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Sweet Onions, Plentiful Berries

July 05, 1991|BARBARA HANSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The 1990-'91 California pistachio crop is the largest ever, totaling more than 117 million pounds. And less than 10% of the crop will end up with a bright pink shell.

There's an interesting story about how the nuts acquire their color. When ripe, they're covered by a rosy skin. In the Middle East and Europe, the slow old processing methods allowed the skin to stain the shells; to cover the blemishes, American importers dyed the nuts red. In California, where pistachios did not become a commercial crop until 1976, modern mechanical harvesting and quick processing eliminate this skin before it can dye the shell, leaving buff-colored nuts. But some consumers still consider red the proper color for pistachios, so a small amount of the California crop is dyed to satisfy the demand.

Juicy sweet Walla Walla onions will be around until mid-August. These large, yellow onions--some weigh as much as two pounds--owe their mild flavor to low sulfur content, not sugar. In addition, they are high in water content, which dilutes the tear-inducing sulfur "bite."

Genuine Walla Wallas are grown only in Walla Walla County in southeastern Washington State and in part of Umatilla County in northeastern Oregon. While the quality is good, the winter freeze caused this year's crop to be smaller than usual.

California strawberries should be in ample supply throughout the summer. That's because growers in Watsonville and Santa Maria increased their acreage, swelling production. Cool spring temperatures in the north delayed northern berries from reaching the market until now. Expanding the fresh berry crop are blueberries from Arkansas and Texas and California-grown raspberries, blackberries and olallieberries.

Fish that will be plentiful this summer include white sea bass from Mexico and California halibut. Swordfish should be reasonably priced, and mahi mahi and thresher shark will also be in good supply, according to Seafood Source, an industry publication.

Plastic bottles of Evian water are the trendy drink to take to the office or gym. Now Evian faces competition from an old California water company: Sparkletts. San Francisco-based McKesson Water Products Co., Sparkletts' parent, has introduced a portable 1.5-liter plastic container of Mountain Spring Drinking Water. Bottled in Los Angeles, the no-calorie refresher is distributed to major chain markets in Southern California. The suggested retail price is $1.09, but one chain recently sold the water for 97 cents!

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