To discover the new frontier of urban farming, you’ll have to look up — and look sharp — for hanging fruit.
Urban orchards are dropping everything from apples to persimmons to avocados on Seattle, Bloomington, Ind., Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other North American cities. Groups like the Portland Fruit Tree Project advocate for public access to existing fruit trees so that people can glean crops that would otherwise go uneaten — an idea some are calling radical. Other groups are more interested in planting new groves of fruit trees on previously fallow city land.
Fruit trees produce food, but also provide shade, keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, improve water quality and may even deter crime. Advocates say they also have a longer lasting impact on communities than vegetable beds.
If you’re tuned into the world of beer, you may be aware of sour beers — a loosely defined style that has been made for centuries but is gaining fresh appreciation in today’s craft beer renaissance. Brewers make these beers by deliberately adding bacteria and, sometimes, wild yeast to the brew, then letting them age slowly. It sounds weird, but sours can be delicious — tart and earthy, and redolent of things like leather, fruit and wood.
They’re also very hard to make, requiring months or years of letting the beer gradually mature in the cellar. And all the while, brewers must take extra precautions to prevent the souring microbes from bursting out and contaminating the rest of their nonsour beers — a major logistical hitch and expense. That’s why some brewers refuse to make sours: They’re too much trouble. And those who do make them sell the beers at high prices, often $5 or $6 for a dainty 6-ounce sample.
But a technique that makes brewing sour beers fast and easy is trending across America — making sours much more affordable. The technique is called kettle souring, and it allows brewers to produce a mouth-puckering sour in about the same time it takes to make any other beer. The result can be generous pours of acidic, face-twistingly refreshing beer for the standard price of a pint.
In ancient times, farmers worried about losing precious grain to spoilage during wet winters. So they figured out how to malt grain and brew it into beer, thus preserving a nutritious source of calories. In The Comic Book Story of Beer, due out in September, we get a graphical tour of such pivotal moments — from the cradle of agriculture to the modern-day craft beer heyday.
Illustrator Aaron McConnell, writer Jonathan Hennessey and professional brewer Mike Smith cover a lot of ground in 173 pages. We learn that in ancient Rome, women were the brewers, and their homes became popular hangout spots – the first pub houses, really. The covered beer stein was invented during the Black Death, when piles of bodies on the streets attracted flies and it was necessary to keep swarms of them out of drinks. Lagers were meanwhile born of a 19th-century act of industrial espionage.
On the fringes of the cheese world, a quest for non-dairy cheese that tastes like the real thing has been underway for years.
Products made mostly of soy protein or coagulated palm oil, often heavily processed and artificially flavored, have dominated the (very) narrow vegan cheese section of the supermarket. But these products have long underwhelmed the palate with their thin flavor and reluctance to melt on a hot pizza.
Now, as lactose intolerance and environmental and animal welfare concerns about livestock production drive more interest in alternatives to animal products, a new generation of non-dairy cheese makers is doing something novel: They’re actually making cheese.
The iconic cartoon character Popeye became most famous for his slapstick routine of eating a can of spinach, then attaining superpowers that he often used to give his gigantic nemesis Bluto a severe pummeling.
But Bluto might be lucky that Popeye never got his hands on a glass of beet juice.
A small study from scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that the humble red root vegetable – perhaps best known for its high beta carotene concentrations – contains a molecule that boosts muscle power.