Harvest Desk

I first encountered cumin in suburban New Jersey around 1988. Indian food was just starting to penetrate the suburbs, and a trip to the new Indian restaurant in the next town had, literally, the whiff of adventure about it.

As I took in the many new tastes and aromas from curries and kormas, one stood out: what I deemed the "the sweaty shirt spice," or cumin.

Sugar can promote tooth decay. Duh.

So if you want good oral health, it makes sense to brush and floss regularly and perhaps limit the amount of sugar you consume. Right?

In 2015, this may seem fairly obvious.

Editor's Note: A version of this story originally ran in March 2010.

In the mid-19th century, Britain was an almost unchallenged empire. It controlled about a fifth of the world's surface, and yet its weakness had everything to do with tiny leaves soaked in hot water: tea. By 1800, it was easily the most popular drink among Britons.

The problem? All the tea in the world came from China, and Britain couldn't control the quality or the price. So around 1850, a group of British businessmen set out to create a tea industry in a place they did control: India.

Just because a meal is vegetarian doesn't mean it can't be "meaty." One trick to heighten the depth of flavors in plant-based dishes? Use ingredients that offer a pop of umami, say Bridget Lancaster and Jack Bishop of America's Test Kitchen, who have released the new cookbook The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.

All winter long, Jeff Potter has been fielding the phone calls. They started coming in after the first frosts. "Last autumn, my brother phones on his way home from the grocery: 'I was driving to the store and there wasn't a deer in the road, but on the way back there was, so it's gotta be fresh!' "

We've long known about the master clock in our brains that helps us maintain a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle.

But in recent years, scientists have made a cool discovery: We have different clocks in virtually every organ of our bodies — from our pancreas to our stomach to our fat cells.

Every region of the world seems to have a local critter dish liable to raises visitors' eyebrows — think boiled lobsters in Maine, dried grasshoppers in Mexico, snails in France and sheep stomach in Scotland.

In Amsterdam, two artists are trying to widen their city's list of local tasty creatures — and expand minds, too — with dishes like the My Little Pony Burger, Peace Pigeon and Bambi Ball.

Sandwich Monday: Pizza-Flavored Salad Dressing

Mar 9, 2015

After years of doing Sandwich Monday, we've decided to try a salad. In order to make the transition easier for everyone, we're eating it with "Cheesy Pizza" Flavored Salad Dressing from Chef Kidd's "Funagrette."

That last paragraph is a lie. We're eating this because they sent us a box of it and we'll eat anything you send us. Speaking of which: Office Depot, there was an incident. We need more toner.

Ian: "Funagrette" is also a good name for a product that gets kids to try cigarettes.

When it comes to the current controversy over antibiotic use on farm animals, milk is in a special category.

Lactating cows, unlike hogs, cattle or chickens that are raised for their meat, don't receive antibiotics unless they are actually sick. That's because drug residues immediately appear in the cow's milk — a violation of food safety rules.

Milk shipments are tested for six of the most widely used antibiotics, and any truckload that tests positive is rejected. So when cows are treated, farmers discard their milk for several days until the residues disappear.

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

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

When it comes to organic certification, there are strict guidelines for food producers to follow.

For an organic steak, the cow it came from has to be raised on organic feed and the feed mix can’t be produced with pesticides, chemical fertilizers or genetic engineering.

Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in considering a set of rules for organic farmed fish. Several consumer groups, though, say the recommended rules don’t go far enough to meet the strict standards of other organic foods.

The feed for fish to eat is at the center of the debate.

Sorry to be so risqué, but beautiful photos of tempting foods can make our mouths water.

Think molten spoonfuls of chocolate, voluptuous layer cake or melted cheese oozing from a perfectly grilled croque monsieur.

We're awash in these types of food porn images. But, by comparison, do pictures of Brussels sprouts or beets get as much love online?

Nope. According to Bolthouse Farms, which markets baby carrots and fresh juices, of the more than 1.7 million food images posted daily, only about one-third are of fruits and vegetables.

You've probably seen, but may not have noticed, labels on the meat at your grocery store that say something like "Born, Raised, & Harvested in the U.S.A." or "Born and Raised in Canada, Slaughtered in the U.S."

These country-of-origin labels, as they are known, are part of an ongoing international trade dispute that has swept up Midwest ranchers. And they may not be long for store shelves.

One of the advantages of being the world's largest search engine is that you learn a lot about what people don't know or can't remember.

It turns out the world is daunted by cocktails and has sought help enough times from Google that the company decided to get in on the mixology instruction game itself.

On Thursday, the tech giant launched a feature that provides step-by-step instructions for how to prepare a desired cocktail and a list of ingredients. (It also suggests garnish and drinkware.)

Nearly four years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, people in Japan are still hesitant to eat foods grown around the site of the accident. They worry that anything grown in the region will contain dangerous levels of radioactive elements, increasing their risk of cancer.

Sometimes, food from Fukushima will bear a photo of the farmer who grew it or a number to dial to learn more about each bag of rice or vegetables, just to ease customers' concerns.

Many people will see the snow that's currently blanketing much of the Eastern seaboard of the U.S. as a nuisance coating sidewalks and roads. Others are celebrating it as an excuse to spend the day swooshing down a hill.

As for me, I like to think of snow as food.

Did you take a lunch break yesterday? Are you planning to take one today?

Chances are the answer is no. Fewer American workers are taking time for lunch. Research shows that only 1 in 5 five people steps away for a midday meal. Most workers are simply eating at their desks.

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

Sugar is sweet.

But too much of it can expand our waistlines, rot our teeth and increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Fast food giant McDonald's announced Wednesday it will begin sourcing chickens raised without antibiotics.

Over the next two years, the chain says its U.S. restaurants — which number around 14,000 — will transition to the new antibiotics policy, which prohibits suppliers from using antibiotics critical to treating human illness.

We here at The Salt can't resist a good pun, so we couldn't help but chuckle at a #FoodieBandNames hashtag that began playing out among the foodie Twitterverse on Tuesday.

It all started when Zagat called for people to tweet their favorite mashups of foods and bands.

With a little time to marinate, the tweets only improved.

Cue the inevitable Ariana Grande coffee humor...

And this blogger's favorite:

Spain's wine industry had a record year in 2014, posting numbers that could propel it past Italy as the world's biggest wine exporter. Annual results have not yet been reported in Italy, which was the top exporter last year.

The growth is due to a bumper crop at Spain's vineyards in 2013 that allowed it to surpass France in the export rankings. But a Spanish industry group says that despite 22 percent annual growth in exports compared with 2013, Spain's overall wine profits fell 2 percent in the same span.

From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports:

For decades, sharks have gotten a raw deal on the high seas, where fishermen have butchered them alive by the hundreds of millions and thrown their carcasses overboard, keeping only the prized fins to sell to Asian markets. This gruesome practice — called finning — has come under fire from conservationists, who say the shark fin trade has decimated species like silky, oceanic whitetip and dusky sharks around the world.

Across the picturesque highlands of Kenya's Great Rift Valley, fields of tea shimmer in shades of emerald, lime and moss under the equatorial sky.

Some of these fields, though, are now darkened with patches of purple. The purple comes from leaves with high levels of anthocyanins, natural pigments that also give cranberries, blueberries and grapes their color.

These purple leaves are Africa's newest — and most intriguing — tea.

Sara Creech has grown dependent on farming. She started out planting an orchard of fruit trees: apples, peaches, cherries and pears. She added berry bushes and rows of vegetables.

And then she bought her first chickens.

"A lot of people call chickens the gateway animal," says Creech, who lives in rural North Salem, Ind. "Like once you have a chicken on the farm, then you end up getting sheep on the farm, and then you end up getting horses, and cows. And then it just explodes from there."

Some people — who are they? — have no problem fitting regular aerobic exercise into their lives. The rest of us want to know how much we have to exercise to see health benefits. Now we have some answers: You may want to go just a tad longer and harder than you'd thought.

Sandwich Monday: The Funnel Cake Corn Dog

Mar 2, 2015

When the corn dog was discovered in an Iowa cave in the 1950s, explorers dated it at roughly 40,000 years old. Its recipe has gone largely unchanged since then, though few makers use real glyptodon meat anymore.

Recently, though, the dog has had an evolutionary transformation. There's now a State Fair Brand Funnel Cake Corn Dog, a turkey and pork hot dog wrapped in a sweet funnel cake batter.

Eva: Time to reinforce the roller coaster.

When admiring such enticing items at the grocery store as an avocado for $1.50, an $8 chocolate bar or fresh wild Alaskan salmon for $20 a pound, you've probably experienced sticker shock.

Indeed, retailers and restaurants offer myriad opportunities to blow your food budget in one fell swoop.

Newspapers around the world have reported that elephant was to be served at a $1 million birthday party for Robert Mugabe, the prime minister of Zimbabwe, held on Saturday.

Foodies have long savored the cheeses of the Italian Alps. Dairy farmers still make it by hand, but unless you live in the region or can travel there, you'll have a hard time getting your hands on it. Much of this precious cheese isn't exported.

As you might imagine, this has not been good for business and the Alpine cheese makers have been slowly disappearing. That is until some farmers banded together — with the help of the Internet — and came up with an unusual adoption program called Adopt A Cow.

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