Tuesday, 23 July 2024


A young purple eggplant ripes on the vine at Leonard Organics in Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.




Whether you call it a melongene, brinjal, garden egg, patlican, aubergine or eggplant, it’s one of the world’s most versatile vegetables and is featured in the cuisine of countries on almost every continent.

From the Caribbean to Thailand, from Ethiopia to the American South, and from Italy to India, eggplant provides the basis for dishes with an amazing diversity of flavors.

With the edible, soft seeds contained in its center, botanically the eggplant is considered a berry. As a member of the nightshade family, it’s related to tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes.

There’s a surprise surrounding its family tree. The eggplant is closely related to tobacco, and the bitter taste of its seeds comes from nicotinoid alkaloids. An addiction to eggplant, however, must be blamed on its flavor, color or preparation, as the amount of nicotine contained within is negligible.

They’re a favorite of vegetarians, as the flesh is rich, with a meat-like texture. I often pull eggplant out of my “bag of tricks” when I prepare vegetarian cuisine as it’s a great meat substitute for a hearty meal.

They’re a fantastic brain food due to the presence of the powerful antioxidant nasunin, which has been shown to protect the fats in brain cell membranes. Other antioxidant compounds abound that have been shown to promote cardiovascular health and even lower cholesterol.

Eggplants are a great source of fiber, and contain minerals such as potassium, manganese and copper, as well as important B vitamins.

They’re native to India and the surrounding countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

They were first cultivated in China in the 5th century B.C., were brought into Africa before the Middle Ages, and were introduced to Italy in the 14th century. Thomas Jefferson, an avid experimental gardener, is credited for introducing them to the U.S.

Cultivated varieties range in size from the golf ball-sized Thai eggplant to a two pound variety grown near the Ganges River in India. Wild eggplants have been known to grow on stalks as tall as 7 feet.

The eggplant with which we’re most familiar is called the American, or globe, eggplant, with its characteristic glossy deep purple skin and rotund shape. European eggplants, such as the Italian and Holland varieties, are more elongated, and those from Asia, such as Japanese, Filipino and Chinese eggplants, are long and quite thin. Hawaiian eggplants are the thinnest I’ve seen, with a shape similar to a zucchini.

Each of the varieties mentioned above, save the Chinese eggplant, which is deep lavender, are dark purple; however, other varieties come in a broad range of colors, such as the apple green or green goddess eggplants and the white eggplant, which has a delicate flavor and tough skin.

Small, globelike Indian eggplants are deep red, and early European cultivars were yellow or white, resembling chicken eggs, thus spawning the term “eggplant.”

The flesh of the eggplant is spongy and somewhat bitter in its raw state, though more recent cultivated varieties are not quite as bitter as their ancient counterparts. When cooked, it has a subtle and complex flavor.

Like chicken or tofu, eggplant provides a platform for a plethora of flavors, changing like a chameleon when paired with different sauces and spice combinations. Eggplant is as delicious in a rich Italian tomato sauce as it is in a Thai coconut curry or a spicy African salad.

If an eggplant is young, its skin can be delicate enough to leave on for cooking; otherwise it should be peeled. An interesting preparation is to peel it partially for a striped pattern of skin and flesh. This allows the skin (and its nutrients) to flavor the dish.




A young, developing eggplant nestled amidst the vines grown at Jim Leonardis

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A mosquito sample has yielded the first evidence of West Nile virus' presence in Lake County this year.

The sample, collected near Upper Lake on Aug. 10, tested positive for the disease, according to a Friday report from Lake County Vector Control District and Lake County Health Services.

The discovery comes a month later than West Nile virus was found in the county in 2009, when a necropsy on a dead crow collected in Lucerne confirmed the bird was positive for the disease, as Lake County News has reported.

Overall, West Nile virus has been detected in 28 counties so far this year, compared to 35 in 2009, according to the California West Nile Virus Web site.

In addition, the state reported that there are 16 human cases this year – there were 10 by Aug. 13, 2009 – with four horses so far affected, compared to three last year. The affected horses were in Sacramento, San Joaquin and Madera counties.

The number of dead birds is down, reported at 219 so far, with 299 reported at this time last year. There have been 51 sentinel chickens and 11 squirrels detected with the virus, compared to 56 and two, respectively, last year, the state said.

The virus usually appears in insects and animals before it affects humans, county officials reported.

Mosquitoes transmit the virus both to humans and animals, so local and state officials urged people to prevent exposure to mosquito bites. One way is to use scientifically tested repellents.

“When properly used, mosquito repellents that have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are safe and effective,” Lake County Health Officer Dr. Karen Tait said in a Friday statement.

Tait reported that most people who become infected with the virus show no symptoms and will recover, while 20 percent of those who contract it will develop fever, headache, and other nonspecific

symptoms that may last several weeks.

However, one in 150 people will develop severe illness known as neuroinvasive disease, Tait said. People over age 50 and diabetics appear to be at most risk for the disease's more severe forms.

There is no vaccine for humans, but horses can be vaccinated against it.

Earlier this week, California State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer issued a statement in which he urged horse owners across the state to have their horses vaccinated as the disease returns for the year.

All four horses diagnosed in California with the disease so far this year were either unvaccinated or hadn't been vaccinated completely, Breitmeyer reported.

Horses contract the disease from carrier mosquitoes and are not contagious to other horses or people, and Breitmeyer said not every horse exposed to the virus will die.

“Outbreaks of West Nile virus are still a risk for horses,” Breitmeyer said.

Signs of West Nile virus include stumbling, staggering, wobbling, weakness, muscle twitching and inability to stand, according to Breitmeyer.

Dr. Jamesina Scott, district manager and research director for the Lake County Vector Control District, said in a Friday statement that the district is working hard to reduce the risk of mosquito bites and West Nile virus to Lake County residents and visitors.

However, Scott said they need the public's help to find backyard habitats for mosquitoes, such as neglected swimming pools or ornamental ponds.

“Mosquitoes are easy to control in these habitats if we know where they are,” she said. “Just one neglected swimming pool can produce thousands of mosquitoes per day, and cause problems for an entire neighborhood.”

Scott said people need to drain standing water sources around their homes that may breed mosquitoes and they need to protect themselves with long sleeves or an effective repellent during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.

To report a dead bird or squirrel, call 1-877-WNV-BIRD (1-877-968-2473) or visit the California Department of Public Health’s West Nile virus Web site at www.westnile.ca.gov.

For more information about vector control services, to get mosquitofish or report neglected

swimming pools to the vector control district, call 707-263-4770 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT, Calif. – Lake County's newly elected superintendent of schools will start work sooner than expected, with his predecessor to step down this month.

On Wednesday night the Lake County Board of Education accepted county Superintendent of Schools Dave Geck's resignation.

Geck told Lake County News that he will retire effective Aug. 31, clearing the way for Wally Holbrook, elected in June to succeed him, to take office before January.

He said this was an opportune time to step down.

“Our idea was to really look at leadership transition,” Geck said.

Holbrook said he was excited about getting to work early.

He said he will be serving on an appointment basis until he formally takes office in January.

The development, said Holbrook, “was evidence of a good transition that Dave and I have been working on for awhile.”

Holbrook said it's an opportunity for him to step into the role at the same time as schools around the county start. “I'm looking forward to that.”

Geck himself took office early in 2006, with his predecessor, Bill Cornelison, stepping down early so Geck be sworn in during a September ceremony.

After the June 8 election, in which Holbrook won with 59.6 percent of the vote, he began meeting with Geck and the deputy superintendent, along with other officials at the office of education and county board of education members.

Geck said the sooner they could put the transition into place, the more money they could save.

He is at the stop salary step – $122,000 a year – for the office, while Holbrook will begin at $116,000.

Geck will work, unpaid, to assist Holbrook through the rest of the transition, with the district covering his health benefits for the remaining four months of the year.

With those savings, and with Holbrook working three-quarter time until January, Geck said the district is estimated to save $30,000 in salary costs over the coming 16 months.

Holbrook said he has been spending a lot of time getting to know people, and understanding how people and programs fit together in the office of education.

“I'm learning every day,” and enjoying it, said Holbrook.

He's looking forward to starting work at the start of the school year, with its unique energy.

Once in office, Holbrook said a review of all of the office of education's programs and services will start right away.

Geck has been with the Lake County Office of Education for 14 years and has a 35-year career in education, more than 30 years of it spent locally. He decided last fall not to seek a second term.

He and his wife, Rose, are retiring at the same time, and are looking forward to being able to work together on future projects.

Both are educators, but he said they may not work in education and instead might pursue projects in a different area.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

NAPA COUNTY, Calif. – A Friday evening vegetation fire along Highway 29 inside Napa County was attributed to a man mowing grass late in the day.

The fire, which was dispatched around 5 p.m., was located just north of Calistoga on the west side of Highway 29 on the way up Mount St. Helena, according to Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

Cal Fire sent 18 engines, six hand crews, four bull dozers, two helicopters and four air tankers to fight the blaze, located in thick brush, Berlant said. Napa County Fire and other area agencies also sent resources to the scene.

Berlant said one firefighter sustained a minor injury while fighting the fire, which had reached 10 acres by 10:30 p.m. but was 60-percent contained at that time.

The California Highway Patrol reported that its officers, along with Caltrans, were called to close Highway 29 around 5:30 p.m.

Berlant said the highway was closed for several hours, but had reopened by around 9 p.m.

The cause of the fire was a man using a lawnmower to cut dead grass at around 5 p.m. which, even though it's late in the day, is still part of the peak time for daily temperature, said Berlant.

Firefighters were to remain on scene through the night and into the morning to fully contain the fire and monitor hot spots, Berlant said. The fire is expected to be fully contained by 8 a.m. on Saturday.


Berlant said that, although temperatures have been below average for this time of year, conditions are heating up and fire danger is therefore increasing.

Cal Fire urges homeowners who are clearing dead weeds to make sure they do it before 10 a.m., when it is cooler out, said Berlant. The blade of lawn mower or weedeater can easily strike a rock and start a fire.

In addition they urge people not to mow on dry or windy days.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – Water users in the Kelseyville and Finley areas are being urged to boil water for the next few days in the wake of a low water issue that occurred on Thursday.

Some customers in the area reported receiving hand-delivered notices from Lake County Special Districts, while others received calls from the agency through the Office of Emergency Services' reverse 911 system.

Lake County News also received reports from Kelseyville residents of the water being off in downtown Kelseyville for about two hours on Thursday morning.

Pete Preciado, Lake County Special Districts deputy administrator, said the system experienced low water pressure on Thursday morning, resulting in a lot of calls from customers.

“Right now everything's back to normal,” he said Thursday afternoon. “The system is fine, the water is fine.”

However, he said Special Districts was asking customers to purify their water before drinking it, with boiling one of the ways to achieve that goal.

“Anytime you lose system pressure you could suffer back siphonage, and that could bring water into the system,” he said.

Last week construction began in downtown Kelseyville to increase the size of the water main, a project Preciado said is expected to conclude next Tuesday.

Preciado said district workers valved off an area of Main Street where that work is going on.

“We are isolating sections of pipe and redirecting the water,” he said.

He said that, following their investigation into the low water pressure occurrence, they believe the way the area was valved caused the problem.

“The wells are fine, the pipes are fine, the storage tanks are fine, it was just the valving off for construction,” he said.

Preciado said once Special Districts settled on a cause, the focus then turned to getting the water pressure restored, flushing the lines and notifying the public.

He said they were in the process of collecting bacteriological samples to make sure the water was safe to drink. They have to have two days of consecutive clean samples before the health department will rule the water safe.

Preciado said Special Districts is telling customers in the Kelseyville and Finley areas who have received the notices and calls to boil their water until a paper notice is placed on their door notifying them of the boil water order's cancellation.

If everything goes well, the earliest the order would be lifted is Saturday afternoon, Preciado said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

UKIAH, Calif. – A 3.0-magnitude earthquake was reported near Ukiah on Saturday.

The quake occurred at 1:47 a.m. Saturday five miles north northeast of Ukiah and 35 miles northwest of Clearlake at a depth of 4.3 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.

The survey received 23 shake reports from five zip codes – Ukiah, Redwood Valley, Potter Valley, Willits, Potter Valley and Sylmar.

At 2:04 a.m. a smaller quake, measuring 1.8 in magnitude, was recorded at a depth of 4.8 miles seven miles north northeast of Ukiah, seven miles north of Talmage and 14 miles west northwest of Upper Lake, the US Geological Survey reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

THE GEYSERS, Calif. – A 3.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded near The Geysers geothermal steamfield on Friday morning.

The quake, reported at 8:51 a.m., was located just southwest of The Geysers at a depth of 2.2 miles, according to the US Geological Survey. It was located 15 miles southwest of Clearlake and 25 miles north northwest of Santa Rosa.

The US Geological Survey received five shake reports from four zip codes – Novato, Fairfax, Concord and San Jose.

Just after 3:36 p.m. Friday, a 1.4-magnitude earthquake was reported six miles southeast of Lake Pillsbury and 14 miles north of Upper Lake, the latest in a series of small shakers in that area.

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake was reported 10 miles southeast of Lake Pillsbury on July 30, as Lake County News has reported.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .



LOWER LAKE, Calif. – A crash that blocked Highway 29 for several hours on Wednesday resulted in no injuries to the drivers involved.

The crash occurred at 8:20 a.m. Wednesday just north of Diener Drive, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.

Donald Secord, 55, of Lakeport was driving a 2006 International Suburban Propane truck southbound, with Manuel de Jusus Calvo Santiz of Clearlake driving his 1997 Honda Civic northbound, according to the report.

For an unknown reason, Santiz lost control of the Honda and it began to drift from side to side. Tanguay said it then veered to the left and crossed over the solid double yellow lines, hitting the left rear tires of the propane truck, breaking the rear axle.

Both vehicles spun out of control and the Honda went off of the road to the west, with the propane truck came to rest blocking the southbound lane of traffic, he said.

The roadway was blocked for several hours with one way traffic control until the propane truck could be moved, Tanguay reported.

There were no injuries in this collision and alcohol or drugs are not considered factors, he said.

Tanguay said Santiz was placed under arrest for driving without a driver's license.

The collision is being investigated by CHP Officer Brian Engle.

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LUCERNE, Calif. – A third information meeting describing two government programs that can help Lake County residents with financial assistance is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

The meeting will be held at the Lucerne Community Clinic, 6300 E. Highway 20 at 14th Street, Lucerne.

The programs are administered by Catholic Charities Lake County Programs, and are part of the federal government stimulus bills to help people who live in Lake County and pay rent. The programs can assist qualified residents who are experiencing hardship due to the current economy and/or a sudden loss of income.

The August meeting will help explain who is most likely to qualify and how the application process works.

The programs can help people who:

  • Are in jeopardy of losing their current rental housing;

  • Need money to catch up on late rent payments;

  • Are at risk of homelessness or who are homeless and need help to re-establish housing;

  • Need help in paying past due utility bills.

Mortgage assistance of any kind is not covered.

To qualify, residents must meet federal income guidelines, as well as requirements such as documentation of payments to landlords or utilities companies, and proof of legal residency. All information and documentation is verified during the review process.

Due to limited space, reservations are required; call 707-987-8139.

The programs are funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009/ Homeless Prevention and Rapid-Re-housing Program, and the Federal Emergency Shelter Grant for Lake County is funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) via California Department of Housing & Community Development.

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

This supplements my previous article on the same subject with a basic discussion of two “carrot and stick” methods that may help ensure that your testamentary wishes are respected after you die: the “no contest clause” and the “forced election” (aka “the widow’s election”).

Let’s discuss each individually.

The “no contest clause” used in a will and/or trust is the most trusted legal tool to make beneficiaries accept and not quarrel over the decedent’s estate plan.

Very simply speaking, a no contest clause deters a beneficiary from bringing lawsuits to contest the terms of a trust or a will, involving certain allegations. The deterrence is to disinherit a beneficiary entirely if he or she should bring such a contest and fail.

Under current law, as of Jan. 1, 2010, “no contest clauses” now only apply to the following three types of legal challenges: “direct contests” – those contests alleging forgery, improper execution, lack of capacity, menace, duress, fraud or undue influence, and alleged revocations of trusts and wills that are brought without probable cause; actions to determine the character, title or ownership of property – if expressly provided for as triggering a contest; and filing a creditor’s claim or an action to enforce a creditor’s claim – if expressly provided for as triggering a will/trust contest.

The “probable cause” exception for bringing a direct contest protects a beneficiary who brings the contest based on a “reasonable belief” at the time that further legal discovery will lead to evidence supporting a “direct contest.”

The scope of the no contest clause should be drafted with particular attention to who is likely to bring what type of contest.

The no contest clause only deters beneficiaries who stand to lose something significant by bringing a contest so that the beneficiary’s fear of losing what they are assured of receiving outweighs their desire (greed) to try to receive more.

Some people chose to buy peace for their primary heirs by leaving something significant, with a no contest clause attached, to a beneficiary whom they otherwise might entirely disinherit.

Next, the “forced election.” A forced election occurs when a decedent’s will or trust forces a beneficiary to choose between either accepting an inheritance (under the will or trust) or asserting his/her ownership rights in property that the decedent’s will or trust gives entirely to someone else.

The forced election typically involves a deceased spouse attempting to give one or more items of community property to someone other than the surviving spouse/co-owner by inducing (or coercing) the surviving spouse to accept an inheritance of money (or other property) that is left to the surviving spouse under the same legal instrument.

Nowadays, however, the “forced election” is seldom used due to its adverse tax consequences, its engendering acrimonious feelings in the surviving spouse, and the existence of better alternatives.

For example, consider a married man who writes a will gifting his and his wife’s community property residence to a testamentary trust (established at his death) that provides for the lifetime benefit of his surviving wife (if she survives) and that thereafter leaves all to the husband’s children from his prior marriage; in the same will the husband also leaves a generous gift of money to his surviving wife as an incentive to obtain her cooperation.

Thus, the surviving wife must either accept her husband’s testamentary gift of money and the right to remain in the couple’s home until she dies, or else assert her one-half ownership right in the couple’s community property residence. Whether the surviving spouse will agree usually depends on how generous is the incentive.

Neither of the foregoing “carrot and stick” approaches guarantees that the decedent’s wishes will be respected and that litigation will be avoided.

They are, amongst the available tools, along with those discussed in my prior article, available to help ensure that one’s testamentary wishes are carried out.

Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 First St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf.

LAKEPORT, Calif. – The California Highway Patrol will host a child safety seat checkup event for the community on Saturday, Aug. 14.

It will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the McDonald's parking lot, 1400 Todd Road, in Lakeport.

A certified child passenger safety technicians will be at the event to perform child safety seat evaluations for all children in the vehicle under the age of 6 years old, as well as to explain to event participants the importance of ensuring all children are properly secured in a motor vehicle.

This will be a free service to the motorist.

Children riding in vehicles are required by law to be properly restrained in a child safety seat until the age of 6, or they weigh 60 pounds.

Not only is it the law, but it’s also much safer, the CHP reported. An unrestrained child in a car is at significant risk of injury or death in the event of even a minor traffic collision.

Protect your children by using age-appropriate passenger restraint devices – safety seats or seat belts for older children.

Your child’s life depends on that car seat, that’s why it is important to make sure it is properly installed, according to the CHP.

The California Office of Traffic Safety reported that California’s child safety seat usage rate reached a record high of 94 percent in 2008 but dropped to 91 percent in 2009.

The CHP implemented their Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Program in April 1999. Thousands of employees have been trained in CPS, including CHP cadets.

The funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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