It’s been over four years since Sandra and I moved from Hawaii to Wine Country – aka Sonoma County in Northern California – and, while winter is a little chillier here than in “the Islands,” we really love it.
One of the things we like best about this area is something we just couldn’t do on an island – getting in the car and driving through magnificent countryside to new and different places. However, we’ve discovered that Wine Country, with its vineyard-covered hills, is not only gorgeous, it’s also one of the state’s major economic resources. Viticulture – grape growing – and wine making are not limited to Sonoma and Napa counties. From north to south, you can hardly drive more than a few miles in the Golden State before you see another vine-cloaked hillside and signs inviting you to enjoy a wine tasting room.
But if you think viticulture is the mainstay of California agriculture, think again. Grapes are not the state’s most valuable crop. They’re merely No. 2. Dairy products are in first place – just look at all those grazing cows as you drive and stop in for a taste treat at any of the 70+ establishments along California’s Cheese Trail. (Sandra and I are waiting for someone to map out an Ice Cream Trail.)
Almonds come in a close third in agriculture, right after dairy and grapes. In fact, California grows 80 percent of all the world’s almonds. Pistachios and walnuts also rank among the state’s top agricultural products. And California grows over 95 percent of America’s olives too. Overall, California farmers grow a third of all America’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts.
But amid all the hoopla about wine, cheese, olives, avocados, artichokes and other classy farm products (and garlic – let’s not forget this fragrant bulb), one crop appears, inexplicably, to have been overlooked. As relative newcomers to this state, we find it surprising, as we drive through California’s hills and valleys, that no one is beating the drum for the humble crop grown in several areas around the state and shown in the photos (above and below) that I’ve taken of a couple of these enterprises.
I’m talking, of course, about Marshmallow Farms.
I feel confident that, together with Tasting Tours along the Marshmallow Trail, these will become California’s Next Big Thing.
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