Memo­r­ial Day and week­end are focused on cel­e­bra­tion and remem­brance for those who’ve made the ulti­mate sac­ri­fice. We honor those who’ve died while serv­ing this great nation.

Invari­ably, the week­end also ends up being the unof­fi­cial start of sum­mer. Vaca­tion travel, pic­nics, camp­ing, bar­be­cues and patio par­ties bring fam­i­lies and friends together.

Lucky for us all then that with warm weather trend­ing, sum­mer berries are com­ing into peak play. Cal­i­for­nia grow­ing regions are now har­vest­ing sen­sa­tional blue­ber­ries, straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries, boy­sen­ber­ries and black­ber­ries.

Multi-​dimensional, berries add that burst of color and fla­vor zing, just where expected. Plan­ning for break­fast, smooth­ies, sal­ads or sum­mer desserts? Berries are a knock­out for pre­sen­ta­tion and get an A+ for taste.

Straw­ber­ries always seem to top the list for favorite fruits. Blue­ber­ries are inch­ing up with kids and those adults who like to power up with super foods.

The antiox­i­dants in berries just seem to be an added bonus. We eat them because we love them. The fact that they are a health­ier alter­na­tive to other pos­si­ble warm weather treats makes them all the more desirable.

Read more: Red, White & Blue →

Pub­lic health offi­cials esti­mate that nearly 48 mil­lion peo­ple are sick­ened each year by food that has been con­t­a­m­i­nated with harm­ful bac­te­ria.

Most peo­ple are aware that ani­mal prod­ucts must be han­dled care­fully to pre­vent ill­ness. Many need a reminder that fresh pro­duce can also be the cul­prit in out­breaks of food­borne ill­ness.

Out­breaks can be large, wide­spread or local­ized. In recent years, let­tuce, spinach, green onions and toma­toes have been the source of food ill­nesses.

As our fresh pro­duce con­sump­tion trends up in sum­mer months. Now is a good time for a refresh on prac­tices and pro­to­cols on safe food han­dling.

Fresh pro­duce can become con­t­a­m­i­nated in many ways. Dur­ing the grow­ing phase, fruits and veg­gies may be con­t­a­m­i­nated by ani­mals, harm­ful sub­stances in the soil or water, and by poor hygiene among work­ers. After pro­duce is har­vested, it passes through many hands, increas­ing con­t­a­m­i­na­tion risks.

Read more: All Washed Up! →

Pre­sented with any one of many beau­ti­fully grown fresh fruit or veg­etable items, a few quick ques­tions spring to mind.

How does it taste? What can we make? How do we treat it? How much should we buy?

It’s amaz­ing how the sight of a fra­grantly ripe melon or aro­matic peach will be per­ceived among any group of indi­vid­u­als. So many choices, all dif­fer­ent, and none of them wrong.

Slice for the plate or a salad, blend for smoothie, sor­bet or ices, grill for a sum­mer side or bake into a break­fast or dessert treat. Pref­er­ences depend on the mind and heart of the cook.

Inspi­ra­tion is gen­er­ated from cook­books, fam­ily tra­di­tions, cul­ture, food mag­a­zine arti­cles, and now, the abun­dance of irre­sistible social media posts.

Read more: Perspective →

Dam­asco is the Por­tuguese name for apri­cot. The Wesley/​Patterson area of Cal­i­for­nia is con­sid­ered one of the prime apri­cot grow­ing regions in the entire coun­try.

Once named the “Apri­cot Capi­tol of the World”, the Mediter­ranean cli­mate and well-​drained soils make this loca­tion an apri­cot par­adise.

This arid land­scape is also still home to many Por­tuguese farm­ers and fam­i­lies who set­tled there to make farm­ing a way of life.

Every sum­mer, the Pat­ter­son Apri­cot Fiesta cel­e­brates the stone fruit that has a rich Cal­i­for­nia his­tory. This year, the fes­ti­val will run June 2nd4th.

Apri­cots debuted in Cal­i­for­nia in the orchards and gar­dens of the Span­ish mis­sions. Cal­i­for­nia farm­ers grow more than 95 per­cent of the nation’s apri­cots. In a typ­i­cal weather year, har­vest begins in Kern County and moves north­ward through the San Joaquin Val­ley to the Westley/​Patterson area.

Read more: “Damascos“ →