Christopher Ranch

  (Gilroy, California)
Gilroy's finest. Family owned since 1956
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Garlic makes your tongue smile

 

Christopher Ranch’s garlic harvest is continuing, and the precious cargo is arriving by truckloads at our Gilroy “home ranch” to be graded, packed and shipped out. You can always tell it’s harvest time when the road into the ranch is strewn with the garlic chaff that flies out of the trucks. We’re at the height of our favorite season when it starts snowing garlic skins.

Garlic isn’t the only thing we’re harvesting right now. Sweet corn, yellow and white, is coming in from our fields – and how sweet it is. It’s so tasty, in fact, that you can hold the butter and save the calories! We’re also harvesting our crisp and crunchy red and green bell peppers. Garlic, corn and bells – what a perfect trio of summer flavors.

Speaking of flavor, it was the hot topic at the recent Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Foodservice Conference in Monterey, CA. Our attending sales squad, Amber (L.A. Division), Justin (Gilroy) and Anthony (New Jersey) listened to discussions focusing on flavor, safety, sustainability and consumer education, topics that Christopher Ranch is deeply invested in and has been for many years. Amber reports that PMA President, Bryan Silbermann even opened the session talking about the importance of flavor, but her favorite quote of the day (and mine) came from another attendee, “we need to make our tongues smile.” We couldn’t agree more. Flavor is what our California Grown Heirloom Garlic is all about.

Leaders of Pack: Anthony, Amber, Justin run PMA 5K, Monterey, CA

In closing PMA news… Kudos to Amber, Justin and Anthony for running the PMA FIT 5K race that kicked off the PMA Conference. Justin and Amber both finished 3rd overall in the men’s and women’s divisions, respectively, and Anthony finished in the top 25. Congrats to all for going the distance! Further kudos to Justin for “making tongues smile” with his Green Garlic Vinaigrette – it was a hit at the conference.

Our Green Garlic packaging has been updated with large lettering to make it easier to find in the produce section. How-to-use info and Justin’s recipe are on the back of the bag. If you don’t see it at your local market, please ask your produce manager about our new Baby!

We’ve also been getting lots of thumbs up for our new Peeled Garlic bags. They’re recyclable, re-sealable and tamper proof. The best part: they contain 100% natural California Grown Christopher Ranch Garlic with no additives or preservatives. FYI: always keep Peeled Garlic constantly refrigerated at cold temps (34º to 38 is best) for longest storage life.

Well, so much for writer’s block. I’ve gone on way too long, but when it comes to garlic, I just can’t say enough.  Now, go out there, pick up some Christopher Ranch California Garlic (Green or otherwise) and make your tongue smile!

 
 

Culinary New Year's Resolutions - More 2010 Trends & Christopher Ranch Still on Track

As 2009 nears its close, bracing to pass the baton to 2010, chefs and culinary experts alike are reflecting on 2009’s culinary influences and speculating about the impending year.
California heirloom garlic, interestingly enough, is on par with the majority of emerging trends.
Nutrition, sustainability and locally sourced ingredients are three concepts predicted to take precedence in 2010, according to the “What’s Hot in 2010? survey conducted by the American Culinary Federation.
Staf Chefs – a publication for the culinary world – released its 2009 Trends Report, highlighting such notions as “in-house” creation, “street food inside,” “pastry chefs emerging from the ashes,” “Bahn Mi blow up” and many more.
Finally, The Food Channel released its top-10 list for the new decade, reinforcing several ACF and Star Chef trends, while providing its own spin, including:
*Keeping It Real - The idea of reintroducing basic ingredients that will provide chefs – in restaurants and at home – with a high-quality, fresh, functional base to start from. Home cooking will continue increasing, and thus, people striving to create scrumptious, healthy food. However, the meaning of basic ingredients is likely to morph – rather than a tomato, perhaps an heirloom tomato? Rather than a mushroom, an enoki mushroom? (The same is true for California heirloom garlic.)
*Experimentation Nation - Restaurant overpopulation is facilitating a need for differentiation when eating out. The days of playing it safe are gone – consumers appear ready for a new approach, and restaurants are daring to distinguish. Taco trucks, gastropubs, fusion dining and communal tables are among the new faces of dining. In other words, eating out of a truck and sharing food are no longer passé.
*More In Store – The grocery store is revamping its style and selection, catering to an on-the-go lifestyle that is looking for flavorful, healthful “fast food” and fresh options. See delis, takeout sections and the modern-day butcher claim a renaissance, while the consumer brings back daily shopping, seeking fresher products and creativity in their cooking. Stores will likely begin appealing to the older generation, with larger aisles for mobile chairs, and the multi-generational use of social networking – like Twitter – will give stores increased instantaneous exposure. Stores like Whole Foods, HEB Central Markets and Ralph’s have found success in establishing an efficient deli/to-go area, with a plethora of delicious, healthy and convenient options. Watch out McDonald’s and Subway.
*American, The New Ethnic - A more global philosophy is sweeping the American pallet, with a bolstered desire for infusions from Africa, Japan and Asia, in addition to the traditional influences from Mexico, Italy and China. The melting pot that is the U.S. is truly beginning to show in menu options and will continue to do so in 2010. (California heirloom garlic is a popular, versatile ingredient for all cuisines.)
*Food Vetting – People are finally grasping the importance of food, where it comes from, how it was made and what steps it took to get to their plate. Are there pesticides? Were animals treated humanely? Fair labor? Any hormones? Organic? These are questions consumers will be asking, and those who want to meet newfound demands better have answers. (Christopher Ranch keeps its pesticide and fertilizer use below standard levels, abides by fair labor practices, including minimum wage regulation, and farms organically. We love to vet.)
*Mainstreaming Sustainability - Sustainability has been the “it” word for a few years, but, if you’re like me, there’s a good chance you didn’t really grasp the term for at least a year. Well, the idea of reducing waste, enhancing environmentally friendly practices and doing our part to create a better society has taken hold. Businesses are starting to make sustainable changes because it’s the right thing to do – as opposed to marketing advantages – and consumers are looking for sustainability in their dining and shopping decisions. Time to ride the green wave. (Christopher Ranch follows a comprehensive sustainable program throughout all levels of operations – read more here.)
*Food With Benefits - People traditionally like any “free” perks they can get, and their food is no different – especially if it’s a nutritional perk. Food with added nutrients – like probiotic-filled yogurt – or free of anything deemed harmful – such as preservatives and gluten – are on track to be mega hits among consumers. Awareness of food-related health issues has encouraged consumers to seek increased nutritional value from their food. (California heirloom garlic is 100% natural and FREE of any preservatives.)
*I Want My Umami – Umami, what? The flavor sense has been awakened and umami – a savory taste (considered the fifth flavor beyond bitter, sour, sweet and salty) naturally found in meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products – is becoming a fan favorite. As foodies – newly defined as someone who loves the culture of food – become more widespread, they also are becoming more adventurous in their quest for innovative flavors and food combinations. (The bold, sweet, smooth flavor of California heirloom garlic can enhance the flavor of nearly any dish – at least we think so.)
*Will Trade For Food - The days of bartering for goods along the Oregon Trail are upon us. The poor economy and technology spike – making people and products more accessible – have encouraged a barter-exchange system, wherein people are swapping skill and time for food – and the other way around. Companies like BizXchange are even redefining traditional monetary exchange with “trade dollars.” Hmmm….thanks for mowing the lawn – here’s a box of garlic. Not a bad idea.
*I, Me, Mine - We’ve been told we are our own best friends, and the Food Channel’s final trend caters to that concept. The rise of the individual – the personalized cupcake, creating our own wine, making our own breads, etc. – is paving the way for personal gratification. Nothing wrong with a selfish mentality, every now and then – particularly when it comes to eating.

It’s the advent of a new decade, and the culinary world is storming the globe like never before. Stay tuned to see which trends thrive – and how Christopher Ranch meets these concepts. The upcoming year is going to be an interesting, innovative, crazy ride, and we’re looking forward to it.

Happy New Year!

 
 

Flavor Renaissance

2009 was a tough year for the restaurant industry, and many operators responded by going back to the basics: streamlining operations and keeping menus simple. New data from the NPD Group supports this strategy, indicating that one of the most effective ways to boost sales is to renew the emphasis on bold flavors.

This is exciting news for growers because the top flavors diners seek are produce items, and fresh produce happens to be an incredibly cost-effective way for restaurateurs to inject flavor into their dishes. Leading the way is garlic, a perennial favorite cited by 36% of diners as the flavor they’d most like to see more in restaurants. At Christopher Ranch, we supply California grown heirloom garlic year-round to answer this call from our restaurant partners. Also appearing on the list are citrus and berry flavors, at 21% and 17% respectively, an encouraging jump from last year’s report.

Industry leaders project that the demand for fresh, great tasting produce will continue to be the dominant menu trend moving into 2010, and the data from the diners themselves confirms these forecasts. As growers, we embrace our responsibility to provide the freshest, most flavorful, and most nutritious produce available. We encourage our colleagues in the restaurant industry to heed foodservice trends and consumer data and source ingredients that deliver the flavor experience diners seek when they eat out.

 We wish a happy holiday season to all of our friends and customers, and look forward to an exciting year in 2010!

 
 

White House Dinner Showcases Local Produce

 

The Obamas hosted their first official state dinner last night in the White House garden, and fresh vegetables were a key ingredient. The menu was created by First Lady Michelle Obama, White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford, and NY celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson as a tribute to the best of American Cooking.
Some of the highlights included a potato and eggplant salad with arugula and onion seed vinaigrette; roasted potato dumplings with tomato chutney, chickpeas, and okra; and green curry prawns with caramelized salsify, smoked collard greens, and coconut aged basmati rice.
Most of the ingredients were sourced from local farmers and purveyors. The White House garden provided fresh arugula for the salad as well as mint and lemon verbena for garnish. Chefs even used honey from the White House beehive to make some of the desserts.
Nutrition and healthy eating has been a top priority for First Lady Michelle Obama since the family moved into the White House, and one of her first projects was the creation of a vegetable garden on the South Lawn with the help of local school kids. The garden covers 1,100 square feet and features 55 different vegetables used by White House chefs to feed the first family or host official dinners.
Since ground was broken on the “first garden” in March, it has been applauded by proponents of sustainable agriculture by American farmers.
No word yet on whether the garden includes any garlic plantings, but we sure would be glad to run a truck up to Pennsylvania Avenue to deliver fresh, flavorful, and wholesome California-grown garlic!

 
 

Bill Christopher Shares Thoughts About Influx of Chinese Garlic On CBS Evening News

 

Bill Christopher, Christopher Ranch owner, shared his insight on the news show about how cheaper Chinese garlic has disrupted the domestic garlic market.

In recent years, he said, despite a steady supply of fresh, domestic garlic yearround, imported Chinese garlic has come to represent at least 50% of fresh garlic consumed in the U.S. Read more about the conversation in this article – China-U.S. Trade Dispute Key Issue at G-20

The influx of Chinese garlic compromises not only the business of domestic farmers, but the quality of garlic many consumers are receiving, as Chinese garlic has proven inferior in flavor, freshness, safety, health and sustainability to domestic garlic.

For example:

- Chinese garlic can take up to 60 days in an ocean container to reach the U.S., threatening freshness, flavor, safety and the environment.
- Chinese suppliers are not forced to adhere to the strict food safety and quality control standards that U.S. suppliers must comply with, including Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Agricultural Practices and third-party food safety audits.
- Sensory evaluations testing for flavor – conducted by leading Chef Cary Neff – proved that California heirloom garlic maintains its flavor throughout the cooking and serving process, whereas the flavor of Chinese garlic drops dramatically – at times, losing up to 50% of its original flavor.
- California heirloom garlic contains higher levels of essential oils and nutrients (including vitamins, amino acids, proteins and minerals) than Chinese, Mexican and Argentine garlic, according to brix and allicin tests performed by the National Food Laboratory. This translates to more flavorful, healthier garlic.

 
 

Foodservice Community Steps up to Embrace Local Agriculture

In recent months, several notable foodservice operations have launched programs to support community farmers and ranchers by promoting consumption of locally and sustainably produced ingredients. 

 

 

 

Bon Appetit Management Company is hosting its “Eat Local Challenge” on September 29 in locations nationwide.  The event, first held in 2005, encourages chefs to create a meal with ingredients sourced entirely within a 150 mile “food shed.”  Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced a local produce program which specifies that 35 percent of at least one bulk produce item must be sourced from local farmers.  The company hopes to establish partnerships with farms across the country to supply its 800+ locations nationwide.  Loews Hotels has an “Adopt-the- Farmer” program which encourages chefs in its 17 locations to establish relationships with local producers and create menus that feature regional and seasonal ingredients.  Many locations also maintain their own organic gardens with fresh herbs and vegetables that can be harvested as needed.

 

 

 

At Christopher Ranch, we applaud these efforts to explore the origin of our food supply and share the story behind how it is produced.  We’ve been growing the finest quality garlic in California’s fertile farmland for over 50 years, and have faced intense competition over the last decade from imports sourced as far as 3000 miles away. Locally grown garlic is generally fresher, more nutritious, and more flavorful than garlic that travels long distances from the point of origin.  As these talented chefs demonstrate, there is no limit to the variety of menu items that can be created with ingredients grown right in your local community.

 

 

 

Take the “Local Challenge!” Be sure to visit some of these locations to demonstrate your support of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity!

 
 

Obama’s Call For Tariff On Chinese Tires – Domestic Garlic Producers Can Relate

President Obama’s recent decision to impose a tariff on tires imported from China strikes a serious chord with the domestic garlic industry.

While the garlic business might not be as sweeping as the tire industry, domestic garlic growers, such as Christopher Ranch, are facing similar market degradation, due to Chinese suppliers exporting mass quantities of a competitive product at an unmatchable low price.

In recent years, like the tire market, the garlic industry has taken a serious hit from Chinese garlic – business has declined and acreage is down.

California garlic is available to consumers year-round,  yet Chinese garlic still represents more than 50% of the U.S. market.

Higher domestic prices are not motivated by bigger profits, either. Rather, domestic growers are confronted with higher costs to grow quality, safe garlic, including equitable wages to farmers and workers; following an extensive food safety program; sustainable farming practices; cost of land and inputs, etc.

In his move to apply the 35% tariff against Chinese tires, Obama invoked a clause – Section 421 – of trade law, which “allows U.S. industries or unions to seek protection from ’surges’ of Chinese imports, with a lower burden of proof than normal antidumping or countervailing duty cases,” according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

In a letter to the White House, the Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws – consisting of the California Fresh Garlic Producers Association; the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association; the U.S. Beekeepers; the Flower Growers of Puget Sound and the American Furniture Manufacturers Committee for Legal Trade – expressed its support of the tariff, according to a separate Wall Street Journal article.

 
 

Yellow School Buses, The End of Summer, Farm-Fresh Produce...and Trapper Keepers

Fresh Summer VegetablesOh, boy…you can tell summer is nearing its close when you see the yellow school buses, once again, commandeering the streets.

I remember as a kid – or even in college – the buses were a sad reminder that my days of freedom were almost over.

However, in grade school, the advent of the school year was also met with excitement, as it meant a new Trapper Keeper and pair of jellies for the first day of school.
In college, summer’s end meant no longer would I be subjected to my dad in his undies at 2 a.m., reminding me that his house was not a hotel for coming and going whenever I please, and – instead – a welcome return to Ramen Noodles and Natty Light with the friends.

Ahh…now that’s freedom. But that’s an entirely separate story.

In my older age of 26, my reasons for sadness due to summer’s conclusion have changed. I now get a little teary-eyed thinking about the end of an extensive array of farm-fresh produce at my local farmer’s market.

True, I live in California, so our season is longer than most. However, you can’t compete with the swaths of summertime fruits and vegetables available from May through August: tomatoes, zucchini, squash, peaches, nectarines, basil, kale, onions, cucumbers, avocados, berries, okra, eggplant, melons, sweet corn, snap peas, peppers, collard greens, beets and, of course, California heirloom garlic. Hmmmm……

To pay homage to another great summer – and the bounty of fruits and vegetables I’ve grown accustomed to – I’ve compiled a list of scrumptious summer-inspired recipes to utilize in the upcoming weeks. Similar to my youth, I’m going to hang on to summer as long as possible…..

Zucchini Spears With Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Mushrooms, Red Onions & Garlic

Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken Kebabs

Sauteed Beet Greens With Pancetta & Sundried Tomatoes

Basil & Garlic Gnocchi

Fresh Corn Salad

Eggplant Lasagna Tart With Parmesan-Basil Crust

So, like the Trapper Keeper and Natty Light with friends, now, when summer ceases, at least we have two things to look forward to – fall vegetables and college football.

 
 
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