Harvest Desk

We're coming up on the final week of the month of Ramadan. It's the time of year when observant Muslims avoid all food and drink during the holy month's daylight hours — if they're able.

When Ramadan falls during the height of summer — as it does this year — that's a lot of hours. So what's the best thing to eat to prepare you for a long fast?

In 2009, Rue Mapp was thinking about business school, weighing the pros and cons, and wondering if it was the right choice. The former Morgan Stanley analyst turned to her mentor for advice. But rather than give her an answer, her mentor asked a question: If you could be doing anything right now, what would it be?

Just like that, Mapp knew an MBA wasn't in her near future. Instead, she decided to combine everything she loved — from nature to community to technology — into an organization that would reconnect African-Americans to the outdoors.

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Food companies the world over are paying close attention to the groundswell of support for food transparency, the "know where your food comes from" movement.

JBS, the largest meat producer in the world, is beginning to take notice as well.

But executives with JBS USA, the North American arm of its Brazilian parent company, at the same time acknowledge that the very nature of their business is grisly, gory and sometimes unpalatable.

Fried chicken is a racially fraught food. Historically, it's been associated with racist depictions of African-Americans, and today, some still wield the fried-chicken-eating stereotype as an insult. But in some cases, the food itself has provided a path toward financial freedom for blacks.

American girls were eager to take up archery after watching Katniss Everdeen shoot off arrows left and right in The Hunger Games.

Girls and women in the Peruvian Andes are also asking to learn — but for a different reason. They want to be able to hunt for meat and fish so they don't have to rely on the men to bring home food.

Driving down a two-lane highway in rural Missouri, Matt Plenge squinted at a patch of gray clouds hanging low over his farm fields in the distance.

“Does it look hazy up there?” he asked. “We only had a 20 percent chance today. We shouldn't get any rain.”

Plenge, like most farmers, always keeps one eye on the weather. But this spring, it’s been his primary and constant concern.

There's new evidence that wild bees, some of nature's most industrious pollinators of wildflowers and crops, are getting squeezed by our planet's changing climate.

Many a book, blog and news article has been devoted to the topic of whiskey: the way it's aged, where to drink it, how to store it and serve it or pair it with food. But comparatively little attention has been paid to how whiskey is packaged.

Which is a shame, really, when you think about how a beautiful, funny or fancy-looking label can influence which bottles we buy — and which we ignore — when shopping the whiskey aisle.

If you can't picture Jared Fogle's face, you may remember his pants.

Before he lost a jaw-dropping 245 pounds, he was once an obese college student wearing blue jeans with a 60-inch waist.

A raid at the home of Subway pitchman Jared Fogle has led to both sides agreeing to suspend their relationship, and put a spotlight on Fogle's ties to the former head of a foundation he created to fight childhood obesity.

Federal and state authorities removed electronics from Fogle's home in suburban Indianapolis in a raid Tuesday, but refused to discuss the nature of the investigation. Fogle's attorney said he was cooperating, adding the Subway pitchman had not been arrested or charged with anything.

Eating healthy in this day and age is a challenge. And the pressure is on if you're a pregnant woman given that you're eating for two.

But the nausea, exhaustion and mix of unpredictable hormones – not to mention the anxiety of preparing to go through labor and becoming a parent – make balanced nutrition pretty daunting.

I recently learned about a decision to ban eggs in school lunches — the main meal of the day — in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The state's chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has vetoed a proposal to include eggs in children's school lunches in government schools. Even though eggs are an excellent source of nutrition, he said eggs would not be served because they are not a vegetarian food, and that milk and bananas would be offered instead. Like many Hindus, Chouhan is a vegetarian and reportedly vetoed eggs in school lunches because vegetarians often will not eat them.

One secret to a long life may be the simple daily ritual of tea.

We've told you how Okinawans — who are known to have more than a few centenarians among them — enjoy jasmine-infused tea.

And if you're looking to incorporate this fragrant aroma with a bit of creamy indulgence, pastry chef Naomi Gallego, of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., has you covered.

Even if you're not counting your calories, date night at that restaurant down the street is still a more healthful choice than McDonald's, right?

Don't count on it.

Dining out at a sit-down restaurant can mean far more sodium in your diet-- and nearly as much saturated fat — as eating at a fast-food joint, according to a recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. What's more, people consumed more calories when they sat down for their meal at a full-service place rather than taking it to go, the study found.

Most aspiring chefs long for the white hat, the gleaming kitchen, the fancy menu.

But Nigeria-born Tunde Wey stumbled into a different version of the (American) chef's dream. He wanted to see the country and share the food of his West African childhood with friends and strangers along the way.

So a few months ago, he packed up his knives and his spices at his home in Detroit and started crisscrossing the U.S. by Greyhound bus.

Change typically doesn't come fast or often in the Kelabit Highlands in the interior of Malaysian Borneo. "Go slowly" is both a motto and a way of life here. For centuries, even millennia, locals have gathered and grown their own foods in the dense tropical jungle.

Walking through the farmers market this time of year is a wondrous thing: juicy tomatoes, rows of jewel-toned eggplants, fragrant basil and sweet yellow corn. But then, you see bunches of greens that look like weeds, stuff with names like kohlrabi and purslane, and suddenly, you feel intimidated. Other people know what to do with these greens, why don't I?

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, top chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.

This week: We go to Seoul, South Korea, to make banchan — those endless small plates of pickles and veggies that traditionally accompany rice or soup.

What do we know about the power of food to rev up sex drive? Not much.

"Really, science has not figured out what determines sexual motivation and sexual attraction. If we knew the answer to that, we'd probably be richer than Pfizer after they invented Viagra," says Dolores Lamb, director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

She hasn't seen any compelling evidence that any particular food can intensify desire.

Sixty-two dogs (and buns) after sitting down for the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, Matt Stonie had snatched the title from "Jaws" Chestnut, the reigning eight-time champ, in a competition held each July 4 for nearly a century at New York's Coney Island.

Stonie finished second last year but says he'd been training hard for the rematch. Ultimately, he beat Chestnut by two hot dogs. Coincidentally, both men are from San Jose, Calif.

The Associated Press says: "Afterward, Stonie, holding his fist in the air in victory, said it felt amazing to win."

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If you've got any beer left over after your Fourth of July barbecue and picnic, we've got a delicious recipe for you - beer-braised turkey thighs. NPR's Noah Adams tracked down the recipe in Dayton, Ohio.

Chocolate might be headed toward a crisis, depending on whom you ask.

That's at least what the 2015 Cocoa Barometer has to say. It's an overview of sustainability issues in the cocoa sector, written by various European and U.S. NGOs, and was released in the U.S. this week. And what they're really worried about is the people who grow the beans that are ground up to make our beloved treat.

In 1776, the American colonies declared independence from Britain.

But it wasn't until 1796 that someone dared to tackle a question that would plague every generation of Americans to come: "What is American food?"

American Cookery, the very first American cookbook, was written by Amelia Simmons (more on this mysterious woman later). In it, she promised local food and a kind of socioculinary equality. The title page stated that the recipes were "adapted to this country and all grades of life."

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The U.S. government's system for regulating the products of biotechnology, including GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, was born in 1986, and it has been controversial from the start. Now, it will be getting a makeover — in part to assure the public that GMOs really are adequately regulated.

Rearranging veggie genes is big business, and we're not even talking about biotechnology. Private companies and university researchers spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year breeding better genetic varieties of food crops.

But organic farmers say those programs have a big blind spot when it comes to figuring out which new varieties are truly better. Few companies or researchers test those varieties under organic conditions.

Sure, playing in the women's World Cup burns a lot more energy than watching the women's World Cup. But the number of calories expended in sports and daily activities isn't always so obvious.

To figure it out, we dove into this database compiled by Arizona State University. It charts the energy expenditure for hundreds of activities, from mainstream ("bicycling, leisure, 5.5 mph") to obscure ("caulking, chinking log cabin").

Obama Weighs In: No Peas In Guacamole

Jul 2, 2015
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