Daily Essentials | 19 May 2015


101 COOKBOOKS | A Few Words on How to Cook Artichokes

If you’re going to invest the time into cooking artichokes, you want them to be fantastic. In the spring I tend to cook artichokes once or twice a week, and although the process takes time and attention, I can’t help myself. When they’re good, there are few things I’d rather be eating. That said, I think a lot of people are intimidated by the process, or they think it’s not worth the effort. My friends confirm this. The topic has come up a few times lately, and the conversations are typically punctuated by a confession that they never cook artichokes at home. So I thought I’d do a quick outline of how I handle these armored spring ambassadors.

SKEPCHICK | MELANIE MALLON | Bad Chart Thursday: Organic Cherry Picking

Coop, a Swedish organic grocery chain, partnered with ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors to experiment on a Swedish family of five for three weeks. The first week, the family ate non-organic, then switched to organic for the next two weeks. Throughout the study period, the family gave daily urine samples, which were analyzed by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL for a selected 12 pesticides, those used in conventional agriculture.

That’s right. They didn’t test for residues from the pesticides used in organic agriculture, such as (in Sweden) lime sulfur, pyrethrins, iron (III) phosphate, and oh so much more.

The brain-achingly obvious results of this adverstudy? Pesticides not used in organic agriculture do not show up in the body (or show up in much lower amounts) when eating organic compared with eating foods on which those pesticides were used.


QUARTZ | At the Museum of Shit, a farmer is turning poo into plastic, power, and art via Food + Thought

In 2008, Locatelli did what smart farmers do, and installed a biogas generator to turn methane from the excrement into electricity, but this still left him with huge quantities of de-methanated crap.

In a pioneering application of new technology, he began extracting urea from the waste to make plastic (otherwise made from crude oil), and using leftover slurry to make 90-percent-dung, construction-grade bricks, playfully dubbed “merdacotta,” instead of terracotta. Even the water piped around his machinery to keep it cool is being recycled, diverted to heat an entire village nearby.

Rather than leave this new poop factory as an eyesore on the Italian landscape, Locatelli then commissioned major British artist David Tremlett in 2011 to turn the site into monumental art works. Not long after that, a chat with architect Luca Cipelletti marked the birth of Museo della Merda—The Shit Museum—a public display at the farm showcasing its ground-breaking system of sustainable agriculture.

FIVE THIRTY EIGHT | Dairy Queen’s Kids Menu Is Still Super Unhealthy

But when considering how healthy these options are for kids, it’s probably worth taking the whole meal into account. Research conducted in 2013 by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that Dairy Queen’s kids meals, including beverages, had a median calorie count of 780 — well above the 650 per meal that is recommended for elementary-school-age children, and well above the other restaurants studied.


John Oliver explains how chicken farming can be unfair, punishing, and inhumane. And not just for the chickens!

WASHINGTON POST | JANE BLACK | One fish, three meals: Paul Greenberg makes the case for Americans to get hip to seafood

The United States controls more ocean than any other country on Earth. Yet despite our 2.8 billion acres of ocean, 94,000 miles of coast and 3.5 million miles of rivers, 91 percent of the seafood Americans eat is imported.

It gets fishier, Greenberg says. Much of what we import is farmed; shrimp and tilapia top the list. Meanwhile, one-third of what we catch is sent overseas. “There are of course subtleties to the ridiculous international fish swap we’re engaged in here in America, but after three years of pounding my head against the data, what I realized is that we’re basically low-grading our seafood supply,” Greenberg said. “We’re sending the good wild American stuff that makes you heart healthy and smart to Asia and importing all this farmed stuff from Asia that doesn’t really do too much for you from a health perspective.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS | MARY CLARE JALONICK | USDA creates new government certification for GMO-free

The Agriculture Department has developed a new government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients.

USDA’s move comes as some consumer groups push for mandatory labeling of the genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The certification is the first of its kind, would be voluntary — and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a “USDA Process Verified” label along with a claim that they are free of GMOs.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the new certification in a May 1 letter to USDA employees, saying it was being done at the request of a “leading global company,” which he did not identify.

NPR | THE SALT | South Carolina Distiller Promises To Make Kentucky Liquor Quicker

Kentucky bourbon is in high demand these days. Sales and production of the whiskey have surged in recent years. The demand has created a problem: a shortage of barrels. Bourbon is typically aged for several years in wooden casks.

But one company has found a work-around. It’s come up with a chemical process that ages bourbon not in years — but in hours. The innovation is unsettling an industry that is long-soaked in history and tradition.

… “We still age in a barrel, but we don’t need to age it for years and years,” Hewlette says. “We can put it through our process. It takes about eight hours, and we have replicated more than four years of barrel aging.”

ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND | GROWING RETURNS | Meet Brent Bible, state trooper turned farmer and mentor

How have you changed nutrient management practices in your operation?
We used to apply a standard amount of nutrients per acre. But we have evolved over time – we now take soil samples every two acres and use variable rate technology to get data about inputs. We aggregate the data on a field by field basis and can now fine tune our nutrient application so that the majority of the time, we’re saving money and increasing yields. We’re no longer just applying a blind amount of fertilizer – we’re being much more precise and applying only what is needed.

What other soil health practices have you embraced?
About half or two-thirds of our acres are no-till or minimum till depending on crop type and conditions each year. We made this change in part because of great advice from others who tried these practices but also because no-till just makes sense for some layouts and topographies. Through my work with the Soil Health Partnership (SHP), I’ve also been able to learn from others who have used cover crops and realized the benefits.

We are economically driven to do what will give you the best yield – no-till and cover crops are part of that equation. This year we had 350 acres of cover crops – we would not have been that aggressive if it wasn’t for our work with the SHP, which helped us develop confidence to try new methods.

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