Discover the rich symbolism behind this painting that features Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, during our Spotlight Gallery Conversation this Thursday, Friday, or Saturday at 11 a.m.

Still Life with Terms and a Bust of Ceres,” c. 1630, by Frans Snyders

Meet China’s baby-shaped pears and heart-shaped melons

Baby-shaped pears, heart-shaped watermelons and square apples are hitting supermarkets in China and Japan. But are these fruits just frivolous fun?

by Bec Crew

Since the beginnings of agriculture, humans have been customising their fruits and vegetables to suit their needs. Early on, bigger fruits and higher yields were the most important considerations, and while these factors still outweigh the actual taste factor, other, slightly less pressing desires have come into play over the past decade or so.

Namely, people want to eat fruit that doesn’t look like regular fruit.

Which is how baby-shaped pears have come into existence. Grown by China-based manufacturing company, Fruit Mould Co., these strange little shapes have been selling like crazy in China, along with square-shaped apples, and heart-shaped watermelons and cucumbers. Their Buddha-shaped pears are apparently extremely popular

(read more: ScienceAlert! - Australia & NZ)

photos: Fruit Mould Co.

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A bonus vlogbrothers video from my trip to Ethiopia with The Gates Foundation in which Bill Gates and I discuss agriculture.


Mark Bittman on what’s wrong with food in America

In an interview with Vox, Mark Bittman discusses how our industrial system of food production has led to cheap food filled with calories, but with very little nutrition. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed to prevent a health crisis.

Vox: What are things in society that need to tip for these to become more mainstream issues?


1. The more research we see about added sugars, the more we’ll see how damaging it is.

2. An outbreak of antibiotic resistant bacteria linked to overuse of antibiotics in animal production.

3. Confined animal feeding operations. We’re finally seeing how poorly animals are treated.

Researchers across the University of California system are working to address these issues.

Jered Lawson and Nancy Vail, graduates of UC Santa Cruz and UC San Diego, have formed Pie Ranch, a farm that teaches urban high school students about where their food comes from.

Robert Lustig, a UCSF professor of pediatrics said at a symposium on sugar and other sweeteners, “Enough people are sick that we need a societal and government intervention on the scale of that mounted against tobacco and alcohol.”

UCSF is eliminating antibiotic meats used in their cafeterias.

Annie King, an animal science professor at UC Davis, explains the difference between cage-free, free-range, and many other egg terms found at the grocery store.

Earlier this summer, University of California President Janet Napolitano and chancellors from all 10 campuses announced an initiative to tackle these problems on a global scale by harnessing the collective power of UC to help put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself.

Learn more about the UC Global Food Initiative


We Spoke to a 90-Year-Old Farmer Who Grows Pumpkins the Size of Cows

by Hilary Pollack

Is there anything more quintessentially autumnal than the mighty pumpkin? In the next six weeks, millions of Americans will be buying them, carving demonic faces into them, and adorning their porches and fruit baskets with them. We’ll be swimming in Olympic-pool-sized vats of pumpkin spice syrup and making pumpkin costumes for our helplessly imprisoned guinea pigs. And sometimes, we’ll even eat pumpkin.

We wanted to know the secrets of True Pumpkin Magick, and who better to represent pumpkin culture than Adrien Gervais, a 90-year-old man from Ontario who has been growing giant pumpkins for more than 20 years?

In 1999, Gervais grew a 981-and-a-half pound pumpkin that took home first place at the Port Elgin Pumpkinfest, which purports to attract the biggest pumpkins in the world every year. After reading about “Grandpa” Gervais—also nicknamed “Pumpkinhead”—and his current fast-growing behemoth on CTV Barrie, we had to know how more about this king of gourds…

(read more: Vice Magazine)