It's ironic, but the devastating cold that has caused severe losses in California agriculture may result in improved quality in one crop--garlic.
In years when frost strikes garlic crops, the cloves turn out firmer and smoother, says Don Christopher of the Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, which harvests 25 million pounds of garlic annually.
Temperatures around Gilroy dipped to 14 degrees--"the worst freeze I can remember in 25 years," Christopher said. But in Smith Valley and Yerington, Nev., where he farms 150 acres of seed garlic, the mercury dropped to 20 below zero. Fortunately, snow blanketed the ground and insulated the crop.
In California, garlic is planted in Gilroy and in the San Joaquin and Imperial valleys. The harvest takes place in June and July and culminates in the garlic festival in Gilroy, which this year is scheduled July 26 through July 28.
Although the 1991 crop may be finer, it is likely to be smaller because the plants lay dormant in the cold for several weeks. Christopher anticipates a 4% to 5% decrease in quantity but does not foresee a rise in price.
Garlic lovers can keep abreast of the crop by subscribing to the Fresh Garlic Assn.'s quarterly newsletter, a lively compendium of recipes, news and commentary. Yearly subscriptions are $5, but the association is offering a free sample copy. Write to FGA Membership, P.O. Box 2410, Sausalito, Calif. 94966-2410.
Reduced-fat and reduced-calorie products are sure to hit the market in record numbers in 1991. One that has already arrived is Jarlsberg Lite, a pale-yellow, semi-soft cheese from Norway. Jarlsberg Lite is a part-skim-milk cheese. But so is its predecessor, classic Jarlsberg. Therefore, the differences in fat and calorie count are not as dramatic as if the original had been a rich, creamy cheese.
Eat one ounce of Jarlsberg Lite and you will take in 80 calories, four grams of fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, eight grams of protein and 219 milligrams of calcium.
One ounce of classic Jarlsberg, on the other hand, contains 97 calories, seven grams of fat, 18 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, seven grams of protein and 219 milligrams of calcium.
Markets that carry the cheeses include Ralphs, Vons, Albertson's, Gelson's, Hughes, Trader Joe and Mrs. Gooch's Natural Foods Markets.
A companion product from Norway is Kavli crisp bread--thin, rectangular "crackers" to eat with foods or alone as a fiber-rich snack. The newest addition to this line is muesli crisp bread, which is patterned like a mosaic with mixed cereals (oats, wheat, barley, rye and millet). Whole-rye flour and wheat bran are other components. One slice, which weighs a tad more than one-third ounce, provides two grams of dietary fiber and contains no fat or cholesterol. Kavli has also introduced an ultra-thin rye crisp bread, which provides 1 1/2 grams of dietary fiber if you eat three slices. The newcomers are available in supermarkets along with other Kavli crisp breads.