“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” We sing about it at Christmas but few of us have ever tasted this small California crop.

Immigrants who came to California during the Gold Rush planted European variety seeds in the Sierra foothills, Central Valley and North Coast. Today nearly 600 acres of chestnuts are planted in California.

The California Avocado Commission has promoted Guy Witney to director of industry affairs. In his new position Witney will be responsible for the management of all CAC's industry-related field programs including crop estimation, chemical registrations, crop insurance, quarantines, production research and grower communications.

According to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, individuals with normal to moderately high cholesterol levels, may be able to lower their cholesterol and maintain a healthy heart by substituting almonds into their diets for less nutrient-dense foods.

Researchers concluded it is likely the combination of a variety of nutrients uniquely found in almonds — such as vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, arginine and dietary fiber — incorporated into the highly effective National Cholesterol Education Program Step 1 diet that reduces cholesterol and cardiovascular disease risk. Today, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States.

Gulfprince, a new peach variety that can tree-ripen for several extra days, thus becoming sweeter and juicier, is now available to consumers.

The new variety, released to growers in 1999, was developed by the Agricultural Research Service, the University of Georgia and the University of Florida. It was planted in grower orchards in 2001.

California's table grape growers had a record-breaking year in 2000. They exported nearly 20 million 21-pound boxes of grapes valued at more than $240 million.

The Farm Bureau points out that California farmers and ranchers produce an average of $67 million in food, fiber and flower products every day of the year.

Milk is California's top ranked commodity, having a value of $2.9 billion in 1994. Grapes follow in second, with cattle and calves rounding out the top three spots.

How much did a Bartlett pear cost in the mid-1800s? $20.67. they were so delicious, people paid the same price for Bartletts as they did for an ounce of gold!

California leads both the nation and the world in apricot production with a 10-year average of about 180,000 tons. Of that only 6 percent is consumed fresh.

More than two-thirds of the U.S. production of Bartlett pears is harvested in California. The peak season for Bartletts is from mid-July to November.

In orchards where water infiltration is limited, gypsum applications can be helpful. Gypsum is especially effective in increasing water penetration.

On average, only one in 20,000 chemicals makes it from the chemist's laboratory to the farmers field, says the Alliance for Food and Fiber.

Dating back to 7000 B.C. the walnut tree is the oldest known fruit tree. Fifty percent of the world's supply of walnuts comes from California.

The California Farm Bureau heard through the grapevine that 75 percent of all California raisins are eaten at breakfast.

Figs were not only eaten by the first Greek Olympians for their great tasted and healthful qualities, they were also worn as medals for their Olympic achievements.

Almonds are really a fruit. They originated in China and are related to such fruits as peaches, plums and cherries.

The No. 1 olive producing county in California is Tulare.

The “Gala” apple was first found in 1939 in New Zealand. It is a cross between a Golden Delicious apple and a Kid's Orange Pippin.

The pistachio is a relative of both the mango and the cashew. California grows all of the nation's commercial pistachios on 60,000 acres.

Grapefruit is very high in vitamin C and is a source of potassium, folacin and Vitamin A. Dieters are especially fond of grapefruit because it is sodium and fat-free.

During the Super Bowl, enough avocados were consumed to cover a football field 18 inches deep in guacamole!

The Farm Bureau points out that California farmers and ranchers produce an average of $67 million in food, fiber and flower products every day of the year.

California produced 151 million pounds of pistachios last year; Iran leads the world in production of pistachios.

Milk is California's top ranked commodity, having a value of $2.9 billion in 1994. Grapes follow in second, with cattle and calves rounding out the top three spots.

California avocados contain more vitamin A than many other popular fruits, including apples, bananas and grapefruit.

The famous “Golden Apples” of Greek mythology were actually apricots. Commercial growing of apricots in California started in 1872 in California's fertile Santa Clara Valley.

How much did a Bartlett pear cost in the mid-1800s? $20.67. they were so delicious, people paid the same price for Bartletts as they did for an ounce of gold!

California leads both the nation and the world in apricot production with a 10-year average of about 180,000 tons. Of that only 6 percent is consumed fresh.

More than two-thirds of the U.S. production of Bartlett pears is harvested in California. The peak season for Bartletts is from mid-July to November.

A 50-acre apple orchard with 44 trees per acre can lose about $27,000 a year to deer.

The key for long-term success of drying raisins “on-the-vine,” will be new varieties, according to UC Davis viticulture specialist Pete Christensen

The most well-nourished families are those that prepare foods from scratch, buy more fruits and vegetables and use a variety of cooking methods.

Prunes top the list of antioxidant fruits, followed by raisins and blueberries. Heading the list of antioxidant vegetables is kale, followed by spinach and Brussels sprouts.

Sixty percent of California's raisins are sold as an ingredient to food processors, according to the California Raisin Marketing Board.

Marketing research studies show consumers praise low-cost raisins as a source of nutrients, as a convenient and nutritious snack, and as a useful cooking ingredient.

The glassy-winged sharpshooter rides again! No, it's not a cute, little gun-totin' winged fairy. It's an insect that poses a serious threat to California viticulture. Why? Because it spreads Xylella fastidiosa — the bacterium that causes Pierce's disease — for which there is no effective treatment.

Rural crime has changed. It's no longer just a neighbor's kid swiping Tipe cherries from your tree on a warm spring day — it's serious business. Commercial orchards are particularly vulnerable to thefts of walnut burls that sell for thousands of dollars and are used in luxury vehicles.

California continues to lead the U.S. in production of apricots, avocados, grapes, lemons, plums, prunes and strawberries.

Eating a handful of walnuts everyday will lower your blood cholesterol. A study at Loma Linda University found that people who ate any kind of nuts at least five times a week had half the risk of heart attacks as those who ate nuts less than once a week. California leads the nation in production of walnuts, which ranks 10th in agricultural export commodities. What, countries import them? Japan, Spain, Italy, Germany, Canada, Netherlands and Israel.

Differences in color are not the only thing that distinguishes white-fleshed peaches and nectarines from traditional varieties. Yellow varieties continue to ripen after harvest, while white varieties taste sweet even while they are quite firm to the touch.

Ben Franklin predicted that in the future food would be our medicine. He was right! Farm Bureau reports that researchers found certain compounds in cherries which can help prevent heart disease, block inflammatory enzymes and are more effective than aspirin for reducing pain. So, if you hurt…eat 20 cherries and call me in the morning.

What do wine and angel food cake have in common? Cream of tartar. Farm Bureau sources report that this major ingredient in baking powder is a natural, pure substance left behind after grape juice has ferments to wine, and keeps egg whites from foaming.

Winery shipments increased for the sixth consecutive year, reaching a record high of 446 million gallons in 1999.

“An apple a day…” You know the rest. Studies have found that people who eat at least one apple a day have a lower risk of stroke than those who don't eat apples.

Kiwi — no, not the bird — the funny, fuzzy fruit-was rated No. 1 in per-gram nutrient density out of 27 fruits analyzed. In addition to vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, kiwifruit contains phytochemicals and amino acids that have been shown to help prevent macular degeneration — a leading cause of blindness.

At first glance, a kiwifruit isn't very pretty. In fact, it looks like it needs a good shave. However, Farm Bureau says those hirsute kiwifruit are especially good for men. Each serving contains a healthy dose of nutrients that help fight prostate cancer and impotence. No need to peel it; just cut it in half and scoop out the goodness with a spoon. Or, eat it with the skin on. Really. Some do.

The earliest evidence of wine was found on a pottery jar in Iran dating back at least 7,000 years.

What familiar, low-cost, lunchbox treat is grown only in California? Raisins.

According to researchers, farm children have lower rates of asthma than those children raised in cities. Studies credit this to their early exposure to fungi, dust and animal dander.

California's 37,000 apple-producing acres yielded 408,000 tons of apples at last count.

Technically, olive oil is really “fruit juice.” It's the only cooking oil that doesn't come from seeds, grains or nuts. And, like other fruit juices, it's good for you.

If you're “nuts” for nuts, snack on pistaschios while you're watching Monday night football. A one-ounce serving has about 47 nuts — more per serving than any other nut — so you can eat a lot. They're tasty, loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and monounsaturated fat that helps lower cholesterol. Shaped like little footballs, too!

The United Kingdom is the largest export market for California raisins — about 22 percent, says Farm Bureau.

When Dom Perignon discovered champagne in 1600 he exclaimed, “Come quickly, I'm drinking stars.”

Sunkist and Henry Ford — what do they have in common? 1908. that's the year Sunkist was adopted as a brand of oranges and Henry Ford introduced the Model-T automobile at a cost of $825.

More than 6,000 California avocado growers produce the 154,000-ton crop.

Almonds — California's largest food export at $780 million — have found their way into school lunches in Japan.

To increase calcium in the traditionally non-dairy Japanese diet, a popular snack mix of baby sardines and slivered almonds was developed. One ounce of almonds provides 8 percent of the daily calcium requirement.

Almond sales to India may eventually surpass those to Japan. The high-protein almonds are important to India's meatless society that spends more than 50 percent of its income on food.