Harvest Desk

Urban foraging might call to mind images of hipsters picking food out of the trash.

But one group in Massachusetts eats only the finest, freshest produce. The League of Urban Canners harvests fruit from trees in Cambridge and Somerville and turns it into jam.

Sam Christy, a local high school teacher, started the league four years ago.

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This time of year we tend to do a lot of writing about food. Usually we describe delicious dishes that remind us of home and our favorite family traditions, but there's something missing from that conversation: the tale of the kitchen disaster, the wreck, the unsalvageable mess for which the only remedy is take-out.

To fully appreciate the special anguish that is a home-cooked meal gone wrong, we've asked three people with particular knowledge in this area to tell us about their worst-ever kitchen debacles.

A family member's passing this month sent me on a wistful expedition through endless unnamed photo collections from my old hard drive. I searched for group shots and family holiday pictures in hopes of tracking down one or two nostalgic images of someone very photo-averse.

Instead, I found this — and many, many, many photos like it.

Got cranberries? How about squash and pumpkin pie? These favorites would not be as bountiful without bees and other wild pollinators.

Honey bees were first imported into the American colonies by early European settlers, who recognized their value in producing fruits and other crops.

Move over turkey. Step aside stuffing.

Green Bean Casserole, an iconic Thanksgiving dish, turns 60 years old this year and it’s as popular as ever.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Thanksgiving feasts are always in need of something special.

Can a sprinkle of artisanal salt noticeably pump up the experience?

Let's meet a new Appalachian salt-maker in West Virginia and find out.

J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works is nestled in the Kanawha River Valley, just southeast of the capital city of Charleston in the small town of Malden (not to be confused with Maldon, a sea salt brand from the U.K.). It's mostly pasture land, with cows nearby.

We are deep into fall, which means winter squash are all over restaurant menus, food blogs and probably your Instagram feed.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Ever been caught telling different stories to different people? It's awkward.

Dow AgroSciences, which sells seeds and pesticides to farmers, made
contradictory claims to different parts of the U.S. government about its latest herbicide. The Environmental Protection Agency just found out, and now wants to cancel Dow's legal right to sell the product.

You might not like your fava beans prepared the way Hannibal Lecter made them in the 1991 thriller Silence of the Lambs. But they can be delightful pureed or sauteed.

After the Mississippi River flooded four years ago, state and federal authorities offered buyouts to affected homeowners. Now the state budget impasse has left some of those deals in limbo.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



For some of us, the best part of Thanksgiving comes from a forkful of flavors all swirled together — turkey, gravy, cranberry and stuffing. It's a savory symphony in your mouth.

Chefs in New York City are experimenting with putting together all of those ingredients into a one-bite Thanksgiving dinner.

The New England area where the Pilgrims first settled is cranberry country.

These early colonists likely enjoyed a version of cranberry sauce on their autumn tables — though it probably took the form of a rough, savory compote, rather than the sweet spin we're most familiar with.

For ideas on using this bitter red berry of the season in new ways this Thanksgiving, NPR Morning Edition's Renee Montagne turned to Chris Kimball, founder of America's Test Kitchen.

The last time you ate cranberry – perhaps as a dried snack, in a glass of juice or as a saucy condiment with the Thanksgiving turkey – it was likely paired with sugar, and a lot of it. A cup of cranberry juice may be packed with antioxidants, but it has about 30 grams (or 7.5 teaspoons) of sugar.

America's beekeepers are having a rough time. They lost an estimated 42 percent of their hives last year.

Move over, turkey. Step aside, stuffing.

Green Bean Casserole, an iconic Thanksgiving dish, turns 60 years old this year, and it's as popular as ever.

Love it or loathe it, the classic Midwestern casserole has come to mean more than just a mashup of processed food sitting next to the mashed potatoes.

Mike Berners-Lee may not be an expert on the American Thanksgiving. A native of the UK, he’s never actually had the pleasure of experiencing one. But as one of the world’s leading researchers on the carbon footprint of—well—everything (he even wrote a book subtitled “The Carbon Footprint of Everything”), he’s plenty familiar with the impacts of the foods that star in the traditional Thanksgiving Day spread.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.



Changes in the environment can affect what is available for us to eat. My colleague Steve Inskeep spoke with Allison Aubrey about a little-noticed factor in our food supply that affects what will be available for Thanksgiving dinner.

There's an oil painting on one wall in the cluttered room that serves as central headquarters of Burch Farms, a large vegetable grower in Faison, N.C. The painting shows an African-American couple, the woman in a long, plain dress, the man in a homespun shirt. They're digging sweet potatoes with their bare hands and an old-fashioned hoe.

Remember that health class you had in middle school? Where you found out all that stuff about your body? We wondered why there wasn't a class like that for middle age. Could someone tell us what happens to us as we move through the decades?

Morning Edition asked listeners to send their questions about women's bodies and aging as part of our ongoing series Changing Lives of Women. We heard from hundreds of you asking about everything from sleeplessness to STDs to sex in old age.

If you are turkey-averse, turkeyphobic or just bored with the bird, fear not. We've got some other main dish ideas for you.

"What I think is cool is to put a center roast on the table that comes from the woods itself: something wild, something home-hunted, like venison," Amy Thielen, Minnesotan and author of The New Midwestern Table, tells All Things Considered's Ari Shapiro. Deer, says Thielen, is "one of those secret underground proteins in the American meat-eating story."

It's time to stop dancing around the issue. Thanksgiving food is trash. Sitting down to a standard Thanksgiving meal means negotiating between dry and bland or lukewarm and sticky. But it doesn't have to be. If there's one thing we learned the first time around, it's that Thanksgiving is all about "borrowing" from others.

Remember the headlines a few weeks back, when the World Health Organization categorized red and processed meats as cancer-causing?

Turns out, the techniques you use to prepare your meat seem to play into this risk.

Every day of the year is a good time to experiment with new recipes. Except, arguably, one.

Thanksgiving is when Grandpa's grease-spattered gravy recipe is pulled from the file and your mother-in-law makes the sweet, sticky pecan pie her grandchildren expect. The sweet potatoes are boiled and peeled for their annual bath of maple syrup, nuts and, yes, marshmallows.

Some erstwhile creative home cooks and food professionals are just like everyone else at the Thanksgiving table.

It's common wisdom that families should avoid talking about politics around the Thanksgiving table.

But if you're reading this, you might be in an NPR family. And coming up on election year — with polls and gaffes every day — won't it be hard to talk about Car Talk the whole night?

So we turned to Miss Manners, aka writer Judith Martin, to ensure our etiquette's up-to-date this holiday season.

For Martin, the age-old rule, "don't talk politics," still stands.

When the idea to write a Nordic cookbook landed on Magnus Nilsson's desk, he was against it. He says it was offensive that someone would think all of Nordic cuisine could fit, let alone belong, in one book.

"The Nordic is a geographical region, not really a cultural region," says the author, who's also head chef at the Michelin-starred Faviken restaurant, 400 miles north of Stockholm. "It's too big, and too varied." (It includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and several groups of autonomous islands.)

He eventually came around.

For those who like to try new recipes at Thanksgiving, let Clay Dunn and Zach Patton be your guides. They're the couple behind the food blog, The Bitten Word, and every year before the holiday, they scan 10 leading food magazines to identify recipe trends.