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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Organic vs. Conventionally Farmed Produce

There's always a lot of controversy out there about the pros and cons of organic produce. Is it healthier for you? Does it last longer? What are you paying for? I'm not sure there will ever be one definitive answer that we can all agree on. But, if you are reading this, there's probably a good chance you like to garden and prefer organic gardening practice, so I'll share with you the results of a taste test we held in the UC Davis Good Life Garden last April, to encourage you to continue in your practice. We're not trying to convert anyone; we're just letting you know what happened in a biased, non-scientific kind of way!

On Picnic Day, a UC Davis campus tradition, the Good Life Garden hosted a taste test to see if visitors could taste the difference between organic/locally-grown asparagus and conventionally farmed/non-local asparagus. Visitors knew which was which before tasting--so it was definitely not scientific or blind--but the results were overwhelming in favor or the organic asparagus. It had 'more flavor' and was 'sweeter.'

Maybe it was because it was local or maybe it was because it was organic, or maybe it was because people wanted the organic to taste better so they could justify their spending. Whatever it was, organics won the taste buds of our visitors that day. I was a even a skeptic and I'm now a convert--not only because of taste, but because organic produce seems to last longer in storage--and, in a household with just two people like mine, that saves money too!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Give Thanks! FREE Herb Harvest Thursday November 19!

The UC Davis Good Life Garden would like to "give thanks" to all our past, present and future herb harvest attendees! We enjoy having you out in the garden and hope that you'll harvest some herbs to enjoy at your Thanksgiving meals.

Join us at the Good Life Garden Thursday, November 19, anytime between 9:30AM and 2PM to harvest any type of herb we have growing in the garden including rosemary, marjoram, lavender, sage, thyme, chives, and mint!


If you are interested, please RSVP to goodlifegarden@ucdavis.edu so we know how many people will be attending. Directions to the garden can be found here.

The harvest is free to attend; we just need you to bring the following items:
  • scissors or pruning shears
  • a bag to hold your herbs
  • wet paper towels to put in the bag with the herbs (if you don't have a refrigerator to keep them in for the day)
BE SURE TO WASH ALL HERBS WELL BEFORE ENJOYING THEIR FRESH TASTE!

Our gardener Arlene will be there all day to answer your questions about the different herbs and the harvesting process, as well as to direct you to the correct plants. We ask that no one remove entire plants or remove more than half of the leaves or flowers from any particular plant.

Olive Harvest in the UC Davis Good Life Garden

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Introduction
It's that time of year, and, although the small trellised olive trees we have planted in the garden are small, they have produced quite a few good looking olives. Now what do we do?

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UC Davis Olive Center
Arlene learns from campus olive expert Dan Flynn, Executive Director of the UC Davis Olive Center, to assist in the garden's olive harvest. The UC Davis Olive Center is the only center of its kind in North America conducting outreach and research on olives and olive oil. To find out more about who they are and what they do visit their website.


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About Our Olives
In the UC Davis Good Life garden we grow Arbequina olives using a trellis system. This type of olive and high-density method is the future of olive farming in California which is why we've chosen to demonstrate it here!

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When Are Your Olives Ready to Harvest?
Dan Flynn goes over with Arlene the tell-tale signs of when olives are ready to harvest.


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Good for Olive Oil and Table Olives
Arlene asks Dan whether she could also cure the olives and make table olives rather than harvest the olives for olive oil.

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Methods to Use for Safely Curing Olives
Here Dan discussed with Arlene the main methods for curing olives and refers her to this free publication from the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources called Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling.

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Organic Methods for Controlling Olive Flies
Arlene and Dan discuss orgnanic methods for controlling olive pests by using a spray called GF120 (It doesn't sound organic, but it is!) or by using of fly traps.
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