Photo via Planet Matters and More
It's that time again, and the melons are rolling out of the fields. The round ones, that is. The square ones need tiny implanted wheels...
"According to a BBC news article published in June 2001, a Zentsuji farmer came up with the innovative idea for a space-saving square watermelon some twenty years earlier. Since then, the square fruit has been sold in various selected outlets across Japan, but they are prohibitively expensive to buy and their potential market is therefore quite limited. The BBC article noted:
Today the cuboid watermelons are hand-picked and shipped all over Japan.
But the fruit, on sale in a selection of department stores and upmarket supermarkets, appeals mainly to the wealthy and fashion-conscious of Tokyo and Osaka, Japan's two major cities.
Each melon sells for 10,000 yen, equivalent to about $83. It is almost double, or even triple, that of a normal watermelon.
"I can't buy it, it is too expensive," said a woman browsing at a department store in the southern city of Takamatsu. "
So today, we have no clue how much a square watermelon sells for in Japan. But, my spies tell me that squares are, or at least were introduced into these United States a couple years back, selling for about $75 per.
If that seems steep and you must have one, the clever persons at Instructables have info re growing your own.....next summer.......
via The Telegraph--
"Funnel cake. Deep fried twinkies. Even fried butter on a stick. Republican politicians mingling with farm animals and standing on hay bales to denounce President Barack Obama - and paint all their rivals as Obama clones, in contrast to themselves.
Welcome to the Iowa State Fair and the starting point for the 2012 Republican White House race, where would-be presidential candidates and ordinary voters are served up small government rhetoric and big portions of the unhealthiest food this side of the Atlantic."
"...People were happy to line up for the Famous Dave’s barbecue that (Tim) Pawlenty was serving, but they didn’t stay long — and when they walked away, they weren’t wearing the green Pawlenty T-shirts that signaled support. By mid-afternoon, volunteers were glum.
There were plenty of orange (Michelle) Bachmann T-shirts, though, and an even longer line at her tent, despite the fact that she was serving inferior food: giant corn dogs andtrompe l’oeil “beef sundaes” that consisted of a scoop of mashed potatoes topped with chunks of beef, a ladle of gravy and a cherry tomato."
Now we can show you photos via the Iowa State Fair, but, alas, cannot show the Reuters pic of Mrs. Bachman with a long, erect, corn dog just inserted in her mouth, we just cannot. ( Shows B's naivete as a candidate, even considering trying such a thang...)
New Mexico farmers in Hatch, the center of the state's once robust chile production, are pulling back from their iconic crop.
According to a report via KOAT-TV,
"It’s been a tough year for farmers and ranchers all over the state, and the small river valley community around Hatch is no exception. First, the record cold caused problems.
“The onion crop didn’t go well this year,” Scott Adams, with Adams Produce Inc., said. “The yields were down early. We had a real hard freeze in February, and it killed a lot of the stems on the onions.”
Drought conditions held spring irrigation released out of Elephant Butte to only 8 percent of normal. So farmers left land open and only grew on what they could pump well water onto.
A lot of the fields in Hatch are growing cotton because it’s cheaper to grow. Cotton costs about $1,000 per acre to grow, while chile costs four to five times that amount.
High cotton prices and the ability to cheaply harvest it have led to a smaller chile harvest."
"Cheap harvesting," usually means fewer human laborers involved, of course.
Guess who is the largest foreign consumer of US cotton by far? China, no surprise. They grow more of almost every edible than any other country, selling much to the US, and they import raw materials at a faster clip than almost anyone.
Farm subsidies for chiles?
Back from exploring some of the foods of Bali, we can attest that rice is primary, along with sweet potatoes intermingled with flowers, as well as chiles and other veggies.
Rice feeds 50% of the world's population, of course, bolstered by America's many offerings to Asia, chiles and sweets among them.
But oh, the mangosteen! A rare non-sweet perfect tropical fruit, its segments are hidden under a thick, maroon rind, and well worth the seeking. (Those at left were on sale in a huge Hong Kong mall supermarket.)
The mangosteen has only one fault; it is impossible to eat enough of it, but, strictly speaking, perhaps that is a defect in the eater rather than in the fruit. It would be mere blasphemy to attempt to describe its wonderful taste, the very culmination of culinary art for any unspoilt palate.
--Eric Mjöberg, author of "Forest life and adventures in the Malay Archipelago" 1930
( NB Posting from this remarkable part of the world on a regular basis was well nigh impossible--WiFi was sorely lacking in NZ and OZ, other than in (!) McDonald's', posting was time consuming, and we had to pay for Internet access everywhere until we reached Bali. Bali, the land of mega overseas visitors, marked a return to WiFi, and free access in many cafes and restaurants. )
I beg your pardon, Washington Post! OK, I have not read the Harvard study, but that is the most simplistic and erroneous bit of info re the noble spud I can imagine. The piece published yesterday goes on to gush over yogurt, as in "...perhaps the biggest surprise was yogurt, every serving of which kept off nearly a pound over four years."
A serving of your average fruit-laced, high fructose corn syrup-filled commercial yogurt? Or a serving of full fat, plain organic Straus Family Creamery yogurt from happy cows?
So now America's dairy farmers are gloating, and the spud growers are mashing their own heads, and something complex is once more made simplistic, and misleading. And America's diet-crazed women are scooping cartons of Dannon into their carts.
Here's the beginning of a piece just noted today from SeattlePI:
"Pity the poor potato.
First, the anti-carb folks shun it. Now a Harvard study attacks it.
The study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine says the spud is making us fat.
To which Chris Voigt says nuts.
"If eating potatoes was so bad for you...I'd be dead by now."
That's not hyperbole. Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, went on a potato-only diet for 60 days last fall to counter the negative publicity against spuds.
It made him briefly famous. It also made him skinny.
He dropped 20 pounds. His cholesterol, triglycerides and blood glucose were all down. His cholesterol, for example, went from 214 to 147.
"Every health indicator," Voigt said, "was better or the same."
We of The Potato Museum have other stories like this. We continue to think that eating "good" foods like the potato, and a wide range of other foods, in moderation, is still key. ( We have irritated and annoyed the potato industry by stating here and there that French Fries made fresh should be an occasional delicious treat, not a daily staple, and yet fries consumption is on the rise all over, particularly in China, because the commercial industry is all about processed potatoes. So much for our proselytizing...)
But I should read the actual report. Yes.
It's a farming technique that has been practiced for centuries as part of a belief that a prosperous life comes through hard work.
Micah Loma'omvaya shares those stories on a tour he leads to the Hopi mesas that rise above the northern Arizona desert, giving visitors a glimpse of Hopi tradition and culture that's rooted in agriculture.
...Ceremonies, songs and cultural activities are tied directly to agriculture with prayers for rain and a fertile harvest. Prayer sticks with feathers hang from stones that support terraced gardens, and Hopi art commonly features rain clouds.
"That's the simplest of pleasures that we forget in our commodity-driven society when we want the latest iPod, vehicle and the best shoes," James Surveyor (the marketing and sales associate at the Moenkopi Legacy Inn & Suites on the reservation,) said. "That prayer, that ceremony, that belief is all intertwined with farming because farming is what the people are."
This type of focus on our continent's food heritage delights us, and reminds me to say, "Be Happy, Be Hopi." We'll definitely be signing up for a trip back through Hopi agriculture.
So--this MyPlate imagery from the USDA is a decent attempt to make visual to Americans what previous food pyramids apparently have failed to do. The fact that it resembles a plastic kitchen toy may not be a plus, however.
Eat more veggies than proteins ( though beans, spuds and sweet pots, of course, are protein-filled veggies...,) and OOPS--are they implying we all have a hearty glass of milk with our meals, instead of water or wine? Not a great idea, but then again, the dairy lobby is alive and well.
Also--how much of everything should we eat? Deck of cards worth of protein? I rankle when I read 3 ounces of this and 6 ounces of that, as if we all have little ounce measuring devices available. 8 ounces to a cup is embedded in my brain, but 3?
An alert pal sent me this visual interpretation of MyPlate--source unknown-- that is close to nauseating in its lack of appeal. Overcooked, canned green beans, milk, a slab of unadorned salmon, maybe, a slice of bland looking bread and, can it be, canned mandarin oranges??? Aaaargh.
Clearly the USDA swiftly needs to put together some plates that show real, tasty food.
Here's one, from a Thai restaurant lunch I had.
Rice, slice of orange, loads of veggies, and tofu in a red curry sauce.
Here's another from an earlier post:
But wait! The USDA MyPlate shows us no oils, no nuts...how can this be?
And finally, a lunch we had on the road from Florida to NM, in a small town in Texas.
A cup of "baked potato soup," comprised of spuds, cream and bacon, a salad, assorted unnecessary bits of carb (!) and a decent piece of spinach quiche, with a fine handmade buttery crust. The soup was a tad over the top, but then, this was Texas.
So, USDA, high marks for rethinking the imagery, but methinks the American public needs a wide range of actual plates of food in order to get the message.
On the other hand, one of my favorite writers, M.F.K.Fisher, who happened to focus on food, once wrote, "Balance the day, not the meal." This plan works well for those with some food savvy. I keep it vaguely in mind, but more importantly, like many people, I choose what looks fresh and good, and dive into an enjoyable meal. And ignore the rules. Sheesh.
Flitting from the magnificent and exuberant wound down St Petersburg Saturday Market, Florida, to the just gearing up for the season Corrales Growers Market in NM, one observes, alas, what a relative absence of water can achieve. The chard from St Pete was tall and plump, the chard in NM, modest. Both delicious, but...
Having written here myself about the Prince of Wales' admirable Home Farm, I am delighted to find this take, from a woman who seems to know her eggs from her offal. Rachel Laudan's blog is dubbed A Historian's Take on Food and Food Politics.
"Prince Charles inherited 135,000 acres, much of it excellent land in the south and west of England. His manager farms the Home Farm, the organic bit, 1000 acres where he in time-honored tradition raises rare breeds.
His tenants are not required to farm organically, without doubt use as much of the latest agricultural technology as they can afford, and accept farm subsidies. His estate agent Smiths Gore I presume collect the rents and handle the accounts.
Like corporate agribusiness, Prince Charles has integrated vertically by producing a line of food products, Duchy Products. These he sells not in farmers’ markets but through the large grocery chain, Waitrose. (True, they pay some royalties into his charity, but that is in trouble at the moment, having to bail out some land investments made by the Prince). He advertises these industrially-produced foodstuffs by appeal to tradition (a technique pioneered by big wine in late nineteenth-century France).
In 2008, rents from tenant farmers (and presumably from sources such as The Oval cricket ground and holiday rentals in the Scilly Isles) provided him and his family with an income of $26.4 million.
So when I read rave reviews of Prince Charles at the Future of Food conferencegoing on in Washington, D.C., I have to wonder.
Is Prince Charles’ decision to farm 1/135th of his land organically really so compelling? How can his admirers, most of whom I suspect, distrust agribusiness (and by any standards, Charles’ landholdings have more in common with large corporate landholdings than small family farms), overlook the scale of his operation?
Because of a sneaking deference to royalty? Because he claims as his own, standard British agricultural practice, such as dung spreading?
Whatever the reason, I find the deference amazing. Prince Charles is, in my view, agribusiness personified."
Shall we all starve, then? Import food from Canada and Mexico and beyond? Now is the time for those high rise growing units we have blogged about. High above the rising waters....
From the WaPo:
"So the Corps is confronted with a Devil’s choice: cause a flood that would drown the livelihoods of central Louisiana farmers and fishermen, or let the high river roll and frantically sandbag 200 miles of levees to prevent flooding in the state’s two biggest cities."
What next for the American South, a plague of locusts?
Japonica and indica, two rice strains, apparently had been duking it out as to which came first and from where. Were they both from one single origin? Or had each developed separately in different places. Gene researchers published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences but fortunately I stumbled across this via Futurity.
It seems they both share some of the glory, but derive from one common ancestor in China. The world today benefits from about 10,000 varieties of rice, incidentally.
"As rice was brought in from China to India by traders and migrant farmers, it likely hybridized extensively with local wild rice,” explains Michael Purugganan, professor of genomics and biology at New York University and one of the study’s co-authors. “So domesticated rice that we may have once thought originated in India actually has its beginnings in China.”
Researchers also examined the phylogeny of domesticated rice by re-sequencing 630 gene fragments on selected chromosomes from a diverse set of wild and domesticated rice varieties. Using new modeling techniques, which had previously been used to look at genomic data in human evolution, those results also show that the gene sequence data is more consistent with a single origin of rice.
Using a molecular clock to see when rice evolved, the researchers pinpointed the origin of rice at possibly 8,200 years ago, while japonica and indica split apart from each other about 3,900 years ago, dates consistent with archaeological studies.
Archaeologists have uncovered evidence in the last decade for rice domestication in the Yangtze Valley beginning approximately 8,000 to 9,000 years ago while domestication of rice in the India’s Ganges region was around about 4,000 years ago."
( Chinese Rice Terraces, Guangxi, via Pictures of China.)
The Army Corps of Engineers blew out part of a levee on Monday in order to save Cairo, Illinois, from drowning. But the effect on a massive area of farmland and farmers is huge. A group of them are suing.
"After the detonation of part of the Birds Point levee Monday night to ease pressure from the swelling Mississippi River, aerial photographs showed farmhouses, barns and outbuildings in the middle of fields with water rising around them."
From the St Louis Post-Dispatch: "Bob Byrne, 59, farms 550 acres below the Missouri levee.
"It's a sickening feeling," he said. "They're talking about not getting the water off until late July or early August. That knocks out a whole season."
In the 1980s, when the floodway plan was under review, Bennett said, officials estimated that activating the floodway would cost residents and the county $300 million. Today, he said, losses probably will total close to $1 billion.
U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, said Monday that U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had assured her that farmers in the floodway who had crop insurance would be compensated as if this man-made flood were a natural disaster. "I know that helps a lot of people, but not everybody," she said."
Prince Charles, who champions sustainable agriculture, is on a three-day U.S. visit that will include meeting with the president on Wednesday after delivering a speech at “The Future of Food” conference at Georgetown University, hosted by Washington Post Live.
Prince Charles' totally organic farm called Highgrove, in Gloucestershire, was converted to organic starting in 1986.
"The origins of the Speckled Lettuce date back to 1660 in Holland. From Holland, the lettuce was brought to Germany, where it was widely . Finally in the late 1790s the Speckled lettuce was brought to North America, first arriving in Waterloo County, Ontario. The name, Speckled lettuce, comes from the German Forellenschluss, which means “speckled like a trout”. "
Photo by John Sayles of and at Summit Springs Farm, Maine, a CSA.