Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Food-themed festivals thrive as growing declines

PATTERSON, California: New York has the Statue of Liberty, and Las Vegas has its inimitable Strip. What Patterson has could be found in a booth run by Boy Scout Troop 8 at the city's Apricot Fiesta, where the Scouts were serving up the last of 111 gallons of homemade apricot ice cream they had mixed at the local fire hall.From the Garlic Festival this month in Gilroy, California, which attracts more than 100,000 people, to the small Pear Fair, also this month, in Courtland, California, it is the season of the agricultural fair."Wooly Bully" and other best-forgotten oldies, played on the bandstand, set the stage for cuisine like garlic ice cream, "asparagus in a blanket" (at the Stockton Asparagus Festival), and artichoke cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (the Castroville Artichoke Festival). "It tastes just like pumpkin," insisted Michele Tottino Pecci, the Artichoke Festival's director.The tradition hangs on, even as sprawl swallows up orchards. In Patterson, "the apricot capital of the world," the acreage devoted to apricots is dwindling, and farmers blame the influx of dried apricots from Turkey.In Gilroy, once the aromatic apogee of garlic, the herb is now grown on only about 500 acres. Half of the garlic sold in America now comes from China, and most California garlic comes from the Central Valley, near Fresno.

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