Like gangbusters, and our seemingly citrus-centric county once was among America’s biggest walnut-producing regions. (At various times, the county was a leading producer of an array of crops, including celery, chile peppers, boysenberries, lima beans, and walnuts.) Our first commercial walnut grove—planted in 1870 in San Juan Capistrano—marked the beginning of a huge local industry. Noted growers included John Rea, who named his Katella Ranch for daughters Kate and Ella. But production got more expensive after walnut-damaging insects and blight appeared in the 1910s and 1920s. Walnut varieties resistant to insects and blight grew better in Northern California, and the strong competition drove local farmers to try other crops. O.C.’s walnut scene began to fade in the 1930s, and the last commercial grove disappeared in the 1960s.
Chris Jepsen is the O.C. Answer Man. Have a question? Send it to email@example.com.