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WHAT'S FRESH : BUYING OPPORTUNITIES : Baby's Breath : Gypsophila, the frothy white filler in fancy bouquets, is $1.50 a bunch now at roadside stands.

June 21, 1990|RODNEY BOSCH

These diminutive white flower clusters are the perfect garnish for all sorts of things. From bouquets to festival floats, wedding cakes, craft projects and even hairdos.

Science named the plant gypsophila; it's better known as baby's breath.

Ed Louer, owner of Carpinteria Wholesale in Ventura, buys baby's breath to sell to retailers. "Ventura County and Southern California as a whole is one of the biggest producers of gypsophila in the United States," Louer said. The other big producer, he said, is Florida.

Louer said gypsophila is actually a weed, so its growth during the warm summer months is prolific.

Perennially grown in the county, baby's breath with its tumbleweed appearance in the fields, does best during mid-summer along the coastal range. Winter crops, Louer said, are most often grown inland to take advantage of warmer temperatures.

Like any commodity, baby's breath sales are dependent on market conditions.

"Baby's breath is a staple item for florists--it's used as a filler for main-line flowers such as roses and carnations," Louer said.

"Sales are really based on supply and demand and during the periods of the year that main-line flowers are selling, so does baby's breath."

And that makes gypsophila a big mover in winter months around the holidays and during that bouquet-giving bonanza--Valentine's Day in February.

Although there are no separate figures, Ken Weiss of the Ventura County agricultural office says baby's breath is harvested as one of the "fresh cut flowers." Included in this classification are varietals such as daisies and chrysanthemums. "There's about 1,229 acres of fresh cut flowers in the county," Weiss said. He said the value of the crop is more than $21 million.

Fred Vanwingerden, owner of Top Star Floral in Ventura, grows four acres of baby's breath in the county and said the farmers' intent is to sell their harvest to the more lucrative fresh cut flower market. "But during high production periods, there's too much of it out there, so we sell it to the dry industry." From there, he said, it makes its way into dry bouquets and assorted crafts.

Looking for a little baby's breath to spruce up something? You'll find plenty of it at Ventura County's numerous roadside stands--freshly cut from the field. Right now the going price for a "bunch" is about $1.50.

"People drop by and pick up a bunch or two, " said Jeanette Lemus, who works at the Ortiz Floral roadside stand in Ventura. "They use it for anything and everything. From adding it to their own bouquets, to wearing a little in their hair."

Shark, anyone? Ed Lusk, co-owner of Cal Pacifica in Ventura, says green thresher shark is running aplenty. "The green thresher comes from right here in the Channel. It's a firmer, better-textured thresher opposed to the imported type you see a lot from South America."

Lusk also said to watch for the season premiere of another local favorite. "I expect the white sea bass to look real good this season."

If you're looking to satisfy a sweet tooth the natural way, Henry Flores, manager of Noren's Market in Ventura, says nectarines and peaches are in. "They are coming down from the San Joaquin Valley, and they're wonderfully sweet. Cherries too. Those are down from Washington." Flores also said we can thank the Imperial Valley for the assorted melons hitting the market this week.

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