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A UC Feast

As you sit down to a juicy turkey, fluffy stuffing and mouthwatering sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving, you can be thankful for all of the ways UC has contributed to the flavorful dishes on your table. A couple of tidbits to nibble on:

Mama sweet potato. The genetic “mother plant” for all sweet potato varieties except one is maintained at UC Davis Foundation Plant Services.


Eugene Serr, co-creator of the walnut breeding program at UC Davis

Walnut world. If you’re the type who adds walnuts to your stuffing, you can be pretty sure the nuts are a product of UC. Almost all walnuts grown in California derive from the UC Davis walnut-breeding program. Eugene Serr, pictured, was a co-creator of the program in 1948.

Cheers to that. UC has helped California winemakers successfully introduce a variety of Mediterranean wine varietals, including Sangiovese, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tempranillo and Voignier wines. But that’s not all: UC’s deficit irrigation research has helped Northern California wine grape growers reduce water use by 30 percent and improve the quality of their crop.

Stuff the turkey. UC’s Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) department has performed extensive research with Jujube, commonly referred to as the Chinese date, for production and quality.  You can use the jujube to make jujube butter, sweet ‘n sour jujubes, brandied jujubes, jujube tarts, jujube cake, jujube mock mince meat and jujube sweet pickles. It can also be used in the bread for stuffing the turkey.

Sweet and juicy. UC plant breeders have developed new strawberry cultivars, helping California strawberry growers be the most productive in the world.

Going organic. UC’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program offers free online help to organic farmers, including research and information on the production of organic beef and other livestock, farmstead cheeses, and specialty crops.


The Thode family, of Sonoma County, helps 4-H club members raise heritage turkeys.

Eating like the pilgrims. UC oversees the state’s 4-H clubs. Children in the Sonoma county club now raise and sell heritage turkeys, the kind of birds that were around back in the Mayflower days. Club members say the free-range birds are “tender, succulent and extremely flavorful.”

Scientific olives. UC research is helping grow California’s budding olive oil industry. First Press, an online newsletter, gives olive growers science-based information on pest control and product quality, as well as market research.

A Bountiful (and safe) Harvest. UC Researchers are working to ensure the food supply is safe, ample, and ecologically sound. The first food safety program in a veterinary school was established at UC Davis. In the 1960s, the California Turkey Project at UC Davis became the national model for prevention and control of major turkey diseases.

Pest control pioneers. In 1959 four pioneering UC scientists established a pest management framework that changed the way the world farms. The scientists recognized that chemical pesticides were throwing natural systems off-kilter,, causing many more problems in the long run. They believed that combining an array of pest control methods would be more effective, safer for farm workers and kinder to the environment.

There sure is a lot of UC in your Thanksgiving feast, and that’s something to be thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving

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