The Seedless Lemon Revolution Has Taken Root in California

David Karp wrote . . . . . . . . .

Thirty miles northwest of Los Angeles, the Lemon Hill grove — a square mile of rolling slopes covered with healthy young trees, laden with fragrant yellow fruit — evokes the Arcadian vistas of classic citrus crate labels. Everything looks familiar, but inside the lemons there’s a crucial difference: There are no seeds.

You may wonder what took so long, since most other kinds of citrus have largely lost their seeds. But standard lemon varieties such as Eureka and Lisbon are hard to crossbreed, because they closely derive from one ancestor, a natural hybrid of citron and sour orange that originated thousands of years ago in northeastern India.

The grove is part of a huge bet by America’s largest fruit grower that it can revolutionize a historically unvarying California crop. And if you’ve ever seen the face of a prep chef who’s been told to slice and seed a carton of lemons, you can imagine the potential.

Almost all true lemons contain seeds and although the number varies greatly from a few to dozens depending on season and pollination, there’s no way to tell from the outside how many pips lie within.

Lemon trees occasionally do develop natural mutations, however, and as long ago as 1939 the U.S. Department of Agriculture brought a variety named Seedless Lisbon from South Australia that was derived from such an occurrence. About 25 years ago, a few California growers planted this variety (since renamed Seedless), but it never really caught on because on average it bore a quarter less fruit than standard seeded lemons.

Moreover, the demand back then for seedless lemons was limited, and they brought little or no price premium over seeded varieties.

“For the most part we sell them as regular lemons, so the lack of production hurts a lot,” said David Roberts of Visalia, one of the earliest and largest growers of this variety.

But as seedless mandarin production boomed over the last two decades, breeders and farmers around the world, searching for the next big thing, discovered at least two dozen low-seeded or seedless lemon varieties.

South African growers planted thousands of acres of one called Eureka SL for export markets, and a diaspora of South African citrus scientists vied to introduce the most promising new seedless lemon varieties to California, keeping their moves secret to forestall competitors.

Until now, however, all the new varieties proved insufficiently productive, shapely or seedless to compete with regular lemons and never made the big time here.

Enter the Wonderful Company, which is based in Los Angeles and grows 160,000 acres of fruits and nuts, including vast orchards of citrus, almonds and pistachios. Twenty years ago it gambled on two minor fruits — pomegranates and mandarins — and turned them into superstars. (The company’s owners, Stewart and Lynda Resnick, are somewhat controversial billionaires who recently pledged $750 million to Caltech for climate research.)

Etienne Rabe, vice president of horticulture for Wonderful Citrus in Delano, Calif., snapped up exclusive United States rights to two highly productive seedless lemon varieties, Code 3X97 and 7ELS1 (yes, new varieties typically sport such gobbledygook names). Both originated with 2PH Farms (named after the acidity of lemon juice) in Queensland, Australia, from Eureka bud sticks, wood for grafting that was treated in the late 1990s with gamma irradiation to induce mutations that rendered their progeny seedless.

Starting in 2015, Wonderful Citrus and its affiliated growers planted 3,500 acres of seedless lemons — a few Eureka SL but mostly the 2PH varieties — in the San Joaquin Valley, Ventura County and the Coachella and Imperial deserts, Rabe said. These will ripen from late October to June; another 1,000 acres of trees are on order for next year and some will be planted in northeastern Mexico, where fruit ripens from July to October.

The horticultural challenges are considerable, but with the aid of new rootstocks, careful pruning and nutrition management, so far the seedless lemon plantings look good.

“I believe they’re going to be just as productive as regular seeded lemons,” Rabe, 63, said.

Wonderful Citrus’ seedless lemons are slightly earlier, larger, thinner-skinned and juicier than regular lemons, but consumers probably won’t notice any difference, he added.

Samples I tried over the last three years tasted just like regular seeded lemons in all aspects, including acidity and aroma.

“I buy 15 to 30 pounds of lemons a week, and deseed them myself,” said Jill Davie, who is chef-owner of the Mar Vista and has worked as Sunkist’s Lemon Lady. “Seedless would be amazing, although for juicing it wouldn’t make much difference.”

Others are dubious.

“I prioritize flavor and quality over convenience, so the lack of seeds doesn’t matter to me,” said Julia Hauben, a private chef who also sells seeded Lisbon lemons at her family’s Penryn Orchard Specialties stand at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

“I like seeds because they contain pectin that I use in making lemon marmalade,” she added. “And seeds are a sign of natural fruit production, of the presence of pollination and bees.”

One- and two-pound mesh bags of Wonderful Seedless Lemons, as they are branded, will be available starting this week at local and national market chains, including Albertsons, Ralphs and Gelson’s in Southern California.

Adam Cooper, senior vice president of marketing for the Wonderful Company, estimates that the company’s seedless lemons will command a 50% premium over seeded fruit, boosted by a “robust marketing plan” including prominent displays in stores.

Rabe said that in a few years Wonderful’s seedless plantings will account for 10% of the United States lemon market, and the company’s ambition is that seedless lemons will ultimately replace seeded.

“They’re very smart, they’re market-driven and they put a lot of dollars behind any commodity that they do,” said Alex Teague, chief operating officer of Limoneira, a major lemon grower and competitor.

“They’ll drive demand,” he said. “I think they’ll succeed.”

So don’t be surprised to see Tom Brady passing a giant seedless lemon in a Super Bowl ad. Whether Wonderful’s gamble on seedless lemons results in a touchdown, only time will tell.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Toasted Cheese and Ham Sandwich with Egg


2 slices good white or whole wheat bread
1 thick slice cooked ham
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
about 1 tbsp snipped fresh chives
small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, stalks discarded
2 slices mild cheese, such as Monterey or mild cheddar
olive oil
1 egg
a little soft butter (optional)


  1. Preheat the broiler on a medium—high setting. Prepare a small pan of simmering water or an egg poacher. Warm a serving plate.
  2. Top a slice of bread with ham. Trim off any large areas of overlapping ham and place them on top. Overlap the tomato slices on the ham and sprinkle with the snipped chives and parsley sprigs. Top with the cheese slices. Season with pepper (there will probably be enough salt in the ham) and drizzle with a little olive oil, then cover with the second slice of bread.
  3. Toast the sandwich on both sides until crisp and golden.
  4. Break the egg into a cup. Swirl the simmering water and drop the egg into the middle of the swirl, then poach it for about 3 minutes, until the white is set and the yolk still soft. (Cook the egg for a shorter or longer time, to taste.) Alternatively, cook the egg in a poaching pan with cups. Use a slotted spoon to lift the egg from the pan, draining it thoroughly.
  5. Serve the sandwich on a warmed plate, topped with the poached egg. Top with a little butter, if liked, so that it melts over the egg. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving.

Source: Toast It!

In Pictures: Home-cooked Breakfasts

The FDA’s New EPA/DHA Health Claim

Jessica Levings wrote . . . . . . . . .

Fish and seafood packaging may now boast qualified health claims stating that omega-3s can help reduce risk of hypertension and coronary heart disease and lower blood pressure.

In June, the FDA approved the use of certain qualified health claims on foods and dietary supplements containing the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA relating to their ability to reduce the risk of hypertension and coronary heart disease, as well as lower blood pressure. The decision was in response to a 2014 petition submitted by the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED).

According to Harry Rice, PhD, GOED’s vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, who spearheaded the health claim petition on behalf of the organization and its members, “The new qualified health claims provide what many, including GOED, consider to be long overdue acknowledgement from the FDA about the blood pressure–lowering benefits associated with EPA/DHA, the primary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish. Linking EPA/DHA intake to blood pressure reduction provides consumers a benefit to which they can relate.”

Before the announcement of the new qualified health claims, since 2004 the FDA has allowed the following qualified health claim on certain foods and supplements: “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

Following are the new qualified health claims the FDA announced, which manufacturers may voluntarily use on labels of seafood and other qualifying foods and supplements:

1. Consuming EPA and DHA combined may help lower blood pressure in the general population and reduce the risk of hypertension. However, FDA has concluded that the evidence is inconsistent and inconclusive. One serving of [name of the food or dietary supplement] provides [ ] gram(s) of EPA and DHA.

2. Consuming EPA and DHA combined may reduce blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension, a risk factor for CHD (coronary heart disease). However, FDA has concluded that the evidence is inconsistent and inconclusive. One serving of [name of the food or dietary supplement] provides [ ] gram(s) of EPA and DHA.

3a. Consuming EPA and DHA combined may reduce the risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) by lowering blood pressure. However, FDA has concluded that the evidence is inconsistent and inconclusive. One serving of [name of the food or dietary supplement] provides [ ] gram(s) of EPA and DHA.

3b. Consuming EPA and DHA combined may reduce the risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) by reducing the risk of hypertension. However, FDA has concluded that the evidence is inconsistent and inconclusive. One serving of [name of the food or dietary supplement] provides [ ] gram(s) of EPA and DHA.

4. Research shows that consuming EPA and DHA combined may be beneficial for moderating blood pressure, a risk factor for CHD (coronary heart disease). However, FDA has concluded that the evidence is inconsistent and inconclusive. One serving of [name of the food or dietary supplement] provides [ ] gram(s) of EPA and DHA.

Dietary supplements and conventional foods bearing any of the above claims must contain at least 0.8 g EPA and DHA (combined total) per serving and meet certain other nutrient content criteria. Importantly, the requirement of 0.8 g per serving isn’t a recommended intake level but rather a level of intake the FDA observed to lower blood pressure in limited studies.

Under general health claim requirements, individual foods can’t bear a health claim if they exceed 13 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, and 480 mg sodium per reference amount customarily consumed (RACC), per labeled serving size, and per 50 g if the RACC is 30 g or less or two tablespoons or less. Furthermore, to bear a health claim, individual foods also must contain, before any nutrient addition, at least 10% DV for vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein (5 g), or dietary fiber per RACC.

Evidence Base for the EPA/DHA Health Claim

The FDA determined that the overall evidence relating to EPA/DHA intake and blood pressure didn’t meet the “significant scientific agreement” standard required for an authorized health claim, but it did meet the “credible evidence” standard for a qualified health claim.

To assess whether a beneficial link exists between consuming EPA and DHA together and lowering blood pressure, the FDA evaluated 104 intervention studies analyzing the effect of EPA and DHA from conventional foods, dietary supplements, and prescription drugs on blood pressure in both normotensive and hypertensive people. Only 36 of the 104 studies showed a statistically significant benefit, with durations ranging from four weeks to one year, and combined doses of EPA and DHA ranging from 390 mg per day to 15 g per day.

Based on its findings, the FDA concluded there’s “some credible evidence suggesting a relationship between the combined intake of EPA and DHA from conventional foods, dietary supplements, and prescription drugs and blood pressure reduction. However, this evidence is highly inconsistent.”

Sources of EPA and DHA, Average Intake

EPA and DHA are added to certain supplements and are naturally found or fortified in some conventional foods, including fatty fish (eg, salmon, mackerel, sardines), fish oils, seaweed, and algal oils. Studies have found that food contributes a small amount of DHA and EPA to total daily omega-3 intakes; the National Institutes of Health estimates the amounts at 40 mg in children and teenagers and about 90 mg in adults.

Dietary supplements containing omega-3s also contribute to total omega-3 intake, with fish oil as one of the most commonly used sources. According to 2012 data, 7.8% of US adults and 1.1% of US children reported taking supplements containing fish oil, omega-3s, and/or DHA or EPA. According to 2003–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, supplements add about 10 mg to average DHA intakes, and 20 mg to average EPA intakes in adults. Data from the FDA and NHANES indicate that the current average intake of EPA and DHA in the United States is only about 77 mg per day from all sources for people aged 4 and older.

Currently, there’s no recommended intake level in the United States for EPA or DHA. However, to help improve heart health, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommend individuals in the general population to consume about 8 oz per week of a variety of seafood, providing about 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA. Importantly, the DGA note that this recommendation is for the total package of nutrients seafood provides, including its EPA and DHA content.

Use of the EPA/DHA Health Claim on Fish

For items sold at seafood counters in supermarkets, nutrition labeling of fresh fish and packaged single-ingredient fish is voluntary unless nutrient content or a health claim is made. Fish and packaged seafood may bear the claim if they meet all the required criteria for its use.

The FDA defines fish as “fresh or saltwater finfish, crustaceans, other forms of aquatic animal life (including, but not limited to, alligator, frog, aquatic turtle, jellyfish, sea cucumber, and sea urchin, and the roe of such animals) other than birds or mammals, and all mollusks, where such animal life is intended for human consumption.” With regard for labeling these products with the EPA/DHA qualified health claims, the FDA considers “products that are essentially all fish” to be those without any added ingredients and with an “insignificant amount” of added fat or carbohydrate. Examples of products considered all fish include raw, boiled, and broiled fish.

Source: Today’s Dietitian

Study: Kratom May Cause Liver Damage

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

The popular herbal supplement kratom may cause liver damage, researchers warn.

Kratom is widely available in smoke shops and online. It’s a botanical product made from Mitragyna speciosa, a tropical evergreen tree found in Southeast Asia. At low doses, it’s a stimulant. At high doses, it has an opioid-like effect.

Use of kratom has risen sharply since the start of the opioid epidemic, and more than 90 deaths have been linked to it, researchers say.

“There are risks associated with using kratom, and liver injury is on the list of things that are a potential consequence of using it,” said William Eggleston, a clinical assistant professor at the Binghamton University-State University of New York’s School of Pharmacy. He wasn’t involved with the study, but reviewed the findings.

There were eight cases of reported liver injury associated with kratom products in the study. Eggleston said this may not seem like a lot, but they are enough to be concerning.

“Maybe we need to re-evaluate whether or not this drug should be available as a dietary supplement,” he said.

Unlike prescription drugs, dietary supplements don’t need approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

And though kratom is a legal herbal supplement, the FDA has warned against its use. The agency has called it “opioid-like” and cited concerns that it might pose an addiction risk.

Some patients report that they have had a good experience with kratom for treating pain, mood disorders and opioid addiction, Eggleston said.

“However, we really don’t have any evidence in the medical literature as of yet to support that,” he said. “So whenever I have the opportunity to speak with a patient who’s using kratom, even if they’re having a positive experience, I certainly caution them that there are a number of potential risks. It is relatively unregulated, and to say that it works is not something that we really know yet.”

For the study, a team led by Dr. Victor Navarro, head of gastroenterology at Albert Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, looked at 404 cases of liver damage from dietary supplements. Eight of the cases, which occurred between 2007 and 2017, were tied to kratom.

Five patients used kratom to get high, and one used it for joint pain. All used the supplement for two to six weeks before signs of liver damage appeared.

Five patients had jaundice (a yellowing of the skin); six had itching; five had abdominal pain, and three had fever. Six patients were hospitalized, and all got better without the need for a liver transplant.

Dr. David Bernstein, chief of hepatology at Northwell Health in Manhasset, N.Y., said the study is a reminder that many over-the-counter supplements that people think are safe aren’t.

“People should be aware of this finding and that they have to read very carefully the labels of ingredients of anything that they put into their mouths,” said Bernstein, who had no part in the study.

Because of its dangers, kratom should be avoided, Bernstein warned. “Any over-the-counter product that contains this ingredient should be left on the counter,” he said.

Navarro is scheduled to present the findings Saturday at a meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, in Boston. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Source: HealthDay

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