Harvest Desk

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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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

If you were about to talk to President Obama and suggest that he try adding fresh peas to guacamole, don't. The Twitterverse learned this when someone asked Obama what he thought about a recipe The New York Times published that suggested adding fresh peas. The recipe drew a lot of rotten tomatoes from average folks, and someone asked Obama what he thought.

When it comes to premature death and disease, what we eat ranks as the single most important factor, according to a study in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Yet few doctors say they feel properly trained to dispense dietary advice. One group, at least, is trying to fill that knowledge gap.

Scallop fishermen off the East Coast could soon see one of their biggest bumper crops ever. A federal survey in waters off Delaware is predicting a boom in the next couple of years for the nation's most valuable fishery.

Every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looks for young sea scallops on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This year, when they stuck their camera in the water, they got a huge shock, says Dvora Hart, a research analyst with NOAA's Fisheries Service.

Amy Roegler and her husband, Octavio Herrera, live with their young kids, Jake and Alyssa, in Los Angeles. When it comes to pro baseball, they're all Dodgers fans. And Jake loved balls even as a baby, Octavio says.

"We have a picture of him as a 3-month-old with a little Dodger jersey and a glove," Octavio says. "So he was definitely going to be introduced to sports early, and he took to it right away." Today 10-year-old Jake is on his baseball league's All-Star team.

First rule of Brinton Elementary School run club: Keep those legs moving. Second rule of run club: Have fun.

For 13-year-old Kaprice Faraci and her sister, Kassidy, inspiration to keep moving struck one after school afternoon in the third grade. Video games and TV bored the twins. They were outside when they spotted a small pack of children chugging down their street.

What's the epitome of summer for a lot of Americans? It's communing around a grill, with friends and family, waiting for a slab of meat to cook to juicy perfection.

There's a renaissance in local and regional food, and it's not just farmers markets in urban areas that are driving it.

You're an American in London. You've visited Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tower of London, but there's one more thing you want to check off your to-do list: tea.

No, not just any tea. We're talking a good, old-fashioned English tea time, with finger sandwiches, dainty china cups and all the formality a Downton Abbey lover could wish for.

The next time you dab wasabi on your sushi or spread mustard on your hot dog, take a moment to thank a caterpillar. It may sound unlikely, but the critters play a critical role in creating the sharp, pungent flavors that give those condiments a savory kick.

Ah, the bread basket. You sit down for a nice meal out, and there it appears: piping hot, giving off a waft of yeasty divinity.

Who can resist?

There's a reason this age-old tradition prevails. Even in the era of paleo and gluten-free, there are still hordes of us who will gladly nosh on crusty, chewy, soul-warming bread.

But the downside may be more than just some extra calories. Turns out, eating all those carbs before a meal can amp up our appetites and spike our blood sugar.

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: Making delicious, fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs in only about an hour — with a surprising piece of kitchen equipment.

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Missouri Food Pantries Help Clients Grow Their Own Produce

Jun 26, 2015

In the U.S., 1 in 6 people struggles with hunger. Food pantries across the country pass out food to help these people put meals on the table. But what if they could help teach the pantry visitors how to grow their own food, too?

Grow Well Missouri, a program that travels to food pantries around central Missouri, is one of several food-aid groups trying to do just that, passing out seeds and starter plants to low-income locals.

Thursday was not the day to switch places with Chris Grundler.

Grundler, the director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was in charge of the EPA’s one in-person hearing about proposed changes to U.S. ethanol policy.

There were plenty of tasty tidbits packed into the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report that came out back in February.

As we reported, the panel of nutrition experts that wrote the report said it was OK to eat an egg a day. The scientific evidence now shows it won't raise the amount of LDL cholesterol – the bad kind of cholesterol — in your blood or raise the risk of heart disease.

In the Medieval era, kings and queens hosted feasts adorned with surprisingly complex edible sculptures depicting humans and animals alike. Outside the castle walls, of course, people struggled to put enough food on the table — much less, worry about its presentation afterward. But in the modern United States, food sculpture is the art of the people. Nowhere is this truer than the butter sculptures so common at Midwestern state fairs.

What are the makings of a great salad? You need fresh greens, of course, and then a layer of colorful vegetables like tomatoes and carrots.

That's a good start. But to help the body absorb more of the nutrients packed into this medley, you may want to add something else: a cooked egg.

When you hear the words "green brewery," you might picture gleaming solar panels or aerodynamic wind turbines. But the most valuable piece of technology at the $24 million headquarters of Smuttynose Brewing Co. on the seacoast of New Hampshire isn't quite as sexy.

"The place you have to start is the building envelope," says Smuttynose founder Peter Egelston.

While the debate over whether to label foods containing GMO ingredients plays out across the country, another engineered food has long been waiting to hit grocery stores: genetically modified salmon.

China's customs agents have seized thousands of tons of frozen chicken wings, beef and pork that were smuggled by gangs. Weighing more than 100,000 tons, the meat has an estimated value of more than $480 million — but it also poses serious health risks, officials said.

California Drought Not A Windfall For Midwest Farmers

Jun 24, 2015
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

California grows almost half the fruits and vegetables in the U.S. It’s also deep in drought and some farms are short on water. That may sound like a chance for Midwestern farmers to churn out more peppers and broccoli, but it’s not that simple.

It's not just the Lucky Charms that are getting a makeover at General Mills. The company's announcement Monday that it is removing artificial colors and flavors from its cereal line is part of a much bigger overhaul at the food giant.

In the U.S., Tea Party politics refers to a certain strain of Republican conservatism. But in Japan, tea politics are of an altogether different sort: The ritual drinking of this ancient beverage — often thought of as the epitome of Japanese restraint and formality — has long been entwined with issues of power and national identity.

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