Archive for the ‘What’s Fresh’ Category

5 Farmer Proven Secrets to Help Your Backyard Citrus Tree Thrive through Winter

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Winter means colder nights and drier days for your backyard citrus tree.  Uncle Matt’s Production Manager, Benny McLean, offers the inside scoop on how to ensure your backyard tree not only survives, but thrives, during the colder winter months.

Plant Your Tree in a Smart Location. If you’re about to plant a citrus tree in your backyard, it actually matters where. If at all possible, plant your tree on the southeast corner of your home. Here’s why: the killer freezes of recent decades came into Florida with a strong northwesterly wind. If your tree is planted near your house’s southeast corner, your home acts as a shield to block a direct hit from damaging winds. It’s important to know that citrus trees exposed to temperatures 28 degrees or below for 4 or more hours will result in fruit damage, while trees exposed to temperatures of 24 degrees or below for 4 or more hours are vulnerable to wood damage which harms the tree itself.

Protect Your Tree during a Hard Freeze. What if your tree is already planted elsewhere in your yard and vulnerable to the elements? If it’s three to five years old, you may be able to use this DIY hack involving a trash bag, a light bulb and an extension cord. Depending on the size of your tree, you can visit www.uline.com or your local hardware store to purchase extra large trash bags up to 96 gallons.  When the threat of a hard freeze approaches, slide the trash bag over the tree, seal it around the base and put a 100-watt lightbulb inside. Keep the lightbulb turned on overnight. The heat generated by the lightbulb generates enough heat to protect the tree from plummeting temperatures, while the trash bag traps the heat inside.

Nourish Your Tree the Organic Way. For the best in tree nutrition during the winter, Benny recommends a one-two punch of compost and organic brown sugar. According to Benny, January is the best month to apply a 50-lb bag of Black Kow compost available at Lowe’s or Home Depot.  Apply an entire 50-lb bag of compost under each citrus tree in your yard. Spread it out from the trunk to the edge of the tree, forming a circle of compost under the tree.  Next, take two cups of certified organic brown sugar (yes, has to be organic and brown!) and sprinkle it on top of the Black Kow compost and then water the mixture. The organic brown sugar acts as a food source for the beneficial microbes (aka bacteria) in your soil to break down the compost and release the nutrients in the compost, which in turn feeds the tree. This program is an effective way to help the tree fight citrus greening disease (link this) and pests while producing delicious, nutrient-dense fruit.

Don’t Over-Irrigate. Believe it or not, you don’t want to overwater your backyard citrus tree through winter. The tree needs to “stay asleep,” or stay in dormancy. According to Benny, watering more than once a week for an hour would cause the tree to “wake up” and flush, leaving it susceptible to new growth damage should an unexpected freeze occur.

Choose the Right Citrus Varieties. If you want your citrus tree to thrive, choose a variety that grows well in backyard soil. Depending on when you want to harvest your fruit, Benny’s recommendations include:

  • Sugarbells, available around Thanksgiving
  • Navel oranges, available around Christmas
  • Red Grapefruit, available around mid-January
  • Valencias (a great juicing orange), available around Easter

Uncle Matt’s vs. Starbucks: When It Comes to Your Smart Sip of the Morning, There’s No Comparison

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Uncle Matt's Orange Juice vs Starbucks

 

Before you sip that next breakfast drink, know this: not all sugars are created equal. In fact, when it comes to making the healthy choice between a tall Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino and an 8-ounce glass of Uncle Matt’s Organic Orange Juice, the nutrition facts are stacked heavily in OJ’s favor. Here’s why:

Uncle Matt’s Organic orange juice contains no added sugars. That’s right, the only sugar you’ll find in Uncle Matt’s OJ is the kind Mother Nature created from the fruit.  Besides that, orange juice provides many key nutrients we need every day, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, folate, thiamin, magnesium, vitamin B6, carotenoids, phytonutrients and flavonoids, and OJ is fat free.

In comparison, one tall Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino contains 46 grams of sugar ––– and not the naturally-occurring kind that’s made by photosynthesis. Plus, when you drizzle the caramel on top? Hello high fructose corn syrup!  By the way, HFCS has been linked to increasing weight gain, hypertension and bad cholesterol levels. (Triple yuck!) And when you go ahead and add a dollop of whip? Even more calories from fat and sugar!

Both granulated sugar and high fructose corn syrup go through a refining process that strips the sugar of any nutritional value it might have once had rendering the calories “empty.” In addition, processed sugar can lower immunity, become addicting and rob your body of energy and health. Considering the  frappuccino’s refined sugar overload along with a whopping 270 calories, it’s easy to see why nature-made orange juice is your smart sip of the morning.

8 Healthy Holiday Tips to Keep Your Waistline Trim this Season

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

It’s here… The most wonderful time of the year. That time when we gather to celebrate the holidays, surrounded not only by family and friends, but also tempting culinary indulgences ––– from office party to cozy gathering.  Our 8 tips for a healthy holiday provide good (and healthy!) tidings to help you navigate the enticing foodscape of your Yuletide plate ––– and keep off those pesky pounds through New Year’s Day… and beyond.

1. Eat a protein-packed breakfast. Hint: Don’t skip it!

While you may be inclined to skip this important tip altogether, studies show that eating breakfast helps with calorie overload later in the day. What’s more, adding lean protein to your breakfast blunts hunger the most and is satiating. So, plan for some hard-boiled eggs early in the morning or even protein filled yogurt, and chances are, you won’t be reaching for that calorie-laden pumpkin spiced latte and accompanying Christmas cookie later!

2. Choose fiber filling veggies.

Low in calories and high in nutrient density, organic veggies, especially raw ones, are always a smart choice. Besides their high antioxidant benefits, vegetables are also a good source of fiber, which will keep your digestive system running smooth through the holidays.

3.  Bring your own delicious healthy dish to holiday parties

Not sure if you should cave into those pigs-in-a-blanket or buffalo chicken wings? Bring your own delicious healthy option with you! With so many innovative recipes out there, it’s not hard to wow your party host with a homemade appetizer that’s festive healthy, and scrumptious. Check out two of our favorites: homemade avocado hummus with crudité vegetables and curry grilled zucchini rollups with roasted peppers and goat cheese. 

4.  Substitute honey for sugar when baking

When you substitute honey for sugar in baking recipes, you’re not only doing something good for your waistline, but for the environment as well by supporting endangered bee colonies and pollinators.  Use these quick guidelines for making a successful honey-for-sugar swap:

  • For every 1 cup of sugar, substitute 1/2 to 2/3 cup honey.
  • For every 1 cup of honey you’re using, subtract 1/4 cup of other liquids from the recipe.
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda for every 1 cup honey used.
  • Reduce the temperature of the oven by 25°F.

5.   Cut salt intake by using fresh herbs and spices

With salt hidden in all kinds of holiday foods, it’s no wonder that too-full feeling happens too often during the season.  Fluid retention (aka feeling bloated) is a side effect of high salt intake.  Cut the bloat, lower your blood pressure and boost the flavor by substituting fresh herbs and spices in your special recipes.

For seasoning your next holiday roast sans salt, check out Dr. Oz’s No-Salt Spice Mix and substitute with all organic and fresh ingredients, like fresh oregano, thyme and parsley.  Your taste buds will thank you.

6.    Drink lemon water

Drinking lemon water a few times a day around the holidays has several health benefits.  It’s detoxifying and hydrating –– both needed if you’re drinking alcohol more than usual.  Try Uncle Matt’s Organic Probiotic Lemon Water to help you crowd out the unwanted and unnecessary calories that come from alcohol-infused drinks. At 0 calories, it’s also perfect for rehydrating and restoring your water balance if you do have a few cocktails too many.

7.    Choose sustainably grown and farmed meats sourced from organic farmers

Besides containing health-promoting fats like omega-3 fatty acids, organic meats and poultry ensure that you are not buying meat or poultry that has been affected by artificial growth hormones or that comes from animals that have been raised on GMO feed treated with pesticides.  And let’s not forget about the overuse of antibiotics on healthy livestock and poultry, which is leading to a widespread problem of antibiotic resistance. Choose a roast or turkey labeled with the USDA organic seal and you won’t be buying a roast or turkey that’s been unnecessarily treated with antibiotics.

8.    Sign up for a family 5k around the holidays

Family time, exercise, and burning all those extra calories go hand-in-hand with this healthy tip. Choose your favorite charity benefit 5k and it’s a recipe for health — body and soul!

Got a gut feeling that you should be taking probiotics? You’re right.

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

10 Reasons Why Probiotics Should Be in Your Diet

Probiotics. Gut bacteria. Gut flora. Microbiome. These are all buzz words circulating about in the media, in magazines and on social channels. But what do they all mean? Are probiotics good for you? If so, why?

If the thought of ingesting bacteria turns you off, you’re not alone. In a world of good bacteria and bad bacteria, probiotics are the good guys. The superheroes. The health ninjas. Probiotics are a live culture of beneficial bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms in the intestines.  They help out most in our digestive system and GI tract where large amounts are found in the intestine and colon. And while they are created naturally by our bodies, they can also be found in certain foods and supplements.  In fact, probiotics have a myriad of health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.

That’s why Uncle Matt’s decided to add GanedenBC30®, a proven, patented probiotic of “good bacteria” strain, Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086, into our Organic Orange Turmeric and Reduced-Calorie Organic Orange-Coconut juices.  We also included GanedenBC30 in our new Fruit Infused Probiotic Waters. Just one 8 oz. serving delivers a powerful probiotic punch of 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units). When consumed daily, our probiotics help  increase protein and amino acid absorption and support digestive and immune health that can become compromised by many factors including travel, poor diet and lack of sleep. These conditions can decrease the levels of good bacteria found in the gut –– where over 70% of your immune cells reside. What’s more, roughly 95% of your serotonin (the feel good or ‘happy’ hormone) is stored in your gut as well.

Besides supporting digestive health, probiotics are a powerhouse of other health benefits. Check out the top 10 reasons we think a probiotic prescription is a must for anyone:

#1 RENEW THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Healthy bacteria help increase the function and effectiveness of our immune system.  One study showed a 50% increase in immune function after two weeks of probiotic supplementation (British Journal of Nutrition).

#2   REDUCE CHOLESTEROL LEVELS

By as much as 33% when taken orally! (World Health Organization)

#3 REPLENISH A HEALTHY GUT

Beneficial bacteria reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel.  Probiotics help ensure this delicate balance is maintained.

#4 RESTORE DIGESTIVE HEALTH

Probiotics have been shown to help ease the symptoms of IBS, abdominal pain, cramps, bloating and more.

 #5 RECHARGE POSITIVE EMOTIONS

Two particular strains of probiotics –– lactobacillus helveticus and bifidobacterium –– improved “levels of psychological distress, including measures of depression, anger, anxiety, and problem-solving.” (British Journal of Nutrition, March 2011).

#6 RESIST INFECTION

Following 12 weeks of lactobacillus rhomnosus probiotic supplementation, a 34% reduction in upper respiratory infections was reported (British Journal of Nutrition)

#7 RESURFACE YOUR SKIN

Recent research confirms that gut health and skin health are closely related. An anti-inflammatory balance in the gut will help fight the severity of skin-related issues, like acne and rosacea.

#8 RETRACT ANTIBIOTIC-RELATED DIARRHEA

Can’t get around being on an antibiotic? At least now you can minimize its side effects as probiotics reduced antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 64%. (Cachrone Databases of Systematic Reviews, 2013).

#9 RECYCLE YOUR HORMONES

Beneficial flora metabolize and recycle hormones, including estrogen, thyroid hormones, and phytoestrogens from food sources, which can help offset symptoms of menopause, PMS and perimenopause.  In this way, they help maintain proper hormonal balance, and may protect bone and breast health as well (Source: womentowomen.com, Marcelle Pick, Ob/Gyn.)

 #10 REINFORCE/REALIGN VAGINAL BALANCE

Supplementing probiotics helps protect against a number of vaginal infections in females. Friendly bacteria (especially of the Lactobacillus genus) produce natural disinfectants that help maintain an optimal pH and a healthy balance of beneficial microorganisms in the vagina by excluding harmful bacteria and other pathogens. (lifeextension.com)

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Feed Your Family Organic

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

1.    More Nutritious
 
In an organic farm plan, the soil is managed by sustainable practices that nourish the soil, which in turn, results in more nutrient-dense crops. Multiple studies show the nutritional content in organically-grown fruits, vegetables, and grains is higher versus their conventionally-grown counterparts. And when it comes to dairy, did you know organic milk can contain about 2x the levels of heart-healthy Omega-3 fats compared to conventional milk?

2.    Supports the Farmer and the Farm
 
According to The Organic Center, about 25,800 square miles of degraded soils would be converted to rich, highly productive crop land if consumers were choosing at least one organic product out of every 10 food items purchased.  Every year, American tax dollars subsidize billions of dollars for a farm bill that heavily favors conventional agribusiness. By supporting organic farmers and their farms, you are making an investment in the farmers who care about our ecosystem and the sustainability of the soil for future generations.

3.    USDA Certification
 
Consider it a “Peace of Mind” seal of approval. Wherever you find the “USDA Organic” seal, you know that food was grown and raised by farmers who never use synthetic pesticides, GMOs, growth hormones or antibiotics.  The USDA Organic seal also guarantees no artificial colors or flavors, no artificial preservatives, no irradiated ingredients and no GMOs.  Further, to obtain the seal, organic farms have to be free from prohibited substances for at least 3 years and must pass yearly inspections.

4.    No GMOs
 
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are prohibited in organic production.  Besides concerns over forever contaminating our food supply’s gene pool and the now documented negative long-term effects on human and environmental health, GMOs have dramatically increased herbicide use.  Most GM crops are engineered to be “herbicide tolerant,” which means they’re designed to survive applications of Roundup herbicide. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, between 1996 and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicide on GMOs. GM foods contain higher residues of toxic herbicides and consuming residual traces of herbicide are linked with infertility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer.
 
5.    No Antibiotics or Hormones
 
Antibiotics, drugs and growth hormones are directly passed into meat and dairy products. According to Prevention Magazine, roughly 70% of antibiotics produced in the U.S. are fed to animals for nontherapeutic reasons, while sex and growth hormones are injected into cattle to artificially increase the amount of meat and milk the cattle produce without requiring extra feed. These practices are strictly prohibited in organic farming, thus eliminating the negative  potential health consequences.

6.    Reduces Pollution and Saves Energy
 
Did you know that 2.9 billion barrels of imported oil would be eliminated each year if 1 in 10 purchased food products were organic? What’s more, organic farms have 30% less greenhouse gas emissions than their conventional couterparts! That’s some serious energy saved. There are also residual effects of synthetic agricultural chemicals contaminating our land and infiltrating our water supplies remain unanswered.  Sadly, an estimated 1% of applied pesticides reach the target pests, while the remaining 99% is absorbed by the surrounding environment, according to Cornell entomologist David Pimentel.  Conversely, organic farming practices require the responsible management of the soil while encouraging biodiversity.

7.    No Biosolids
 
Sewage sludge, also referred to as biosolids, are not permitted in certified organic foods. Biosolids contain heavy metals, toxins, steroids, and questionable substances that can pose a threat to your health. Possible health risks from substances in biosolids include kidney damage, adverse effects to the immune system, hormone disruption, and even cancer. (Source: Mamavation)

8.    Tastes Better
 
If you think organic tastes better, there’s actually scientific data to back up your taste buds. According to Richard C. Theuer, Ph.D, the more intense flavors in organic fruits and vegetables probably stem form two factors: somewhat higher levels of antioxidants, and somewhat lower crop yields.  Yield levels, and the availability of nitrogen to crops, can affect both nutritional and taste quality.  Organic food is harvested when it’s ripe, rather than gassed with ethylene to quickly ripen it, allowing for natural flavor development.

9.    No Persistent Pesticides
 
Organic farmers don’t uses persistent pesticides such as glyphosate and organophosphate pesticides. The negative effects of residual glyphosate traces found in GM foods has been linked to cancer, autism, allergies and a host of other health-related problems.  In lieu of these synthetic chemicals, organic farmers use natural methods to keep pests off of their crops. Some methods organic farmers employ are sophisticated crop rotation to disrupt the pest’s environment, introducing soil organisms and insects that benefit the crops, and traps or barriers.  
10. Preserves the Environment and Ecosystems
 
Organic farming is about farming in harmony with nature.  Organic farming encourages the coexistence of beneficial insects, wildlife, frogs, birds and soil organisms within its farm plans.   The cultivation of healthy soil and crop rotation keep farmland healthy, while chemical abstinence preserves the ecosystem.
 
 
 

7 Health Benefits of Drinking Organic Orange Juice

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

You grew up drinking orange juice every morning at breakfast, but did you ever ask why? What’s so special about orange juice that makes it a staple around the world?

There are so many health benefits to drinking organic orange juice that no one could possibly name all of them. With high concentrations of vitamin C and other nutrients that are not only healthful but necessary, the orange is a super-fruit that most of us take for granted. Even if you aren’t a fan of peeling and eating sticky, juicy oranges, you can still get many of the same benefits out of a glass for breakfast each morning. If you need an extra push to start putting a jug of orange juice in your cart as you pass by the organic section on your next grocery run, check out these seven reasons to not let another day go by without adding orange juice to your diet.

1. Healing Phytonutrients: Oranges have particularly high levels of certain phytonutrients that are thought to be helpful for reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure and balancing cholesterol! Adding a glass of organic orange juice per day to your diet can provide enough of these phytonutrients to contribute to an improvement in your overall health.

2. Daily Value of Vitamin C: We all know that we can’t function well without at least some vitamin C in our diets. It does everything from promoting strong and healthy bones and clear skin to strengthening your immune system to fight off infections and viruses. You could always take a supplement, but why do that when a delicious glass of organic orange juice provides more nutrients than vitamin C supplements with added health benefits?

3. Consuming Citrus Lowers Risk of Certain Diseases: Oranges contain many of the elements that are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cardiac arrhythmias, and some studies have even shown a slight reduction in the occurrence of many types of mouth, throat, esophageal, stomach and liver cancers in people who have a lot of citrus fruits in their diets.

4. Lower Cholesterol: Certain compounds in oranges are being studied as possible means to lower cholesterol. These compounds may interact in such a way with the body that they reduce its ability to produce LDL cholesterol. Lowered cholesterol then translates into a reduced risk for many types of health issues from heart disease to stroke.

5. Prevents Ulcers: Some studies have shown that people with a higher blood level of vitamin C are at less of a risk of developing peptic ulcers—a condition which can lead to stomach cancer. How do you get your vitamin C levels up? Orange juice, of course!

6. Prevents Kidney Stones: If you want to reduce your risk of developing calcium oxalate kidney stones, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that simply drinking a couple of glasses of orange juice or other citrus juice per day increases your citric acid excretion preventing kidney stones from forming.

7. Healthy Carbohydrates: For diabetics or those who are watching carb intake, you’ll be happy to know that you can still drink orange juice! Like any food, it’s important to be aware of how much you are drinking, but orange juice only has a glycemic index of 40. This means that, since it is under 55, you can drink orange juice in limited quantities to benefit from all of its nutrients—and great flavor—without having it spike your blood sugar or cause problems with weight gain.

Are you convinced? Whether you are simply looking for a healthy, nutritious alternative to a 500 calorie morning latte, or you are looking for natural ways to help reduce your risk of certain health problems, organic orange juice may be just what you need to add to your daily diet.

Kayla Matthews is a healthy living blogger with a passion for organic and natural foods. You can read all of her latest articles by following her on Google+ and Twitter.

Eco-Friendly Easter Celebration

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Eco-Friendly Easter1. Locally sourced eggs
If you choose to celebrate with real eggs, support your local farmer and buy eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Or buy organic eggs. Eggs from pasture-raised hens or organic fed hens are healthier for you, containing more vitamin A, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids, according a report conducted by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

2. Alternatives to Easter eggs
There are many alternatives to using real eggs for Easter celebrations; for instance, the White House traditionally uses decorated wooden eggs for its annual Easter Egg Roll. There are also plastic Easter eggs that are compostable, and ceramic Easter eggs that are dyeable!

3. Blown eggs
Blown eggs are another reusable dyeable option. Blown eggs are made of real eggs whose yolks and whites have been removed. Here is a tutorial. The leftover yolks and whites can then be used for baking, scrambled eggs, or other cooking projects.

4. Homemade egg decorating
There are many methods to make homemade egg dyes, using vinegar and spices, fruits, and vegetables. Check out these instructions from Real Simple Magazine!

5. Prevent food waste
If you hard boil fresh eggs before you dye them, the prospect of eating all of those hard boiled eggs may be daunting, but throwing them out is wasteful. Turn the eggs into a delicious dish: here are some great ideas!

6. Avoid plastic Easter grass
Cellophane Easter grass, often found in Easter baskets, cannot go into the recycling bin. If you already have Easter grass, reuse it. If you were going to buy some for Easter baskets, try replacing it with shredded newspaper or tissue paper.

7. Give children stuffed toys instead of live Easter bunnies and chicks
Dyed Easter chicks are a perennially controversial topic: chicks are dyed while in the egg or sprayed shortly after hatching. The food coloring used to dye the chicks is non-toxic, but the real concern is what happens to the chicks after the dye wears off. Chicks are sold as seasonally-themed pets, most of whom are discarded or neglected after they molt and lose their artificially colored feathers.

Rabbits are also common Easter gifts: just as with chickens, rabbits are often neglected, surrendered to animal rescues, or released into the wild when the novelty wears off. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends giving children stuffed or chocolate bunnies instead of live animals, as rabbits can live seven to ten years on average and are a serious commitment.

8. Make a locally sourced Easter meal
If it’s your tradition to have an Easter meal, why not try to make as many of the dishes as you can from local food? Check Local Harvest for your nearest farmer or farmers market.

9. Visit a local farm
Take the time to bring your family to a nearby farm. Children and adults will get an up-close look at how their food gets from the farm to home. Be sure to contact the farmers ahead of time! Here’s another link to Local Harvest with helpful things to remember before your visit.

10. Instead of an Easter basket, Easter plants
Check your local nursery for seeds or seedlings and give friends and loved ones a reusable Easter gift: a homemade herb garden.

11. Give a donation to Heifer International
If giving plants is not your style, consider making a donation to Heifer International or a similar non-profit to fight poverty while providing an animal to a family in a developing nation.

12. Minimize packaging with candy and treats
Choose Easter treats with less packaging to cut down on the amount of waste generated by the holiday festivities.

13. Reuse your existing plastic eggs
If you still have a treasure trove of plastic eggs at home, there are plenty of ideas online for upcycling. From tea candle holders to a set of toy teacups to sophisticated Easter decorations, there are many great tutorials online.

Source: Huffington Post

Going green for Earth Day

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Going-Green-Earth

 

Earth Day comes just once a year, but it’s a good time to think about the eco-friendly changes you can make all the time. Check out these easy ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and do your part to help the environment.

1. Carry a water bottle.

About 38 billion plastic water bottles crowd landfills each year, according to environmental research group Pacific Institute. And by carrying your own reusable water bottle, you’ll not only be helping the environment — you’ll be saving money, too. In total, Americans spend $15 billion on bottled water every year.

2. Reduce your paper use.

Go paperless with your bills and accounts by managing your life online. You can make this even easier by signing up for Manilla.com, the leading, free and secure service that lets you manage and share all of your bills and accounts in one place online or via the top-rated iOS and Android mobile apps. Manilla provides unlimited online document storage forever, for free, which means you can view, download or print your documents whenever you need them.

3. Use grocery totes.

Save plastic and paper by using your own reusable grocery tote bags. They usually cost a dollar or less and are a fantastic eco-friendly alternative.

4. Opt for a reusable coffee mug. 

Help save the planet (and your money) by using your own reusable coffee mug for your morning Joe. Most coffee shops offer discounts when you bring your own mug — you just fill it up there and you’re on your way.

5. Eat local foods.

Eating locally produced foods, like fruits and vegetables, improves your health and helps the fight against global warming. Do some research online to find farmer’s markets in your area.

6. Take public transit.

Experts estimate that the more than 130 million cars in the United States produce an ecological footprint that’s larger than the size of Texas. Reducing how much you drive can help reduce it. If you live in a city that offers a convenient and reliable public transportation system, use it!

7. Recycle.

Recycling saves energy, reduces pollution, conserves natural resources and has numerous economical benefits.

Source: HuffingtonPost.com

Citrus growers use predator wasp to fight disease threat

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

California citrus farmers import a parasitic wasp from Pakistan to battle citrus greening, a disease threatening their groves.

1451159_0619-predator_wasp_05_DPB

By Ricardo Lopez (View original article here.)

Pesticides haven’t worked. Quarantines have been useless. Now California citrus farmers have hired an assassin to knock off the intruder threatening their orchards.

The killer-for-hire is Tamarixia radiata, a tiny parasitic wasp imported from Pakistan.

Its mission: Rub out the Asian citrus psyllid, which has helped spread a disease that turns citrus fruit lumpy and bitter before destroying the trees.

The pest is wreaking havoc in Florida’s 32 citrus-growing counties. In California, it’s been detected in nine counties, most of them south of the commercial growing areas in the Central Valley. Farmers are hoping the Tamarixia wasp can help keep it that way.

The wasp, which flew coach in a carry-on bag from Pakistan’s Punjab region, is a parasite half the size of a chocolate sprinkle. But it kills psyllids like a horror movie monster, drinking their blood like a vampire. The female wasp can lay an egg in the psyllid’s belly. When it hatches, it devours its host.

The wasp “is going to be our number one weapon to control to Asian citrus pysllid,” said Mark Hoddle, an invasive species expert at UC Riverside, who, over several trips, brought legions of wasps to California.

“We have no other choice except to use this natural enemy or do nothing. And the ‘do nothing’ option is unacceptable.”

A tiny parasitic wasp imported from Pakistan is used to attack nymphs of Asian citrus psyllids.

So far, Hoddle and his teams have released more than 75,000 wasps across the Southland to beat back the disease, known as huanglongbing or citrus greening. The malady was first detected in California last November in a backyard citrus tree in Hacienda Heights.

The disease can lie dormant for a few years before tests are able to detect it, so experts suspect other trees are already infected.

“We’re looking for a needle in the haystack before it sticks us,” said Joel Nelsen, president of the California Citrus Mutual, a trade group.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has enacted quarantines in nine states, including Florida, Texas and California. The quarantines prohibit interstate movement of citrus trees and require labeling of citrus nursery stocks from areas where greening has been detected.

In California, the quarantine covers nine counties. The northern border of the quarantine region had stretched across Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, but on Wednesday, agriculture officials expanded it to 178 square miles in Tulare County where the psyllid was detected.

That recent discovery raises the fear that the pest is creeping into prime citrus growing areas. It could threaten California’s $2-billion industry, which accounts for about 80% of the U.S. fresh market citrus production. Florida’s citrus is primarily processed for juice.

Since 2010, California growers have spent about $15 million yearly to fight the psyllid. Much of that money goes toward massive detection and awareness efforts. That’s on top of millions the federal government and state Department of Food and Agriculture have kicked in.

The psyllids don’t kill citrus trees. They’re merely the agent that spreads huanglongbing. An infected psyllid acts much like a dirty syringe flying from tree to tree, feeding and depositing a bacterium each time it unfurls its stinger.

Source: State Dept. of Food and Agriculture, ESRI

Whether the killer wasp can bring the psyllid to heel remains to be seen.

Florida growers imported a strain of the wasp from Vietnam, but it proved ineffective. The predator never took hold, partly because there was not enough genetic diversity needed to establish a population, researchers said. Some Florida growers now are looking to develop genetically modified citrus that would be immune to greening — a controversial strategy that could turn off consumers.

In California, farmers are betting on the wasp — and on Hoddle and his wife, Christina. The UC Riverside entomology experts have spent their careers helping control invasive species around the world.

Since late 2011, they have been releasing the wasp, mainly in Los Angeles County. Agriculture officials halted pesticide spraying in the county this year, partly because it proved too cumbersome. Six out of 10 citrus trees in the county grow in backyards, making large-scale containment efforts difficult.

“This is ground zero for our war,” Hoddle said.

The goal is to reduce the psyllid population and provide a line of defense between urban areas in Southern California and the commercial growing zones.

The Hoddles and teams they’ve trained have been going neighborhood to neighborhood releasing thousands of wasps and tracking the parasites’ success.

The Hoddles conducted extensive testing to make sure the wasp wouldn’t disrupt California’s ecosystem, considering that past efforts at introducing non-native species have gone awry.

Tiny predatory wasps just before release on a citrus tree in Pico Rivera.

To satisfy the federal government’s concerns, the Hoddles quarantined the wasp for 18 months and performed several experiments to see whether it would attack native species. Time after time, the wasp attacked only the Asian citrus psyllid. After the researchers submitted a 60-page report to the Department of Agriculture, the release program was green lighted. The wasp poses no danger to humans or pets, Hoddle said.

On a recent weekday, the Hoddles drove to Pico Rivera. It was their third trip to the area, where most of the homes have unfenced front yards, providing easy access.

The back of their Toyota SUV contained their tools: a cooler with vials of wasps, a clipboard with log sheets and equipment to inspect citrus trees.

At each tree on their route, the procedure was the same: For one full minute, they circled the tree, counting the psyllids and looking for evidence that the wasp was preying on them. The psyllid, about the size of an aphid, is easy to spot.

The first few trees were unremarkable, and the Hoddles wondered whether the wasps had survived the winter.

Still, “It’s good. We’re finding clean citrus,” Hoddle said before walking another yard.

It’s still too early to say the wasp releases are working, Christina Hoddle said. To confidently conclude that the wasp is slashing the psyllid’s numbers, at least three years of data are needed.

While the team is only about 18 months into the effort, some areas have shown promise. At some release sites, the psyllid population has been drastically cut.

At one of the last homes they visited, the Hoddles saw just how densely the psyllids can congregate. After getting permission to enter a fenced yard, they were dismayed to see one small, shrubby tree crawling with psyllids.

The pest had blanketed some of the branches in a sugary wax, an excrement of young psyllids.

The tree would need more aggressive treatment. Instead of one vial of wasps, Mark Hoddle reached for two.

Entomologist Christina Hoddle releases a vial of predatory wasps in a citrus tree.

He carefully opened the first one, placing a small tree branch directly inside the vial’s opening.

The wasps wasted no time. “They’re all over these guys!” he said. “They’re going to town.”

After a few minutes, he tied the vial to the tree with a wire. The last wasps would wander out on their own later.

As their work wrapped up for the day, the Hoddles headed back to their car.

They would be visiting another neighborhood the next day. The battle would be a long slog, with no certain outcome.

“California has been preparing for this day,” Mark Hoddle said. “It’ll be hard to fault the citrus industry. I think they’ve done everything possible.”

Uncle Matt’s note: Since 2008 our farm program has included utilizing wasps to combat and control the psyllid population. View the video below and learn from Benny McLean, Production Manager, how this practice helps groves stay healthy.

Hello again, avocados!

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Summertime means lazy afternoons, sunshine, swimming and the start of Florida organic avocado season at Uncle Matt’s Organic. While avocados are also grown in California and Hawaii, the first Florida avocado crops were planted in the antebellum era of the 1830s by horticulturist Henry Perrine. Avocados didn’t become a commercial crop until the early 1900s. In the 1950s, after gaining popularity as a salad item, demand for the fruit grew. Yes, fruit. Widely considered a vegetable, the avocado is actually a fruit that has become a favorite of foodies everywhere!

Did you know that there are more than 50 different varieties of Florida avocados, but that only about a dozen of those are sold commercially? Running from late June through December, Uncle Matt’s will offer organic Donnie, Simmonds, Nesbitt, Beta, Tonnage, Black Prince, Hall and Monroe varieties — grown by our very own second-generation avocado grower, Murray Bass, in Homestead, Florida.

Uncle Matt’s Florida organic avocados are “green-skin,” which means they’re larger than the popular Hass variety but have less fat and fewer calories. Which brings us to this important point: Don’t avoid the avocado because you think it’s too fattening! It’s a creamy, delicious superfood that powers your body with an array of healthy fats and nutrients –– like oleic acid, lutein, folate, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats and glutathione, just to name a few. These powerful nutrients help protect your body against cancer, heart disease, and degenerative eye and brain diseases. What’s more, they’re also a healthy source of dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamins B6 and C.

We love our avocados because they’re definitely good for whipping up our favorite summertime guacamole. But our fruit’s mild flavor lends itself to the creative and unexpected. Try a half avocado in a fruit smoothie, or add some slices to your sandwich instead of lettuce.  If you’re really looking for some culinary trendsetting ideas, wow the guests at your next dinner party with this colorful Avocado, Beet and Grapefruit Salad and top it off with yummy sure-fire favorite chocolate cupcakes…only the secret’s in the icing. Avocado icing, that is. Trust us, it’s amazing!