Wednesday, April 7

10 Fun and Delicious Reasons Why You Should Visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for Wildflowers

wildflowers at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park  0048

It's that time of year again, when Southern Californians get themselves all in a tizzy over springtime wildflowers (or colorful weeds, as this New England native calls them).

The mecca of Southern California's wildflowers is Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California's largest state park and home to some of the most spectacular wildflowers around.

wildflowers at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 0055

We recently took a road trip to Anza-Borrego to admire the wildflowers, and even I was impressed. So pack up your car and head over to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park soon before the flowers are gone. Go mid-week if you can to avoid the heavy weekend traffic.

Here are 10 reasons why you should visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park:

1. On the drive to the desert valley, you'll pass idyllic pastures with scores of roaming cows, many of whom will moo personally for you.

mooing cows in Julian, CA

2. You'll spot flowering cacti so intensely colored that they look neon. You'll also take an absurd number of pictures as you roam through the desert collecting sand in your shoes.

flowering cactus in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park  0009

3. Along the way, you'll stop to smell the flowers. And if you're (un)lucky like my mother-in-law, you'll have someone (like your son, Jeff) there to capture the moment with a picture of you, and a daughter-in-law (Susan), who will post it on her blog.

smelling the wildflowers at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

4. You'll forget all about the picture when you spot a great, little roadside stand in the heart of the valley selling fresh fruit. You'll buy a box of plump, sweet, fresh Medjool dates, half of which will be eaten by the passengers in your car on the ride home.

buying Medjool dates in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

5. You'll buy enough citrus to feed a scurvy-stricken militia. (A 15-pound bag of freshly picked pink grapefruit is $4!)

fresh grapefruits and oranges

6. You'll stop in the quaint town of Julian, where you can roam historic buildings and do some antique shopping.

Old Town Julian, CA

7. You'll treat yourself to a piece 'o pie at the famous Julian Pie Company. Just be sure to call first, because the last thing you want to see after you've spent the entire day anticipating a big slab of warm Dutch apple pie with cinnamon ice cream is this sign:

Julian Pie Company in Julian, CA

8. You'll end the day by having your picture taken among a sea of yellow daffodils.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

9. When you get home with your 15 pounds of pink grapefruit, 10 pounds of navel oranges, 5 pounds of blood oranges, 3 pounds of lemons, and 1 pound of kumquats, you'll start searching for recipes online to use them all. Save yourself some time, and try these recipes featuring citrus:

Chili-Lime Fruit Salad
Honeyed Orange Ginger Muffins (Quat, optional)
Orange, Walnut, and Chocolate Chip Muffins
Glazed Meyer Lemon and Blueberry Cream Scones
Camembert and Kumquat Chutney Toasts
Wild Arugula and Blood Orange Salad with Prosciutto
Warm Bulgur Salad with Beets, Fennel, and Oranges
Tilapia with Zesty Blood Orange and Mango Salsa
Shrimp Tacos with Citrus-Avocado Salsa
Orange Delight Cookies
Italian Almond and Orange Torte with Blood Orange Compote

10. If you've got some soft or bruised oranges, don't discard them. Juice them and make a blood orange vodkatini or this lovely Italian Blood Orange and Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary.

juicing blood oranges

The olive oil in this cake makes it exceptionally moist, while the rosemary and blood orange juice and zest add earthiness and tang. It makes a simple yet sophisticated mid-afternoon snack with a glass of wine and some fine cheese.

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary
Yields 8-10 slices
Print recipe only here.

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup whole milk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
The zest of 2 small blood oranges
The juice of 1 small blood orange (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Coat an 8-9-inch loaf pan or 9-inch round pan with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well blended, about 1 minute. Whisk in the olive oil and milk.

4. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until thoroughly blended. Gently mix in the rosemary, orange zest, orange juice, and black pepper.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for about 15-20 minutes before removing the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Joanne said...

I love using olive oil in baked goods. It's just so much fun. You've made me wish that blood oranges were in season year round. I need to scrounge some up before they're gone to make this!

I've never been to the anza-borrego desert state park but hope to someday when I spend some time traveling the US!

The Teacher Cooks said...

The blood oranges are really beautiful. I am so jealous that you can get so many fresh fruits in California. They are all shipped to us from California. I love the wild flowers in the desert.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Well, you've certainly enticed me! The wildflower photos are beautiful, only surpassed by the olive oil cake, and the thought of a blood orange vodkatini!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I want some of that cake and those oranges. gorgeous looking.w

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I made a similar cake not long ago with blood time I will try the addition of rosemary.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

I'm sold on Anza-Borrego State park! And blood oranges are sadly rare here in NYC, but I'll be on the lookout for some.

Valen said...

I'm so excited that you did a post about Anza-Borrego!!! I have been here twice, but both times were not in spring so we missed the flowers, but I loved this place anyway!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

joanne-Blood oranges are special, aren't they? You can also make this bread with navel oranges or lemons.

teachercooks-Yes, we're lucky because we get access to the fruit earlier when it's fresher.

TW-Cake AND vodkatini? Sounds good to me. :)

linda-Thank you!

val-The rosemary enhances the citrus nicely.

lisa-It's a beautiful spot; I hope you get to spend time there some day.

valen-Oh, I'm so happy to hear it! Now you'll have to come back next spring for the wildflowers. ;)

Homemade Heaven said...

10 Reason? you sold me on the first one. I wish we could get blood oranges in SA, they really look the wonderful.

przepisy said...

Great recipe!!!

Megan said...

I love this post! A friend just got back from there and we teased him becuase he said he was going to see the cactus bloom. Now I understand! And those cows look like they should be on a happy cow cheese commercial.
The cake looks devine! I will be trying this recipe soon. Now, I need some oranges!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Awesome photos. I love desert - it's pretty! And even yummier cake!

Judy said...

Sometimes the best things are in your own backyard, so to speak. Just might have to take a weekend road trip!

Stacy (Little Blue Hen) said...

I've been trying to convince the hubby to drive out there on one of his days off and we just haven't gotten our act together. I am sending him this link. Heck, maybe I will ditch him and take a friend. Fifteen pounds of citrus for $4? I am there.

Be careful with those vodkatinis, though. I made one a few weeks ago and had to pour myself into bed.

lisaiscooking said...

I love those amazing cacti flowers! I'll have to remember this park next time in southern CA. And, your blood orange, olive oil, and rosemary cake looks fantastic.

Dinners and Dreams said...

I love blood oranges but never thought to use them in a cake. It looks as delicious as those desert flowers.


tasteofbeirut said...

That cake is it! I want it! My daughter wants it (she heard me and voiced her loud approval) and the touch of black pepper is genius! Need I say more!
Thanks for posting all these citrus recipes I am a citrus-obsessed type of gal!

collin said...

The oranges are really beautiful. Also thanks for sharing the recipe. I will surely try this.

Take the Cake Personality Test and find out which cake are you like. I have enjoyed a lot while taking the test. Hope u too will enjoy it. Have Fun!!

Tallgrass Kitchen said...

While I love Wisconsin, there are some distinct advantages to CA livin'! Early April wildflowers and fresh citrus are only a few.

I would be down with making some blood orange ice pops (but I'm 8.5 months pregnant, so anything sour and in popsicle form is perfect.) I posted a rhubarb ice pop recipe earlier in the week. The vodkatini will be perfect in about 3 weeks!

Mary Bergfeld said...

I love your cake. I have one that is similar in my files. I love how moist these cakes are and the fruity undertone is hard to beat. While I follow you on Twitter this is my first visit to your blog. I'll be back more often. Your photos of the park are great. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

claire said...

Thanks for sharing those pretty pictures. I used to live in Calif. and remember those wildflowers well. I feel like I just had a little visit. :)

Brett Sutcliffe said...

I can smell the sunshine form your pics. Thank you for sharing your recipe as well.

Manggy said...

Things I love: 1) wildflowers 2) oil-based tea cakes :) And I'm the photographer, so no worries!
Shame about the pie, though! I can imagine the disappointment!

Susan from Food Blogga said...


rose-That's so sweet of you!

megan-Now you'll have to visit next year! I think the cows will still be happy. ;)

tasteyeatsathome-Thank you!

judy-Oh, I hope you do. It's so lovely.

mary-Welcome! Please visit as often as you'd like! I'll visit you as well. :)

claire-I'm glad it brought back happy memories.

brett-That's so nice!

mark-I hope you make it there one day soon!

stacy-You might convince him if you tell him blood orange vodkatinis are awaiting him when you return home! ;)

lisa-Those cacti are really amazing!

nisrine-I'm so happy it intrigued you!

collin -Sounds like fun!

tallgrasskitchen-Blood orange pops? You don't have to be pregnant to enjoy those!

Deborah Dowd said...

This just sounds amazing! What an intriguing and delicious-sounding combination. I have never tried a cake with olive oil but this is an inspiration!n

Wedding Cakes Pictures said...

That cake looks delicious! Thanks for the recipe, I wonder if it would work just as well with normal oranges?

LoveAffair Cakes by mirela said...

Love this combination. Will try it for sure.. I just found out your blog and I am really enjoying going through your recipes.. greetings from Croatia