Harvest Desk

They switched diets.

Twenty South Africans gave up their corn porridge and vegetable stews for burgers and fries.

And 20 Pittsburghians sacrificed fast food staples for the low-fat, high-fiber fare that South Africans traditionally eat.

Dr. Stephen O'Keefe, a professor of nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was eager to find out what would happen next.

O'Keefe knew that South Africans tend to have much lower rates of colon cancer than Americans. And he wanted to find out if food might be a factor.

If you want to know if the beef you're buying is grassfed, there's a U.S. Department of Agriculture label for that. The agency is also behind the nation's biggest certified organic label, and an antibiotic-free one, too.

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Flowering meat that unfolds when plopped into hot broth, beef "yarn" that can be knitted directly onto your plate and fried nuggets made from the extinct dodo bird are just a few of the menu options at the Bistro In Vitro.

Just a few months ago McDonald's was showing no love for kale.

In a TV ad promoting the beefiness of the Big Mac, the chain poked fun at the leafy green and other vegetarian fare: "You can't get juiciness like this from soy or quinoa," a low voice quips as the camera focuses on a juicy burger. "Nor will it ever be kale."

But the chain is now showing it some affection. McDonald's has announced that it's testing a new breakfast bowl that blends kale and spinach with turkey sausage and egg whites. McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb says the bowls are "freshly prepared."

When Jeff Brown opened his first grocery store in a low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia back in 2004, it seemed like a long shot.

Most people thought he was crazy to even attempt to make money in a food desert like Southwest Philly, he says. Other grocers had tried and quickly gone out of business.

Just over a year ago, Tracy Dethlefs learned she has stage 1 breast cancer. Since then, she estimates she’s charted some 10,000 miles travelling from her farm near Loup City in central Nebraska to area hospitals for treatment. Every surgery, round of chemotherapy and radiation treatment was a road trip.

“Radiation treatments usually (take) only about 5 minutes (on) a day that they have to see you,” Dethlefs said. “But for a week, for seven weeks in a row, you’re driving every single day to the cancer treatment center. We’re about an hour away from cancer centers.”

Think local Nebraska food, and Omaha's famous steaks may come to mind. The Great Plains are indeed an agricultural powerhouse when it comes to commodities like feed corn, soybeans, beef and pork.

But as food journalist Summer Miller tells Meghna Chakrabarti of NPR's Here & Now, there's much more on offer these days in Nebraska, as well as in its Great Plains neighbors Iowa and South Dakota.

To make the New Numbat Artificial Diet, mix together powdered cat chow, hen's eggs and water. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes and cool. Add calcium carbonate, a vitamin-mineral supplement, cellulose powder, fish oil, Vitamin B12 and crushed termite mound.

Grow Springfield

Bringing together those who care about community gardens and urban farming is the goal of Grow Springfield.  A network of organizations are working to support existing community gardens and open opportunities for more.  

Lindsay Record with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance and Joe Eby of  the Springfield Urban League join us to talk more about Grow Springfield.  Record says it got rolling with a USDA grant:
 

Puerto Rico used to produce some of the best coffee in the world — but that was more than a century ago.

Today, Puerto Rico's coffee crop is just a fraction of what it was then, and little is exported. But there's a movement on the island to improve quality and rebuild Puerto Rico's coffee industry.

If you've ever walked out of the house without your phone and wallet — as I did yesterday — you might have wondered: Am I starting to lose it?

Even if you're too young for any real concern about dementia, this kind of precursor to a "senior moment" can be rattling.

But a new study suggests we're not powerless when it comes to keeping our mental acuity and memory intact.

Researchers have documented that a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fish, whole grains, along with daily servings of nuts and olive oil can help fend off age-related cognitive decline.

Just like flared jeans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and thighs without a gap, matcha tea powder is in fashion in America.

You can grab a matcha latte at Starbucks. Whole Foods stocks the green tea powder on its shelves. Or now that warm weather is here, maybe you'll order a Matcha Green Tea Blast smoothie from Jamba Juice.

Sheep ranchers, feedlot owners, and processors in states like Colorado, Nebraska and Illinois are banking on America becoming a more diverse place.

Specifically, they want American Muslims to buy more of their lamb.

When restaurateur Nora Pouillon moved to the United States from Austria in the 1960s, she was surprised by how hard it was to get really fresh food. Everything was packaged and processed. Pouillon set out to find the find the best ingredients possible to cook for her family and friends. She brought that same sensibility to her Restaurant Nora, which eventually became the first certified organic restaurant in the country.

Pouillon writes about her lifelong devotion to food in a new memoir, My Organic Life: How A Pioneering Chef Helped Shape The Way We Eat Today.

America's biggest food production companies face a growing threat of water scarcity, according to a new report from Ceres, an environmental sustainability group.

Producing food, after all, requires more water than almost any other business on Earth. And the outlook isn't pretty: One-third of food is grown in areas of high or extremely high water stress, while pollution and climate change are further limiting supplies of clean water around the world.

The drought across much of the Western U.S. is now in its fourth year. In California — where it's the most intense — farms are not under the same strict orders to conserve as cities are.

And inside the agriculture industry, farmers are quietly debating how best to respond to the drought. Given uncertainty around pending state regulations, some say there may be an incentive to not invest in water-saving technologies right now.

If you think trade deals are just about business, think again. They can also have a sweeping effect on how people eat. Take all those avocados, watermelon and cervezas from Mexico we now consume, and the meat and feed corn for livestock we send there in exchange.

Being a parent changes you in many ways — including when it comes to what you're willing to eat.

Parents eat their kids' leftovers — yes, it's true. And this can mean leftover scraps on their baby's tray ... or bits and pieces hanging off bibs and mouths. Hey, it can look strangely irresistible at the time.

This week marks the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, the great Allied victory over Hitler's forces in Europe during World War II.

What you may not realize is that the war helped forever change the American palate, as returning GIs brought home a craving for a pungent, fragrant herb they had encountered overseas: oregano.

In the rough and tumble world of restaurants, Jeremy Hardy considers himself something of a survivor.

Hardy's restaurant, Coastal Kitchen, has been a fixture of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood for 20 years. Notoriously low-margin businesses, restaurants have a high failure rate. Hardy says even in good times, running one is like juggling with clubs.

"With the labor pressures that are coming from this $15 eventual minimum-wage increase, we are juggling with razor-sharp daggers," Hardy says. "And if you don't get it right, it's really going to hurt."

Taking Mom Out For Brunch? It's A Feminist Tradition

May 9, 2015

More than a quarter of American adults will dine out this Mother's Day – and most of them will opt to fete Mom with a breakfast, lunch or brunch out. If this describes your plans, guess what? You're honoring a feminist tradition.

Pregnant mothers are often reminded that they're eating for two. But 17-year-old Gladys barely has enough food for one.

It's not hard to connect the dots between what kids see on TV and what they eat. Advertising works.

And researchers have documented that marketing practices that push items like sugary cereals, salted snacks and fast food put children's long-term health at risk, by promoting unhealthy eating habits.

Upscale grocery store chain Whole Foods (often referred to as "Whole Paycheck" because of its high prices) announced this week that it's launching a new offshoot brand — with lower prices — to appeal to younger, millennial shoppers.

Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, says it will be a "uniquely branded store concept unlike anything that currently exists in the marketplace" with "value prices ... a modern, streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection."

Let's Talk About Death Over Dinner

May 7, 2015

On a recent evening in San Francisco, five guests gather at the home of Eric Weinstein and his wife, Pia Malaney, for a tasty dinner of seared salmon and a deep discussion of a topic that many people might find unpalatable: death.

We usually hate it when media speculate about whether a celebrity has had a nip or tuck, but it must be said: The Hamburglar has definitely had some work done.

Although it's a tropical island, perhaps surprisingly, Puerto Rico produces very little of its own food. After decades of industrialization, the U.S. territory imports more than 80 percent of what's consumed on the island. There are signs, though, the trend is changing.

This news may feel like day-old bread, but here goes: Panera Bread is shaking up the fast-casual eatery world with its announcement to ditch more than 150 food additives by the end of 2016.

Butter (arguably) makes everything better – even tea. For Chime Dhorje, who works at Café Himalaya in New York City, the butter in the cup of tea before him ideally comes from a yak.

Yak butter tea is often referred to as the national drink of Dhorje's homeland, Tibet. Tibetans drink it all day long — up to 60 cups a day, it's said — though they're not the only ones who enjoy it: It's consumed in countries throughout the Himalayas.

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