Harvest Desk

Whether it's a clam bake, a salmon steak or a fried shrimp po' boy, Americans have strong traditions of eating fish.

But the majority of us aren't eating as much as we should to be healthy.

In a highly publicized move, Russia is destroying tons of food that was illegally imported from Western countries. One year after a ban on Western agricultural products began, bulldozers and incinerators reportedly are being used to enforce the prohibition.

When I interviewed mathematician Eugenia Cheng for an upcoming episode of The Sporkful podcast, she sliced a bagel along a Mobius strip.

A Mobius strip, in case you're not familiar, is a surface with only one side. You can make one by taking a strip of paper, twisting one end halfway around, and taping it to the other end. Like this:

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, and it's expanding, if you look at waistlines. Almost half the country is now considered overweight. Compare that to 30 years ago when the rate was half that.

It's a common problem in the developing world, where rising prosperity often means greater access to processed food.

One woman in Brazil is trying to change the direction the country is going. But it hasn't been easy.

Bela Gil is the daughter of one of Brazil's most famous singers, Gilberto Gil. She's quick to say she has zero musical talent.

From the outside, the AeroFarms headquarters looks like any other rundown building in downtown Newark, N.J. It used to be a store, and more recently a nightclub. Now it's a test farm.

"My favorite is the mustard green that's called a Ruby Streak, which is this leaf right here," says AeroFarms CEO David Rosenberg, sampling some of the company's greens. "And my second favorite is cress, watercress, which is this guy right here."

Bespoke, artisanal water could, conceivably, be a thing. Artisanal ice is real, after all.

The artisanal water we discovered recently is, however, just a vivid figment of filmmaker Paul Riccio's imagination.

Buy a jug of milk in the U.S. and, as long as it's in the fridge, you shouldn't have to worry about it spoiling for about three weeks.

That's quite a luxury. Because it's not the case in many other parts of the world where fresh milk has a much shorter shelf life.

Milk is highly perishable — a few hours out of the cow at room temperature, and bacteria, some of which cause disease, start to flourish.

Idaho's so-called "ag-gag" law, which outlawed undercover investigations of farming operations, is no more. A judge in the federal District Court for Idaho decided Monday that it was unconstitutional, citing First Amendment protections for free speech.

But what about the handful of other states with similar laws on the books?

Born 223 years ago on Aug. 4, the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley is celebrated for such works as his sublime odes to the skylark and West Wind. But he was also a radical thinker — and his revolutionary politics stormed in his teacup.

During a severe drought in 2011, JennaDee Detro noticed that many trees on the family cattle ranch in Cat Spring, Texas, withered, but a certain evergreen holly appeared vigorous. It's called a yaupon.

"The best we can tell is that they enjoy suffering," Detro says with a laugh. "So this kind of extreme weather in Texas — and the extreme soil conditions — are perfect for the yaupon."

Detro began researching yaupon — a tree abundant in its native range, from coastal North Carolina to East Texas — and discovered that the plant contains caffeine and has a remarkable history.

Nearly every plant that we now depend on for food — from wheat to beans to tomatoes — comes from ancestors that once grew wild on hills and in forests.

In most cases, we don't know who, exactly, tamed those plants. We don't know which inventive farmer, thousands of years ago, first selected seeds and planted them for food.

The blueberry, though, is different. We know exactly who brought it in from the wild, and where.

It happened in the pine barrens of New Jersey.

Kim Pil-Gi left his construction job in Seoul, South Korea, three months ago. Now he happily spends his days handling grubs: squirming, writhing, beetle larvae, each one about as thick as a grown man's thumb. He sits at a tray, sorting them by size.

"At the construction company a lot of the time I'd wake up at 6 in the morning and work all night through to the next day," he says. "That was really hard for me."

Wanted: More Bulls With No Horns

Aug 3, 2015

The next time you're in the dairy aisle at the supermarket, take a moment to imagine the animals that produced all that milk. Do these cows have horns? Chances are they do, or at least they did at birth.

About 85 percent of milk sold in the United States comes from Holstein cows born with horns. But it's standard practice for farms to remove horns from cattle to prevent injuries to workers, veterinarians and other cows in the herd.

Bumblebees are important pollinators of crops and wildflowers across the U.S., and they gather heavy loads of nectar and pollen from flowers. A study published Monday shows that the type of food they carry affects how they fly.

Eggs are becoming more expensive and scarce recently because so many chickens have died from avian flu. So bakers, in particular, are looking for cheaper ingredients that can work just as well. (This story previously aired on All Things Considered on July 22, 2015.)

To the ranks of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami, researchers say they are ready to add a sixth taste — and its name is, well, a mouthful: "oleogustus."

Announced in the journal Chemical Senses last month, oleogustus is Latin for "a taste for fat."

"It is a sensation one would get from eating oxidized oil," explains Rick Mattes, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University and one of the study authors.

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, 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 learn to make a "counterfeit" version of duck confit, a classic French dish that traditionally can take days to prepare.

NPR is snacking its way around the country this summer, sampling a few delicacies that locals swear by and visitors want to find.

Today, pie is on the menu.

Bobkat's Purple Pie Place is a fixture in Custer, S.D. From chicken pot pie to strawberry rhubarb jalepeno, Trevor Yehlie and his family have been baking pies since 2009.

Customers hear that bumbleberry pie is the best on the menu — not from a bumbleberry bush but mixture of all the berries they use.

Yehlie's stepmother and a few helpers make 60-120 pies a day, he says.

Pesticide Drift Threatens Organic Farms

Jul 31, 2015

Chert Hollow Farm sits nestled between rows of tall trees and a nearby stream in central Missouri. Eric and Joanna Reuter have been running the organic farm since 2006. That means they don't plant genetically modified crops and can only use a few approved kinds of chemicals and fertilizers.

"We've traditionally raised about an acre and a half of pretty intensively managed produce, so it's a very productive acre and a half," Eric Reuter says.

Many of the foods that we chow down on every day were invented not for us, but for soldiers.

Energy bars, canned goods, deli meats — all have military origins. Same goes for ready-to-eat guacamole and goldfish crackers.

Chimpanzees are like us in many ways. They can cook, they enjoy a good drink here and there, they share about 95 percent of our DNA.

Artists Transform Coffee Spills Into Masterpieces

Jul 30, 2015

Ever splashed yourself with coffee or sat a dripping cup down on a white tablecloth? Then you're well aware of the beverage's staining powers. But where some see a ruined shirt, others have found a canvas.

For artist Maria Aristidou, it all started with a latte. "I was working on another commission using watercolors, when all the sudden, I spilled all over the drawing," she says.

Do Fish Names Encourage Fishy Business?

Jul 30, 2015

Order a rockfish at a restaurant in Maryland, and you'll likely get a striped bass. Place the same order in California, and you could end up with a vermilion rockfish, a Pacific Ocean perch or one of dozens of other fish species on your plate.

This jumble of names is perfectly legal. But it's confusing to diners — and it can hamper efforts to combat illegal fishing and seafood fraud, says the ocean conservation group Oceana.

Illinois Issues: The State's Climate Is Changing

Jul 30, 2015
Patty Sullivan / WUIS - Illinois Issues

Illinois'  future summers could be as hot as Texas.

Farm dog? Check.

Barn cats? Check.

Muddy work books lined up at the back door? Five checks.

We kick off our fourth season of “My Farm Roots” with the Renyer Family, five farm kids I had the pleasure of meeting last week.

Driving onto the Renyer farm, out in Nemaha County, Kan., I was struck by the many classic examples of a farm family. After being met by the family dog, a very sweet boy named Salty, I watched as the barn cats scattered and I met Leah coming out the back door, where the knee-high work boots were standing guard.

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world, by surface area, and it has something the other Great Lakes do not: stable populations of mostly native fish species.

But scientists say a key fish in Superior's food web is now in trouble because of mild winters and an appetite for caviar in Europe.

There wasn't much demand for lake herring 10 years ago. It used to be fed to mink and used as fertilizer, according to Craig Hoopman, a commercial fisherman in Wisconsin who fishes around Lake Superior's Apostle Islands.

Summertime is the perfect time to indulge in a refreshing cocktail on a balmy night. But before you reach for that minty mojito or sweet sangria, consider stepping out of your modern-day comfort zone and going back to the drinks of 100 years ago.

"Some of the best cocktails that we think about today — the martini, the daiquiri, the Manhattan — those all came out between the 1860s and Prohibition," says Derek Brown, an award-winning mixologist who has studied the history of alcohol in America.

Do you roam city sidewalks with your nose buried in your phone, oblivious to what's going on around you? If so, you may want to look up and start paying attention.

Texting while walking decreases the ability to walk in a straight line and slows down pace significantly, according to a study published Wednesday in PLOS ONE. But this gait change may not be as dangerous as it sounds, the researchers say.

Most people go vegetarian out of some combination of ethical, environmental or health concerns.

But to drop pounds? That could soon become another reason to go meatless. A meta-analysis published in early July shows that people who followed a vegetarian diet overall lost more weight than people on an average American diet.

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

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