Coastal Agriculture

This is a historial post from Hiking the California Trail, a 1998/2002 book set by Bob Lorentz and Richard Nichols. Where possible an update has been provided.

Giant thistles and a mustard that looks like a miniature cabbage are two important crops growing along the coasts of San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. While walking this stretch of California Coastal Trail, you’ll walk among artichokes and Brussels sprouts which thrive in the cool summer fog and rich, sandy alluvial soils of the marine terraces. So perfect is the moist, temperate climate for these crops that 90 percent of the 1996 U.S. harvest of 35,000 tons of artichokes and 28,000 tons of Brussels sprouts grew in San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. The artichoke, a perennial plant of the thistle family originally imported from Italy, grows 20 to 30 globes over the season. Then it’s cut down to the ground, growing a new crop in about six months. Artichoke plants take year-round care but are SO hardy that one coastal farm reports having some plants that have been producing since 1924! The spine-tipped edible part of the plant hides at the base of the flower bud’s bracts (usually called leaves) and in the heart of the globe above the stem. Artichoke fanciers steam or boil the globe, then peel off the bracts one by one, dipping the base into melted butter or mayonnaise and scraping the edible part off the otherwise tough and stringy bract. After the time-consuming task of eating the leaves, you get to devour the meltingly tender, buttery and nutty heart.

Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in 13th-century Belgium and aren’t very popular in the U.S. The little one to two inch cabbage-like balls grow in rows on a tall, thick stalk and are very high in iron and vitamins A and C. Cook fresh Brussels sprouts quickly to release their sweet, nutty flavor.

Stop by one of the many produce stands along the central coast to get some artichokes or Brussels sprouts for dinner. You may also find the apples, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, olallieberries, loganberries and salad vegetables for which the area is also known.

Originally Published in Hiking the California Coastal Trail: Guide to Walking the Golden State's Beaches and Bluff from Border to Border - Volume One: Oregon to Monterey (2nd Edition) by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols
Category -
For trail section -