojai (a beautiful old Spanish Rancho town) on the road to Santa Barbara,

Ojai was originally a dry air health haven built in the 1880's for East Coasters who wanted to escape the cold winters and take "the cure".  Now it is well known for it's health spa, shopping, inns and restaurants.

What did we hunt and gather up in Ojai? 

A good cup of cappuccino, of course, 

It was getting to be early evening by the time we left Ojai and we had a number of driving hours yet to do that night if we were to make it to Arroyo Grande on the Central Coast.  

The next morning we woke up on our cousin's beautiful ranch in a breathtaking interior valley near Arroyo Grande.  On the charming winding road into town, we passed many lovely ranches and small farms with organic gardens.  Early spring plantings were in full swing.  

Oh, oh...detour again.  Uturn!

We just passed a row of cottages with front yard farm gardens.  Each one was selling farm produce on the honors system.  

We bought free-range eggs from the first.  (And were able to verify the free-range aspect.  The hens were roaming around in the backyard.)

Right next door was a beautiful little artichoke patch.  You can see the farmer himself supervising his early morning watering in a big straw hat.  

We decided this artichoke patch was equally beautiful as a landscaping element!  

A little pile of artichokes waiting for takers. We bought them all.   

On the honors system.  You put your money in the plastic container with the red lid on the upper left of the photo.  
It's so important to connect the food we eat with it's original source.  Seeing the farms it comes from helps us all appreciate it so much more.  I'm grateful to live in a beautiful place with the bounty of California's farmland so closeby.  



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