This post was proudly made in partnership with California Grown. All opinions are our own. Thank you for supporting the brands that we love.
Hello love! Happy New Year! We cannot believe its is a new decade. There is so much goodness to come and we cannot wait to share what we got cookin’! Pegs and I took time to reflect on this past year/decade, and share what we want to focus on in 2020. For Megs, this year is about appreciating the present moment and discovering the magic in doing so. Pegs focus is to s l o w things down – create more space in her schedule and enjoy the quiet moments.
During our reflection, we thought about our intentions for Curry Girls Kitchen. So much of our focus is about seasonal, local, organic, and sustainable food. Choosing to eat foods that fall into these categories has been a part of our lifestyle way before we even created this blog. A huge focus of ours in 2020 is to create tools that will help you adopt some of these food choice habits as well. Learning how to incorporate a home-cooked meal or two each week, using organic and local products, sharing different recipes each season that highlight that specific season’s produce.
In the spirit of winter, we are sharing a twist on one of our favorite recipes to bake and give as gifts: Persimmon Pumpkin Date Bread, gluten free of course. And in this recipe, over 50% of the ingredients used in this recipe are local to California!
So much change is happening in our food system. The more we learn, the more we discover just how important it is for the health of our planet to adopt more sustainable food choices. Continuing to educate ourselves on farming methods, agriculture, and sharing that information with you is a passion of ours.
If you are wondering “what exactly IS sustainable farming?” Sustainable farmers use best practices to promote soil health, minimize water use and lower pollution levels on a farm. Basically, sustainable farmers are the stewards of the land and for see the health of our food as the health of our bodies and our planet.
CA GROWN TOUR
Towards the end of last year we had to opportunity to explore some farms in Santa Barbara, California with CA Grown and other amazing humans for CA Grown’s Inaugural Sustainable Agriculture Tour. We got to meet our passionate and dedicated State leaders, local farmers, and learn how California’s transparent agriculture system is hard at work to change farming practices for a cleaner healthier and more profitable business model.
California Grown emphasizes strong ties to the land, to take pride in homegrown products, to support our California economy, and our Californian way of life. California Grown is all about connecting Californians with the people who grow and produce their food. To learn more about CA GROWN, click HERE.
Over two days we learned a lot of information; including that the majority of our California farms feed our country! Today California farmers are learning sustainable and environment best practices to protect the health of the land, soil and water, their customers and the health of our planet. This is GREAT NEWS because today small farmers are getting help from our state government.
FYI NOTE: California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. California is the leading US state for cash farm receipts, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agricultural value. Sited here.
DAY 1: CA Grown Tour
The first stop on our tour was Houweling’s Tomatoes’. We got to visit the world-renowned sustainable greenhouse tomato grower dedicated to constantly innovating and reducing its environmental impact. We learned Houweling’s use solar and other renewable energy, recycle 90% of their wastes, and are also moving towards removing plastic wrap from cucumbers! Cool company indeed. We enjoyed our walking tour of their state-of-the-art greenhouses and got to learn about their actual real life “worker bees”. And at the end got to taste their sweet tomatoes and cucumbers!
Probably the most amazing fact about Houweling’s greenhouse tomatoes is that they can feed the world on a grand scale using sustainable environmentally conscious farming practices without the use of chemical pesticides AND save water too! How? Using climate controlled hot houses AND bees. They are growing superior tasting tomatoes using reusable water WITHOUT soil. It was an eye opener for sure!
Houweling’s tomatoes are all vine-ripened and hand harvested. The proof was the fantastic taste of their tomatoes. Seeing how Houweling’s is scaling to feed millions using sustainable and healthier farming methods is incredible. They are busting the myth that sustainable farming methods can’t feed the world, when indeed it CAN! Learn more about their greenhouses HERE!
Meg loves her morning coffee ritual – as do millions. So, you can imagine how happy she was with our second stop to visit a coffee farm! Farmer Jay Ruskey, Co-Founder of Frinj Coffee + Good Land Organics, started farming coffee and exotic fruits in California. He knew at a young age that farming and research were his life work. Jay has helped build an entire consortium of Southern California coffee farmers. Jay is helping to expanding our state’s economy while creating a new industry that grows quality sustainably coffee! Wahoo, now THAT’S exciting! How many of you are excited?!?!
Frinj Coffee is pioneering the California and North America Coffee industry! Working with UC Davis, Jay continues researching best coffee varieties for our region. Coffee plants are beautiful! All the coffees we sampled were not what we expected. They were smooth and robust with really different flavor profiles. Check out these beautiful plants that look like mini trees! @frinjcoffee @goodlandorganics
We headed back to the stunning Santa Barbara Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel to get ready for the night’s glorious feast. Executive Chef Michael Patria used more than 40 sustainable CA Grown specialty crops for dinner that were 100% locally sourced. Pastry chef Heather Lakey prepared an insane gluten free apple tart that was loved by all! The entire meal was paired with Santa Barbara County’s beautiful fine wines. P.S. Being gluten free, wasn’t a problem either, Chef made sure of it. We were so very grate-full 🙂
DAY 2: CA Grown Tour
The next morning, we arrived at breakfast to find a beautiful breakfast buffet filled with fresh locally sourced sustainable food. A foodie’s dream come true feast!
During breakfast we listened to both California’s Secretary of Agriculture, Karen Ross and Santa Barbara’s County Ag Commissioner, Cathy Fisher share about the future of California farming. We learned how our government is working to support small farmers helping them move towards sustainable farming practices. It brought us all great hope for the future.
FARMERS MARKET TIP: When you shop seasonal local farmers markets you might not see an “organically grown” sign. That’s the time to ask if that farmer is using sustainable farming practices. “Are you pesticide and chemical free?” Asking the farmer directly, by law, they must tell you if they use any chemical pesticides, herbicides and or fungicides. Many of our smaller farmers simply can’t afford to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars to receive an organic seal. Not to mention all the fees before, during, and ongoing!
After our bountiful breakfast we boarded our bus and headed off to our final tour. Our eyes were delighted by the sea of colorful gorgeous Gerber daisies as we arrived at Ocean Breeze farms. Did you know 75% of all flowers and cut greens are grown in California!? Farmer Rene shared however that the flower market has been hurt by the low cost of imported flowers. He encourages all flower purchases to support CA Grown or American Grown blooms, because then you will be supporting local farms; the flowers will last longer because they haven’t been shipped in AND will be more sustainable by decreasing fossil fuel too!
Once we finished our tour of the Gerber daisy greenhouse, we went on to create our own CA Grown floral arrangement to take home. Before we started creating our bouquets, we toured their cut flower packing house where they recently acquired a bouquet production line. It was awesome to see the efficiency! We have often wondered how they arranged all those pre-arranged flowers you see at the stores. Such a fun way to end our CA Grown tour.
We met such great people who attended with us:
A group of passionate foodie lovers who became a family in less than 48 hours ~ kindred spirits for sure! It was a highlight of our year, filled with rich learning and delicious eating experiences being on this CA Grown adventure. Bittersweet as we parted ways + grateful for the time we shared. Truly delicious in so many ways…
Now for that yummy Persimmon Pumpkin Date Loaf recipe!
Gluten Free Persimmon Pumpkin Date Bread
1 Cup Hachiya persimmon* pulp, pureed
1 Cup roasted sweet pumpkin*, pureed
½-1 Cup dates*, pitted and finely chopped
¼ Cup fresh orange juice*, any variety (1 orange)
Zest from 1 orange*
½ Cup butter or alternative butter (1 stick or 8 Tbsp.)
1 Cup coconut or brown sugar
¼ Cup dates or maple sugar
1 Local Farm Fresh Extra-large egg* (or 2 small)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange extract
1 ½ Cups Pamela’s Baking or Bread Flour
½ Cup Coconut flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
¾ Cup pecan or walnut pieces
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend
Maple Coconut Glaze
2-3 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1-2 Tbsp Coconut, melted or liquid
1 bread loaf baker or three 5 x 7 loaf pans
- Preheat oven 350 degrees
- Blend flours and spices together and set aside.
- Whisk together maple syrup and melted coconut glaze, set aside.
- Using a hand held or stand mixer, cream butter and sugars.
- Add egg and extracts.
- Next add persimmon pulp, pumpkin puree and chopped dates. Blend well.
- Gradually stir in flour and nut mixture to wet ingredients.
- Grease a bread pan. Line it with parchment for easy removal.
- Spoon mixture into the loaf pan.
- Pour glaze to cover top of batter.
- Bake one large loaf for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Smaller loaf pans bake between 35-40 minutes.
- Serve with orange flavored cream cheese and or apricot or peach jam
Contacts & tags from the tour:
- California Secretary of Agriculture, Karen Ross
- CA GROWN Executive Director, Nick Matteis
- Ag Commissioner Santa Barbara County, Cathy Fisher
- Four Seasons, The Biltmore Santa Barbara, Chef Michael Patria: @fssantabarbara
- Houweling’s, Brand Manager Jaymee Mcinerney: @houwelingstomatoes
- Frinj Coffee + Good Land Organics, Farmer/co-founder Jay Ruskey: @frinjcoffee @goodlandorganics
- Santa Barbara Vintners, CEO Alison Gaslett: @santabarbarawinecountry
- Visit Santa Barbara, CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes: @visitsantabarbara
- Ocean Breeze Farms, Farmer Rene VanWingerden Operations Manager Cagney Miller, @oceanbreezefarmsca