Friday, 19 July 2024


Veggie Girl Esther Oertel discusses the wonderful apricot in this week's column.





It wouldn’t be fair to write about the delicately sweet apricot without indulging in – er, researching – their flavor a bit. I have a bowl of five fully ripe examples at my side, purchased fresh at Friday night’s farmers’ market in Clearlake.

It’s a privilege to access fully ripe apricots, as the season is short and most commercial operations pick them on the green side for better shelf worthiness.

While you can hasten the ripening process by placing them in a paper bag and leaving them at room temperature, their flavor and sweetness remains the same as the day of harvest. Only their texture, color and juiciness will improve off tree.

An apricot picked ripe is a rare thing of beauty, and I’m especially thankful that local farmers bring them to market ripe from the tree.

Apricots are an early summer fruit. Depending on where they’re grown, their season begins anywhere from mid-May to mid-June and generally runs a couple of months. They’re at farmers’ markets now, but may not be for long.

My mind rushes to “The Arabian Nights,” a favorite book of childhood, when a gently fragrant apricot is at hand. I think of Persian kings and warm nights in Morocco. This softly velvet, light orange fruit has been a favorite in the Middle East since ancient times.

While there is argument as to where the apricot was first cultivated (some say China, others India), its origins are most often associated with Armenia. Its scientific name, Prunus armeniaca, means Armenian plum, and it has been cultivated in that country since ancient, even prehistoric, times.

Apricots were introduced to Greece by Alexander the Great, and then to Europe by a Roman general named Lucullus.

Speaking of ancient Greece, experts in its mythology believe apricots were the “golden apples of Hesperides,” the fruit that Hercules was ordered to pick in the 11th of his 12 labors.

They were popular in ancient Persia – dried ones were valuable commodities on Persian trade routes – and they remain an important fruit in Persia’s modern day counterpart, Iran.

Not surprisingly, the main producers of apricots worldwide are all in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions, with one lone exception, Japan.

In the U.S., California is the king of apricot production, fully 95 percent of it. Most of modern American production of apricots comes from the seedlings carried to the West Coast by Spanish missionaries which, in turn, were from the seeds of trees that were introduced to the New World by the English.

The previously mentioned five apricots at my side (long since eaten) provided me with my entire daily requirement of vitamin A. They’re also high in vitamin C and fiber.

Apricots are full of the important antioxidant beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in our bodies, protecting our eyes, hair, skin, gums and various glands.

Right now I’m thinking of warm, spicy apricot chutney that’s flavored with ginger, coriander and a bit of garlic. It’s a wonderful way to preserve fresh apricots, and a recipe is below. It’s fantastic on grilled chicken or pork, or eaten directly on a cracker, with or without cream cheese. Be sure to try it with goat cheese, too!

In addition to being delicious, there is a health benefit to consuming apricots in chutney. The cooking process breaks down their cell walls, thus releasing more beta carotene to nourish our bodies.

Apricots added to chicken gives it an Asian or Middle Eastern feel, depending on the spices and flavors used.

Tossing halved apricots on the grill brings out their natural sweetness. Balsamic vinegar (mixed with honey or plain) can be brushed on before grilling to add an interesting layer of flavor. Grilled apricots are a wonderful accompaniment to pork and are delicious when served with vanilla ice cream.

A simple, tasty and colorful hors d’oeuvre can be made when halved, pitted apricots are filled with cream cheese and sprinkled with crushed pistachios.

If you were overly ambitious in buying fresh apricots and have a large quantity that are getting near the overripe stage, you can puree them (sans pits) in a food processor to make a delicious nectar. Add just enough water to make a thick juice-like consistency. If apricots are very ripe, it’s unlikely you’ll need to sweeten the puree, but a bit of honey, agave nectar or simple syrup may be added to your liking.

And what about those apricots I just enjoyed? They were ripe, sweet and oh-so-delicious! I hope you’ll have a chance to enjoy many while the season lasts. Bon appétit!

Apricot chutney

5 cups of fresh apricots (about 2 pounds), rinsed, halved and pitted

1-1/2 cups brown sugar

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced

Just under 1 cup raisins (about 4 ounces), dark or light

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root

1 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

Salt to taste

Put all the ingredients into a large pan and boil until the apricots are very soft.

Remove the apricots from the pan with a slotted spoon and put them into clean, dry jars.

Boil the remaining liquid until it becomes a thick syrup.

Pour the syrup into the jars, cover them, and allow them to cool before storing.

If not using sterile canning procedure, store the chutney in the fridge.

If desired, a seeded, finely chopped jalapeño pepper may be added to the recipe for a bit of heat. Cook along with all the other ingredients.

Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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LAKE COUNTY – Lake County residents who are considering purchasing high energy efficient appliances will have more opportunities for rebates from the California Cash for Appliances PLUS program after July 29.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) issued draft guidelines expanding the Cash for Appliances rebate program to include high energy efficient dishwashers, freezers, water heaters, and heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The expanded program is California Cash for Appliances PLUS.

Consumers still have up to 120 days from the purchase date to submit their rebate application by mail.

Choices for eligible models include 273 clothes washers, 139 refrigerators and 314 room air conditioners. A complete list of eligible models may be viewed at

To date, the CEC has received more than 59,000 applications with approximately $19 million still available for rebates. A tracker is updated on the remaining amount of funds available at

The California Cash for Appliances PLUS rebate program proposal will be heard at the July 28 CEC business meeting. Consumers can begin to purchase from the new selection of appliances beginning on July 29 until funds are exhausted. Rebates are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Consumers are eligible for a rebate when they purchase a qualified high energy efficient appliance, properly recycle their old appliance, and submit a complete application package within 120 days of the appliance purchase.

Instructions on how to complete an application for the California Cash for Appliances rebate is available at

Eligible energy efficient appliances and rebate amounts available are: refrigerators $200, clothes washers $100, and room air conditioners up to $50. Proposed energy efficient appliance rebate include: dishwashers $100, freezers $50, water heaters $300-$750, and HVAC systems: $500-$1000.

To be eligible for the rebate, Lake County residents must recycle their old appliances at South Lake Refuse and Recycling, who will issue a Recycling Form. Recycling Forms can only be issued at South Lake Refuse and Recycling to be eligible for the Cash for Appliances Rebate program.

South Lake Refuse and Recycling is located at the entrance of the Eastlake Landfill, 16015 Davis St., Clearlake, and open 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

To recycle appliances any time, customers in the unincorporated areas may call their hauler to schedule a “bulky item pick up” for a $10 fee.

All county residents may drop off appliances at Lake County Waste Solutions, 230 Soda Bay Road, Lakeport in addition to South Lake Refuse and Recycling also for a $10 fee.

Because of the continued availability of funds, the CEC is expanding consumer choices for high energy efficient appliances.

The revised rebate program guidelines can be viewed at

Additional information also is available through retailer locations throughout the county and consumers can call the toll-free number for questions at: 1-888-390-4034.

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LAKEPORT – A barbecue cook-off, musical entertainment by the LC Diamonds, children’s activities, a car show, food and wine tasting will highlight the inaugural “Grillin’ on the Green” fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, August 7, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Westside Community Park, 1401 Westside Park Road.

The public is invited to attend and participate in the festivities, including the barbecue competition, the Westside Community Park fundraising committee has announced.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the next phase of development of Westside Community Park, which will include soccer fields, a regulation baseball field, and a combination Little League baseball/softball field. The Park Committee recently received a $200,000 grant from the Stewardship Council for the Phase II development.

Estimated cost of the project is $335,000.

Westside Community Park is a City of Lakeport recreational facility that was established 12 years ago.

The nonprofit park committee is developing the park in conjunction with the city of Lakeport, volunteers, and numerous contributions by individuals and businesses dedicated to constructing a recreational facility for the youth and adults of Lake County.

The park currently is four acres consisting of two soccer fields, a parking lot, a picnic area overlooking the soccer fields, and an ADA compliant walking path.

Future plans for development of the park’s full 60 acres include baseball/softball fields, a BMX track, a skateboard facility, football fields, a children’s play structure, a dog park, walking paths, and a horse arena.

“It will truly be a beautiful addition to Lake County and a much-needed recreational facility for families, groups, and leagues,” says Rollins, chair of the Westside Community Park Committee.

Individuals and groups, from backyard barbecuers to professional grillers, have an opportunity to compete in the cook-off. There is no entry fee. Each contestant is required to provide his/her own setup and samples of the chef’s “grillin’” specialty for 200 people.

The competition will culminate in a presentation of the People’s Choice Awards. For entry forms or additional information about the event and the barbecue competition, contact Ustrud or Rollins, 707-263-7091.

The park committee is seeking sponsorships for the event, says Ustrud, a member of the Park’s fundraising committee. The Priest Family Trust and the Keeling-Barnes Family Foundation, as major sponsors of the event, are each offering a $5,000 matching challenge to the community.

Levels of sponsor recognition are $100, $300, $500, $1,000, $3,000 and $5,000. Sponsors will be recognized at the Grillin’ on the Green event.

Ticket prices are $25 per adult and $10 per child 12 years old or younger.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, the Kitchen Gallery, and Lake Event Design, all in Lakeport, and at the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce in the City of Clearlake.

Tickets are also available from members of the fundraising committee. They are Dennis Rollins, Cindy Ustrud, Alice Holmes, Wilda Shock, and Beth and Jeff Havrilla.

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A Cal Fire mapping specialist has been deployed to Florida to assist in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Joe Larson, a Cal Fire geographical information system specialist from San Luis Obispo County, left Saturday morning for Tallahassee, Fla., to assist in mapping the spread of oil towards the Florida Coast.

As a mapping specialist, Larson’s normal duties include mapping fire perimeters, updating emergency response areas and fire hazard severity zones.

His out-of-state mission will be to lead the Technical Services Branch in the Florida Emergency Operation Center in its support for the Deepwater Horizon efforts.

Larson is scheduled to be assigned to the mission for at least two weeks.

“I am proud of Cal Fire's worldwide reputation in superior disaster response and emergency management, “ said Chief Del Walters, Cal Fire director. “Florida sent resources to California during the 2008 lightning fire siege, and this opportunity is allowing us to return the favor.”

The request for assistance by Florida emergency officials was made on July 16 through the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) and the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a congressionally ratified organization that provides form and structure to interstate mutual aid.

Through EMAC, a disaster impacted state can request and receive assistance from other member states quickly and efficiently.

Though Cal Fire is best known for its wildfire fighting activities, the department has often been called on to respond to all types of disasters in California and in other states.

In 2005 for example, Cal Fire sent a team of emergency responders to Louisiana to assist in the incident command of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.

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WILLITS – This week authorities recovered a tractor stolen from the Sacramento Valley in the Willits area and a Butte County man was arrested.

David Day, 43, was taken into custody on Thursday after Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies found him in possession of the stolen Bobcat industrial tractor, according to a report from Capt. Kurt Smallcomb.

Smallcomb said that on Thursday deputies received information from Butte County law enforcement that a tractor theft had taken place in the Chico area.

At 2:30 a.m. Thursday Deputies Brixie and Demarco were working in the area of southern Willits and Highway 101 when they observed a pickup pulling a trailer loaded with a Bobcat loader/tractor, Smallcomb said.

The deputies followed the suspect vehicle south on Highway 101 to the East Highway 20 exit. Smallcomb said they learned the vehicle's and trailer's license information came back from the Butte County area.

Brixie and Demarco – along with other deputies and officers from the California Highway Patrol – conducted a traffic stop in the area of Highway 20 and Marina Drive, Smallcomb said.

Once the vehicle was stopped, Smallcomb said the deputies were able to substantiate that the Bobcat tractor/loader was indeed one of the implements stolen from the Chico area.

The suspect driver, who was identified as Day, was subsequently arrested and booked into the Mendocino County Jail for possession of stolen property. Smallcomb said Day's bail was set at $15,000.

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LAKE COUNTY – The California Highway Patrol will conduct a sobriety checkpoint this Saturday, July 17.

“The desired result is to save lives and make everyone’s family summer excursion, for both our community residents and those visiting our beautiful county, a safe and pleasurable memory,” Lt. Mark Loveless, CHP area commander.

The sobriety checkpoint will be staffed by officers who are trained in the detection of alcohol and/or drug impaired drivers.

Drug recognition experts, certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be on site to provide on the spot assessments of drivers suspected of drug use.

The officers will also be equipped with state of the art hand-held breath devices which provide an accurate measure of blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers.

Caltrans employees will be on site providing traffic control in order to ensure the safety of officers and motorists alike.

“Traffic volume permitting, all vehicles will be checked and drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or unlicensed, can expect to be arrested,” Loveless said.

“Our goal is to ensure the safe passage of each and every motorist by targeting roads where there is a high frequency of drunk driving,” he said. “DUI enforcement patrols, as well as sobriety checkpoints, are effective tools for achieving this goal and are designed to augment existing patrol operations. By publicizing our efforts, we believe that we can deter motorists from drinking and driving.”

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

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A diagram of a simplified Clear Lake food web, presented at a presentation on Clear Lake during the Lake County Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, July 15, 2010. The diagram came from a report titled

CHICO – One of state's largest municipal parks is seeing a series of vehicle burglaries, according to a Thursday report.

The burglaries in Chico's Bidwell Park – the third largest municipal park in the state – began June 22 and are continuing, according to Sgt. Rob Merrifield of the Chico Police Department.

Merrifield reported that over the past four weeks seven vehicle burglaries were reported.

In each case, the thieves broke windows and removed purses and small electronics such as iPods, he said.

The locations varied but most occurred in remote parking lots such as Browns Hole, Horseshoe Lake and the Easter Cross. Merrifield said at least one burglary took place at One Mile.

He warned that leaving valuables in vehicle when using the park is an invitation to theft. Thieves

target these parking lots because they know that park users frequently leave purses, electronics and wallets in the vehicle while they run or hike in the park.

Leaving the purse or wallet under the seat is no defense, Merrifield added.

Police also are reminding the public to report suspicious activity in the park. Merrifield said to be alert for people watching the parking lots and take note of any vehicles that appear to be casing the area, and to report thefts to authorities immediately.

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THE GEYSERS – A 4.0-magnitude earthquake was reported near The Geysers Thursday morning.

The temblor occurred at 8:31 a.m., according to the US Geological Survey.

The epicenter was located one mile north of The Geysers geothermal steamfield, five miles west southwest of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, at a depth of 1.7 miles, the survey reported.

Several smaller quakes followed that were centered one to two miles north of The Geysers – the largest a 2.0, according to US Geological Survey records.

By noon the survey received 15 shake reports from nine zip codes for the 4.0-magnitude quake, including reports from Lakeport, Middletown and Kelseyville, Calistoga and St. Helena in Napa County, the Sonoma County communities of Santa Rosa, Cloverdale and Windsor, and a report from Arcata, 248 miles away in Humboldt County.

A 3.2-magnitude quake occurred three miles east of The Geysers on Monday, 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 and on Facebook at .

NORTHSHORE – In the midst of a blistering host Friday, fire crews responded to wildland fires and a blaze in a Nice home attributed to circuit overload for a marijuana grow.

Shortly before 1 p.m. Friday Cal Fire aircraft were circling over a residential area in Nice, where a three-story home at 3116 Knob caught fire, according to Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Steve Hart.

Four engines from Northshore Fire, two engines from Cal Fire and one engine from Lakeport Fire responded to the blaze, Hart said.

With the heat being so bad – Hart estimated it was around 103 or 104 degrees – they had extra crews on scene so they could switch the firefighters out quickly.

Hart said the fire extended from the basement area all the way to the attic, which presented a big problem for the firefighters.

He said crews leapfrogged each and other chased the fire from floor to floor. Some crews were pulling out the ceiling to expose the fire so other crews could come in behind them to work on attacking and extinguishing it.

At the same time, Cal Fire had two air tankers and an air attack circling overhead. Hart said they didn't end up needing to drop water, but were there in case the fire got into nearby vegetation.

It took firefighters about 30 minutes to contain the fire, and Hart said they managed to save the house.

“We contained the fire on the north third of the residence and were able to save the reminder of the house all the way up to the main floor,” Hart said.

Hart said the fire's cause was a direct result of overuse of appliances associated with a marijuana grow operation, which was located throughout the home. The appliance usage overloaded the circuits and the fire broke out.

He estimated the home's value to be about $500,000 with about $100,000 damage resulting from the fire.

The home's renter was out of town at the time and the residence was unoccupied, Hart said. There were no injuries to firefighters and no other structures were threatened or damaged.

As the fire was burning in Nice, a wildland fire broke out on Sulphur Bank and North Drive in Clearlake Oaks, according to Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown.

Cal Fire led the response to the five-acre fire, with Battalion Chief Linda Green acting as incident commander, he said.

Brown said Cal Fire sent two aircraft, one helicopter, four engines and two hand crews, with Northshore sending Brown, an engine and a water tender and Lake County Fire sending two engines, a water tender and Battalion Chief Charlie Diener.

Cal Fire also reported a small fire in Upper Lake was quickly contained early Friday afternoon.

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 and on Facebook at .

THE GEYSERS – Thursday saw two sizable earthquakes – measuring 4.0 and 3.8 respectively – occurring near The Geysers geothermal steamfield.

The first, a 4.0-magnitude temblor, was centered one mile north of The Geysers and was recorded just after 8:30 a.m., as Lake County News reported midday Thursday.

The second, measuring 3.8, was reported at 4:54 p.m., according to the US Geological Survey.

Its epicenter was one mile north northwest of The Geysers, five miles west southwest of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, at a depth of 1.3 miles, the survey reported.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney, who shares earthquake reports with Lake County News, said he and his wife both felt the quake and saw the water in their swimming pool undulating as a result.

By 11 p.m. Thursday the US Geological Survey had received 12 shake reports from eight zip codes, including Kelseyville, Calistoga, Sebastopol, Cloverdale, San Pablo, Oakland, Port Costa and Creston, a small town located in San Luis Obispo County, approximately 424 miles away from the quake's epicenter.

So far this month there have been five earthquakes measuring 3.0 in magnitude or above, based on US Geological Survey records.

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 and on Facebook at .

LAKEPORT – During a brief Wednesday morning ceremony, the members of the 2010-11 grand jury were sworn in and given their charge for the coming year.

Judge Richard Martin conducted the impaneling in his Department 2 courtroom.

Selected for the 2010-11 panel are new grand jurors Michael Daugherty, Nanette Marschall and Mary Nolan, all of Lakeport; Kenneth Fountain of Lower Lake; Jay Gehrke of Clearlake; Phyllis Kelley-Howell of Kelseyville; Mary Moore of Lucerne; and Judith Stelljes of Kelseyville.

Grand jurors from the 2009-10 panel which will return for another year of service include Clearlake residents Jack Scialabba, Venoma Gill and Dave Johnson; Lakeport residents Kathleen Bisaccio, Fred Christensen, Judith Steele Lanfranco and Phillip Myers; Kevin Byrnes of Lower Lake; Gerald Morehouse of Lucerne; and Diane Trudeau of Cobb.

The remainder of the 2009-10 panel that have completed their service are Rose Marie Blackwell of Clearlake Oaks; Rudy Brunner, Marilyn Johnson, Heather Powers and Carol Vedder of Lakeport; Larry Heine of Lower Lake; Sunol Westergren of Glenhaven; and George Torngren of Nice.

Before a small audience composed mostly of the incoming panel of jurors, Martin shared a brief history of the grand jury system and explained its significance.

“This system has been around for over 200 years in this country,” Martin said.

He explained that the grand jury system is composed of citizens who act as watchdogs to help make government better.

“It's a good endeavor” that helps improve and fine tune government, Martin said.

Martin directed his court clerk to take the roll of jurors, who were then asked to stand and take an oath committing to carry out their duties in the coming year.

As part of their charge, jurors are sworn to confidentiality, and are unable to discuss matters investigated by the jury either during their service or in the future.

Once they were sworn, Martin had the group come forward and sit in the jury box.

He thanked the outgoing grand jury, noting that in the past year, “There was a lot of hard work.”

Martin said he met with grand jury Foreman Fred Christensen on a regular basis during the past year.

“It was rewarding for me to see both the foreperson and grand jurors as active as they were this last year,” he said.

Martin said the grand jury did very thorough work and wrote a good report – released earlier this month – with several committee members stepping up to write facets of the document

He called the recent report “a very good work product” that was unbiased and achieved the goal of making local government better.

Christensen offered a few words of thanks of his own to outgoing grand juror Rose Marie Blackwell, who was present for the swearing in.

Martin reappointed Christensen as foreperson in the coming year, noting his collegial personality and ability to work with people.

Looking on during the empaneling ceremony were Commissioner Vincent Lechowick of Department A, County Clerk Pam Cochrane, Jury Commissioner Yolanda Rosas, Assistant Jury Commissioner Tina Sanderson and County Counsel Anita Grant.

Grant, Martin told the grand jurors, “is someone who you are going to need to know,” as she will be the grand jury's lawyer. She told the group she will be speaking to them on Friday morning.

Martin then excused everyone from the courtroom but the jurors themselves in order to read them their charge.

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 and on Facebook at .

Upcoming Calendar

07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

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