Harvest Desk

Editor's note: It's National Popcorn Day! We're celebrating by bringing back this tale, first published in 2014, about the history of the beloved snack.

With the historic nuclear deal finally taking effect, a sanctions-free Iran can now get back to doing what it has excelled at for centuries: trade.

Because of Iran's strategic position on the Silk Road, that ancient highway that snaked from China to Europe, the caravans of tea, spice and silk passing through it also carried a weightless but imperishable cargo to foreign shores: Persian culture.

In California's Nevada County, an unusual explorer with an unusual name — Amigo Bob Cantisano — hunts for remnants of the Gold Rush, just not the kind you might expect.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Separation of church and state? When it comes to fighting food waste, the U.S. government is looking to partner up with the faithful.

There's a new deli in rural Maine with a hotshot chef behind the counter. Foodies may know Matthew Secich's name from stints and stars earned at Charlie Trotter's, The Oval Room in Washington, D.C., and The Alpenhof Lodge in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Recently, Secich joined an Amish community and moved his family and his kitchen off the grid.

His new spot, Charcuterie, is a converted cabin tucked away in a pine forest in Unity, Maine, population 2,000. You have to drive down a long, snowy track to get there, and you can smell the smokehouse before you can see it.

From McDonald's to Costco, Big Food has been declaring a shift to buying only cage-free eggs.

The time is ripe for the sharing economy in farm country.

Money is a big motivator. And the prospect of a cash payoff in any sort of gamble is alluring — just think of the Powerball buzz this week.

So, what happens when financial incentives are tied to weight-loss goals? A growing body of evidence suggests that it's not necessarily a slam dunk.

Eating healthfully in America is hard. We have to contend with constant sugary and oily temptations, while pervasive ads coax us to eat these items day in and out.

The public health community generally agrees that regulations and taxes could help remind us of the potential health toll of the unhealthiest items — like beverages high in sugar — and keep us from consuming too much of them.

In Fort Morgan, Colo., 150 Muslim workers were fired in late 2015 after a dispute over prayer breaks at a Cargill beef processing plant.

In the kitchen of a small eatery in Reyhanli, Turkey, Abu Mohammed took a break from deboning the flank of a freshly slaughtered lamb to opine on grave matters happening just across the border in Syria.

"This is what should be done to the Islamic State," he says, jabbing and swiping the air with his knife as if he were eviscerating one of the extremist fighters.

Having illustrated his disdain for ISIS, Mohammed laid down the knife on his butcher's block and resumed tearing each rib away from the meat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's first stab at offering nutrition advice came in 1894, when W. O. Atwater, a chemist and pioneering nutrition investigator for the agency, published this warning in a Farmer's Bulletin:

"Unless care is exercised in selecting food, a diet may result which is one-sided or badly balanced. ... The evils of overeating may not be felt at once, but sooner or later they are sure to appear..."

The U.S. may be on the verge of a boom in new fertilizer plants, which could be good news for farmers, but not the environment.

Every year some 2 million Americans get infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and 23,000 of them die from these superbugs.

Superbugs are mostly a hospital problem: They're where these pathogens are often born and spread, and where the infected come for help. But hospitals are not where the majority of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used.

The bananas you find in the average U.S. grocery store are pretty much the same: They're the genetic variety known as Cavendish.

In the market in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, though, you have choices.

Keeping honeybees healthy has become a challenge for beekeepers. One main reason is a threat that has been wiping out bees since the late 1980s: the varroa mite.

"It's a parasitic mite that feeds on the blood of adult bees and on the brood. It also transmits virus, and it suppresses the immune system of the bees," explains Penn State honeybee expert Maryann Frazier.

Lower-back pain is very democratic in the people it strikes.

"It's a universal experience. You'd be a really uncommon person never to have had an episode of back pain," says Chris Maher, a physical therapist turned health researcher at the University of Sydney in Australia. "It's a common problem across the whole of the globe," he says, whether it's North America, sub-Saharan Africa or rural India.

The fight over genetically modified food, or GMOs, has long resembled battles on the Western Front in World War I. Pro-GMO and anti-GMO forces have aimed plenty of heavy artillery at each other, but neither well-entrenched side has given much ground.

TV is usually a place where the beautiful people shine. But last night, it was time for the uglies to step into the spotlight — ugly fruits and vegetables, that is.

Evan Lutz of Hungry Harvest, an organization that's trying to turn uglies into a business, appeared on ABC's Shark Tank show Friday night. He wanted to sway the show's deep-pocketed gurus to pour their money into Hungry Harvest's model.

Tucked inside the U.S. government's latest update to its official eating advice is this recommendation: "Drink water instead of sugary drinks" — aka soda.

Promising workers lower health insurance premiums for losing weight did nothing to help them take off the pounds, a recent study found. At the end of a year, obese workers had lost less than 1.5 pounds on average, statistically no different than the minute average gain of a tenth of a pound for workers who weren't offered a financial incentive to lose weight.

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Fuel: It's What's For Dinner

Jan 8, 2016

There are few places where the connection between energy and food is more obvious than at the Bright Agrotech warehouse in Laramie, Wyo.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is beating the drum again: We're consuming too much sodium and it's a reason we have such high rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Not me, you say? Well, chances are, yes, you.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

With January comes lots of diet advice.

And today comes the official advice from the U.S. government: The Obama administration has released its much-anticipated update to the Dietary Guidelines.

The guidelines, which are revised every five years, are based on evolving nutrition science and serve as the government's official advice on what to eat.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Jerry Spagnoli is a leading expert of the daguerreotype, the earliest form of photography dating back to 1839. His work adapting it to the digital age has earned him a spot among a group of artists dubbed the "antiquarian avant-garde." He has worked with Chuck Close on daguerreotype portraits and nudes, and exhibited his work around the world.

Already reeling from a series of food-borne-illness outbreaks, Chipotle Mexican Grill now faces a federal criminal investigation, as well.

The company says it has received a subpoena from a federal grand jury in connection with a norovirus outbreak last fall at one of its restaurants in Simi Valley, Calif.

In August, 189 customers were sickened after visiting the restaurant, as well as 18 Chipotle employees, according to Doug Beach, manager of the Community Services Program at the Ventura County Environmental Health Department, in an interview with NPR.

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