Saddest Citrus Post of the Year

Sorry to end the year with a sad post....but it'll make the first New Year even happier.

What's up? Got any lemons?

While we were away in England in November, the temperatures really dropped.  Apparently it went lower than 19 F which is very unusual for Northern California. We've not seen it anywhere close to that in our 10 years here.

Sadly, it destroyed our citrus.  We are worried that it may have done more than just ruin our enormous crop of citrus, as some of the trees themselves look dead too. I guess time will tell.

Dead lemons from just one tree, below

Sometimes we have had frost damage to the fruit, but this year, it was more than frost - it was the cold temperature generally.

We stripped the trees of ruined fruit as we couldn't stand looking at them - and threw away 2 wheelbarrows full :-(
Frozen lemons and limes

Lemons, limes and some oranges.  It seems the mandarinquat and grapefruit are tougher than the rest!

Limes and its frozen tree

We've also had burst pipes - including the fire sprinkler system and the lovely faucet on our outdoor bathtub.   But maybe its worth it to show you these wonderful photos of Max in the bathtub last year!  We'll have to get the faucet repaired before he comes back!

What's that I see?

Lets hope 2014 is a gentler citrus year!

But never fear.  Even though we had a sad day collecting ruined fruit, Everything is Tickety-boo in the citrus front as my friend bought me an Australian Finger Lime tree so I can have citrus caviar!  Luckily I got it after the cold and so it is still indoors, and well protected!  Thanks K for my lovely gift. Can't wait to have my caviar!


Tastiest food of the week - Frozen grapes

I'm starting a new weekly blog post - "tastiest food of the week", where I'll share with you the yummiest food I've eaten each week.  Maybe it'll encourage you to give it a try.

I can see that some weeks  - like this first one - are going to be difficult to pare it down to only one item....but this week's winner is FROZEN GRAPES.

Frozen Godello grapes
From the last few weeks of blog posts, you've probably already gathered that we have a vineyard and grow grapes for wine making.  We sell the grapes, but of course, at this time of year, don't ever really have a shortage for ourselves.

We grow some eating grapes/table grapes on our arbor which for the past few years, I've dehydrated most of to make raisins/sultanas.  But after last week's harvest, we had a big bucket of Godello grapes and some bunches of Merlot grapes. You can't eat them all fresh, so I froze them.  Have you ever had frozen grapes? If not - freeze some now!  Nothing to do - just wash them, let them dry and then pop them in the freezer. You can take them off the stalk if you want, but it's not necessary. They'll freeze in a couple of hours.

Frozen wine grapes
Then pop them in your mouth and you will do a happy dance! The outer layer - the skin, breaks away in your mouth first and then the cool flavors of the grape dissolve and excite your taste buds.  You get all the flavors of the grapes/wine coming through.  Using wine grapes is amazing as you really get all the complexity of wine in a frozen little bubble of fruit.

Our wine grapes have pips in them, but I still like them frozen and don't notice the pips, probably because you just swallow the melting delight before the pips have separated from the flesh.

Frozen Merlot grapes

And because it takes some time to eat them, allowing them to melt in your mouth and fully enjoy the flavors, I find a don't eat too many.

Try them one night when you are watching a movie - a great alternative to chocolate or ice cream or popcorn.  Or take them to party or picnic or..... But watch when it comes to sharing them, as you want to keep plenty for yourself for the rest of the year until next grape harvest!!!

Cold Hands - More exercise

A recent study from Stanford University's School of Medicine looked at exercise and heat stress in obese women.  Fat is a great insulator and for people who are obese, when they exercise, they often get too hot. This can put them off exercising, and lead them to abandon the exercise program due to overheating, fatigue and feeling uncomfortable.

Photo by dfinnecy
The study looked at 24 healthy women, aged between 30 and 45 who had not exercised long-term in the past.  They were obese with a BMI of between 30 and 35.  The women were assigned to one of two groups: one group (the test group) held a cooling device in their palms during exercise which had cold water in it and the other group (the control group) held a "dummy" cooling device with body temperature water in it.

Both groups participated in 3 exercise sessions of 35-55 minutes a week for 12 weeks holding the device. On the first and last day, all women did a timed 1.5 mile walk on a treadmill.

The group holding the cooling device with cold water in reduced their 1.5 mile treadmill test time by more than 5 minutes, averaging 31.6 minutes on day 1 and 24.6 minutes at the end of the study.  This group also lost more than 2 inches off their waist by the end of the study and their blood pressure was reduced from 139/84 to 124/70.

In contrast the  control group who had a dummy cooling device with body temperature water in it, didn't show any substantial differences in any of their measurements.  In fact, the controls tended to drop out early and skipped a lot of sessions.

By reducing heat stress, fatigue, sweating and discomfort were all reduced, which are frequently barriers that make want people want to stop exercising.

An easy way to utilize this effect is to carry a bottle of frozen water with you as you walk or exercise.  As the water melts, you can drink the water, but at the same time, it keeps your palms cool and can improve the comfort feeling of exercise, and make you keep with the program longer.  Further studies are needed to explore this effect further - including how this impacts people in colder weather...but it seems like a good place to start to make your workout more comfortable and help you stick with the program.

So as the weather is getting hotter, don't let that put you off your exercise program - just grab a bottle of iced water and see how it keeps you going.