Flavored firewood is a booming Valley business

FRESNO, California

Even during the lunch hour rush at Westwoods Barbecue in North Fresno, some things can't be hurried: like the grilling and smoking of their meat always over a wood fire.

Owner Dave Fansler explained, "It's harder to do. Frankly it's inconvenient, messy, it's laborious, you gotta go get the wood and stack it, clean out the grill and all that. Versus just turning on the gas, but it tastes so much better, it's worth it."

In fact Fansler feels so strongly about cooking with wood, he named his restaurant after it. "Westwoods, which means cooking with the woods of the west, so we use oak, we use almond, we use grape and we use apple. Each wood has its own kind of flavor and adds its own nuance to the flavor the food."

He says his customers expect it, many of them BBQ-ers themselves. The BBQ industry estimates 114 million households in the United States owned a grill or smoker as of 2011. Countless cookbooks and celebrity chefs celebrate cooking over a wood fire.

Vincent Ricchiuti of Bella Frutta in Clovis says that demand solved a dilemma for farmers like him: what to do with trees in his orchards that fell over or were pulled out of production. "People were always asking hey do you have wood we can burn with for our homes or barbecue with and that's kind of what we've created today with Bella Frutta. We're really one of the only players in town that offers such a wide variety."

While almond wood is best for producing heat to warm homes. Apple and grape wood produce more smoke for flavoring BBQ. Just a little taste of the farm, coming to a table near you.

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