Harvest Desk

"Junk food? Not at McDonald's!"

At least, that's what the fast-food chain hopes to convince Israel's health minster.

The gutsy slogan appeared at the top of full-page advertisements in Israeli newspapers last weekend after health minister Yakov Litzman called for a boycott of McDonald's in Israel – part of a new push to combat ballooning obesity and unhealthy eating habits in the country.

Editor's note: This week, to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, we will be running a series of stories examining the links between food and the Bard.

"Life ... consists of eating and drinking," quips Twelfth Night's over-indulging Sir Andrew Aguecheek. It seems that Shakespeare's audiences felt the same.

Between 1988 and 1990, when archaeologists excavated The Rose and The Globe theaters (where Shakespeare's plays were performed), they were able to learn as much about the audiences as the playhouses themselves.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II turns 90 this week, and like many of us do on our birthdays, she'll be celebrating with some cake.

This year the task of coming up with a cake fit for a queen fell to Nadiya Hussain, the winner of the most recent season of the wildly popular TV show The Great British Bake Off.

No impurities, no chemicals, no artificial colors, no electricity, no gas, no phone and ... no clothes?

That's the premise of a pop-up restaurant, called The Bunyadi, that's scheduled to open in central London in June.

"We believe people should get the chance to enjoy and experience a night out without any impurities ... and even no clothes if they wish to," said restaurant founder Seb Lyall in a press release.

And, apparently, many people do so wish.

Editor's note: This week, to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, we will be running a series of stories examining the links between food and the Bard.

For more than 400 years, Shakespeare's audiences have devoured tales of Twelfth Night's "cakes and ale" and Hamlet's "funeral baked meats."

After Fires In West, Mushroom Hunters 'Chase The Burn'

Apr 20, 2016

Right now, and in the coming weeks, from Northern California to Alaska, commercial and amateur mushroom hunters will be scouring hills that were ravaged by fires last summer and fall. Their prey? Morel mushrooms.

"Sometimes we call it 'chasing the burns,' " mushroom enthusiast Kevin Sadlier says, in search of the black morel mushrooms that grow in the springtime after a forest fire.

"Don't touch that!"

"Don't eat that!"

These phrases are well known to children of a certain age.

Little kids don't quite get why eating ice cream for breakfast five days a week is not a good idea. They may be confused about why, exactly, potatoes are food while rocks are, well, not something to put in your mouth. I mean, take a moment to consider that both come from the ground, both are covered in dirt, and both have a shape that could rightly be described as "potato-y."

Editor's note: This week, to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, we will be running a series of stories examining the links between food and the Bard. Oh, and in case the headline didn't clue you in, this post contains sexually explicit language.

Picture a dusty, nomadic herdsman around 5000 B.C., trudging with his mare somewhere in Central Asia, and pausing to quaff a refreshingly tart yogurt drink from his gourd. Fast-forward to the present day, and it seems all you need for your daily dose of friendly flora is to wander into the kitchen and pop a breakfast burrito in the microwave.

When it comes to getting old, some of us are a lot better at it than others. If I'm going to live to be 95 I would much prefer to be healthy, cogent and content. So I want to know the secrets of the healthy and very old.

Fortunately, scientists are starting to figure that out, "The good news is that there's a lot we can do about it," says Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, a geriatrician and scientific director at the National Institute on Aging. He wants to see more and more people in that state of "aging grace."

Editor's note: This week, to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, we will be running a series of stories examining the links between food and the Bard.

Anyone who has ever spent Thanksgiving with family knows that the table is a great place for drama. We talk, we shout, we love, we fight — or sit in silence and seethe. And we're all stuck there, gnawing on our turkey legs, playing out our usual roles, unable to just walk offstage.

That is the very idea William Shakespeare exploited to fill theaters.

If you melt at the creaminess of full-fat yogurt, read on.

A new study finds the dairy fats found in milk, yogurt and cheese may help protect against Type 2 diabetes.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

Pati Jinich is a Mexican chef whose life in the U.S. has influenced her cooking. Her latest cookbook, Mexican Today, is filled with recipes that reflect this cross over of cultures. She invites NPR's Ari Shapiro into her Chevy Chase, Md., kitchen to talk about her book and to demonstrate how her enchiladas have adapted north of the border.


Recipe: Pati Jinich's Shrimp Enchiladas In A Rich Tomato Sauce

Serves: 6

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Foods made with corn masa flour — like tortillas, tacos and tamales — could soon play a critical role in the health of babies born to Latina mothers in the U.S.

That's because, as of today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now allowing manufacturers to fortify their corn masa foods with folic acid. That's a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin that helps prevent severe defects of the brain and spinal cord when consumed by women before and early in pregnancy.

If you snip a bit of DNA from a vegetable, but add no new genes, does that vegetable qualify as a genetically modified organism, or GMO?

Aubrey Fletcher knew she wanted to work on a dairy farm ever since she was a little girl.

“I do remember my mom asking, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do?’” Fletcher recalls.

Fletcher knew the work was tough, she grew up milking cows every day. After college she and her husband wanted to return to his family farm, but it wasn’t making financial sense.

“The farm couldn’t necessarily  provide both of us with salaries,” says Fletcher. “So we thought, ‘Why not take our premium milk and take that a little further?’”

Step into Mike Moon's Madison, Wis., coffee roasting plant and the aroma of beans — from Brazil to Laos — immediately washes over you.

Moon says he aims to run an efficient and safe plant — and that starts the minute beans spill out of the roaster. He points to a cooling can that is "designed to draw air from the room over the beans and exhausts that air out of the facility. So it is really grabbing a lot of all of the gases coming off the coffee," he explains.

Bonnie Rice was released from prison last year. After a five-year, drug-related prison sentence, she knew she couldn't go back to any of the people who led her into trouble.

"I didn't know where to go, how to go," Rice says with a quiver in her voice. "It was scary." She was completely alone.

She managed to find a place to live in a halfway house. But even though she filled out lots and lots of job applications in the first few months out of prison, she didn't get many calls back. "People look down on you," she says.

The farm-to-table trend has exploded recently. Across the country, menus proudly boast chicken raised by local farmers, pork from heritage breed pigs, vegetables grown from heirloom varieties. These restaurants are catering to diners who increasingly want to know where their food comes from — and that it is ethically, sustainably sourced.

But are these eateries just serving up lies?

On a cold windy morning, Kelly Nissen feeds the cows at the Iowa State University Beef Nutrition Farm. He weighs out specific rations and carefully delivers them to numbered feed bunks.

"When you're feeding, you're always double-checking yourself to make sure it's going in the right lot," Nissen says. It's important — because these cows munch on more than just the common mix of hay, corn and distiller's grain. They're also charged with testing out different formulas developed by the researchers in the animal science department at Iowa State.

It's a beer with a message — and its brewers say it's a simple one. Responding to North Carolina's HB2 law that voids cities' anti-discrimination rules, two of the state's brewers are creating a new beer: the Don't Be Mean to People: A Golden Rule Saison.

Los Angeles is home to the largest Thai community outside of Thailand. This week, Thai-Americans are celebrating the traditional three-day water festival called Songkran to mark the new year. And many of them regularly shop at LA's landmark Bangkok Market, the first Thai food store in the U.S.

Every writer knows the paralyzing terror of the blank page. For poet Tess Taylor, the antidote to fear came through farming.

Taylor is the author of Work & Days, a new volume of poetry inspired by her year spent working on a farm in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. She was there living alone in a cabin as part of a writer's residency, finishing her first book of verse, and "had nothing to do but write," she says. "The idea of facing the blank page for that much time really scared me."

A leading brand of home and garden pest-control products says it will stop using a class of pesticides linked to the decline of bees.

Ortho, part of the Miracle-Gro family, says the decision to drop the use of the chemicals — called neonicotinoids, or neonics for short — comes after considering the range of possible threats to bees and other pollinators.

"While agencies in the U.S. are still evaluating the overall impact of neonics on pollinator populations, it's time for Ortho to move on," says Tim Martin, the general manager of the Ortho Brand.

For Kafka, Even Beer Came With Baggage

Apr 11, 2016

Franz Kafka wrote powerful stories about the powerless — and to make them frightening, he made them funny. Many of his darkest comedies, including the famous one about a salesman metamorphosing into a bug, appear to be rooted in the cowering, but deeply farcical, relationship he had with his domineering father, Hermann.

But if there was a sparkling boyhood memory that Kafka cherished — and recalled as he lay dying of tuberculosis in a sanatarium near Vienna — it was one involving that primal bonding ritual between father and son: sharing a beer.

Wearing a Fitbit?

If so, you already know that electronic fitness trackers can let you keep records on your smartphone of how many steps you've walked, how much you've slept, maybe your heart rate, or even where you've been.

But what can the gadget tell your doctor? A few things that are pretty useful, it turns out.

Farming is nothing new to Kansas. But now it's drawing in a new community that's trying to bridge the divide between life in another country and one in the United States.

In the midst of boxy yellow and brown public housing, beyond the highway and past empty grain elevators, sits Juniper Farm. It's spread over nine acres on the Kansas side of Kansas City.

As their children play on the grassy knoll behind us, four women sit at a plastic picnic table speaking in Karen, a language spoken in parts of Myanmar.

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