Sunday, March 9, 2014

America's Salad Bowl

The drive from Quartzsite to Yuma is a straight run through the desert. Not even a turn in the road for about 80 miles:
Then suddenly, up ahead, the road bends and goes through a mountain pass and, on the other side, we are greeted by this:
Miles and miles of green with huge expanses of tilled fields between. We knew that Yuma was a farming community but the size of the farms, and everything related to them, was amazing.

So, after we settled in to our RV park, we decided to learn more about farming in the area. At the tourist information bureau I found a flyer advertising a farm tour at the University of California Agricultural Research Farm in El Centro, California, about 50 miles from Yuma.

Becky, Steve and Kay, who were staying in the same park as we were, were also interested so we reserved space and off we went. What a great day we had.

We arrived, checked in and then gathered in a beautiful shaded area to listen to an introduction to the tour and receive our marching orders:
One of the major crops in this area is chick peas - who knew! - and part of the introduction was a demo of how to make hummus. Which is a big favourite in our house:
Hummus and ingredients
We were able to taste a sample of the hummus which was presented in small tasting cups wit a few pita chips:
They also gave us the recipe but I thought the hummus was pretty boring and lacked flavour so here is my recipe instead:

Ingredients
5 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 T olive oil
1 (15 oz. can) garbanzo beans (chick peas) - drained
1/2 C tahini ( or you can use peanut butter)
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. salt
1 T good olive oil

Directions
Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the garlic cloves in a little pile on a sheet of heavy foil. Drizzle with the tablespoon of olive oil, wrap the foil tightly around them and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.

While garlic is roasting combine the remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until very smooth and creamy.

When the garlic is cool enough to handle squeeze it from the peels into the hummus and process until well blended.

Place in a serving bowl and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Serve with pita, crackers or raw veggies.

Back to the farm tour.

After the introduction we were off to a large room where our tour organizer went through a very complete description of how all the different vegetables are grown and harvested. Then back to the gathering area for a salad bowl lunch:
That is Kay beside Arch
And then we all hopped on tractor pulled wagons for a tour of the farm:
Steve, Kay, Becky and Arch
There were 3 wagon loads of people and each wagon had its own tour guide who knew the farm operation well and gave excellent descriptions of everything we saw:
At one point we passed some burrowing owls:
They were very tiny and far away - can you see them peeking out at us? The red "x" mark the spot
At the beginning of the day we each received a large produce bag. And at the end of the wagon tour we stopped at a large veggie garden where we could pick as much as we wanted to fill the bag:
Everyone quickly fanned out through the field to fill heir orange bags. We picked swiss chard, beets, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and cilantro.

And then, to top off the day it was back to the gathering area for ice cream:
Arch's favourite part of the day
So, if you are in the Yuma/El Centro area and the farm tour is available - go - you will have a great time and learn a lot to boot.

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5 comments:

  1. How exciting!! I would LOVE this tour, especially the gathering your own produce. So now I have questions...Was there a cost? They did feed you three times after all. Should I use the university name you gave to get information for a tour? Of course, we won't be there til next winter. I really need to go now!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

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    Replies
    1. The correct name of the tour is The University of California Farm Smart Program Farm tour. It is held at the UC Desert Research and Extension Center in El Centro. The cost was $20 per person and worth every penny. There was coffee available when we arrived, then the hummus tasting, the build-your-own salad lunch and ice cream at the end. Plus all the veggies you could pick and fit into the very large orange bag.

      They run the tours in Jan and Feb each year. For tour dates and more info call 750.791.0261

      And do go next ear - you will love it.

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    2. Thanks so much for all this information. We will most definitely be visiting!

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  2. Hi, Anne! I just had to share that we finally went to the Farm Smart Program today!! I saved your blog post on this event and have been waiting a year to get back to this area. Well, today was the day!! We had so much fun. I can't believe all the produce we got. We filled our two bags to the top. Our cooking demo was Carrot Ginger Soup which we both loved. The Salad for lunch was wonderful. They have changed the ice cream to ice cream sandwiches which they set in one of the color changing mugs. So glad you shared this last year. Hope all is well with you. I haven't heard anything for awhile.

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  3. Hi Pam
    Great to hear from you and I am so happy that you enjoyed the farm tour. It was one of our favourite experiences of our trip.

    We are in Florida this year. At The Glades RV and Golf Resort. Enjoying time in one spot, playing golf and making new friends. We had a great time traveling around North America but found it exhausting. The blog has fallen by the way because I got a tablet computer and cannot figure out how to work with pictures and the blog editing system­čśú

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