Daily Essentials | 13 May 2015

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SMITTEN KITCHEN: Mushrooms and Greens with Toast

I resisted, for once, but I think this would be lovely with some crispy eggs on top. But I’d otherwise consider this a one-pan meal. No, a one-pan miracle. For mushrooms, O’Brady suggests chanterelles, shiitake and oyster mushrooms and I admit I got carried away, buying a few fancy ones (a trumpet mushroom too!) along with creminis, but you could make this entirely with small white or brown mushroom and it would still be delicious. For the greens, kale, chard, spinach or nettles are suggested; I use lancinato kale leaves. And for a cheese, it really doesn’t matter what you use, only that you like it and it likes to melt. Chèvre, mozzarella, burrata, taleggio and fontina are all “fair game,” she writes. I went with a soft, melty fontina and it was perfect here. I used the bread I’m most obsessed with, massive whole wheat sourdough loaves that you can buy in quarters at Balthazar’s bakery on Spring Street or in Englewood, NJ or at any outlet of the Le Pain Quotidien chain, but of course any bread you enjoy eating will work well here too.

PACIFIC STANDARD: How Big Business Accidentally Helped the Amazon Rainforest

Stereotypically, environmentalists are known for opposing big business. Yet the growth of multinational corporations in the Amazon—including Walmart, Cargill, and large slaughterhouses, like JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva—was a secret boon for conservationists, giving them a target the public could rally against. It was hard to tell independent peasant farmers that they should give up their land, and their incomes, for the sake of plants and animals, but folks around the world were happy to pressure Nike and Walmart to stop buying leather and beef from ranches that operate illegally in the world’s most diverse biome. “In its strength, the multibillion-dollar Brazilian cattle industry developed an Achilles’ heel,” as Yale Environment 360 reported in 2009.

NEW YORK TIMES | THE UPSHOT: How to Eat Healthy at Restaurants

If you’re dining alone, consider setting aside some food as soon as it comes, as we have with the Olive Garden meal here, to avoid what psychologists call “the completion compulsion.” Save the food for later – or, if there is no better option, throw it out, without guilt. Eating food you don’t need is a version of waste.

Portion inflation also means that today’s appetizers are sometimes the size of yesterday’s entrees – and that you can often get a filling meal with two appetizers. The strategy is especially helpful during business meals, when other people at the table are often ordering two courses and joining them is the natural thing to do.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Strawberry field hands forever? Probably not

Traditionally, a large pool of farmworkers, mainly foreign-born, was available to supply that “discernment,” along with the backbreaking effort involved in gathering crops by hand. But the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States peaked in 2007 and has fallen markedly since.

From the standpoint of strawberry farmers, the dwindling of migrant labor means that they can no longer rely on immigration flows to get the job done. Nothing to do, then, but boost the pay and perks for strawberry-pickers until they’re high enough to induce more US citizens to work in the fields?

Far from it: With human workers harder to find, strawberry growers have become increasingly committed to finding a technological solution. The Journal story describes the Agrobot — a prototype of a 14-arm automated harvester that couples vision sensors and advanced software in a device capable of “pluck[ing] ripe strawberries from below deep-green leaves, while mostly ignoring unripe fruit nearby.” When migrant labor was plentiful, the Agrobot’s $100,000 price tag might have seemed exorbitant. No longer.

MODERN FARMER: Cricket: It’s What’s For Dinner

Entomophagy—the eating of bugs—is common all over the world, and has long been talked about as a possible source of protein to supplement the United States’ energy-heavy cattle reliance. That future is one step closer with the creation of Coalo Valley Farms, California’s first major cricket farm.

… Coalo Valley Farms has a 7,000-square-foot warehouse just outside San Diego. It’s still being constructed, but will eventually include 175 bins carrying 2,000 crickets apiece. Mermel says his farm is not only sustainable but cruelty-free, allowing crickets to move freely until harvesting. The crickets will be turned into a protein powder, which can be used in a variety of ways. The most common use for this powder is protein bars like Exo. It’s pretty expensive, pulling in around $50 per pound of powder.


EMERGING PRAIRIE: No need for pulling weeds with hammer mill designed by NDSU student

They began in the south, and slowly, stealthily, they’re creeping up north. And they’re getting stronger by the minute. We’re talking about weeds. Weeds, the dread of every farmer – especially for organic farms, like the one NDSU student Paul Subart currently works on in North Dakota. It was weeds that inspired him late last July, as he sat atop a tractor mowing down weed patches on a flax field.

“I knew there had to be another way to control them without mowing or digging,” he said.

There on that tractor, he envisioned the preliminary designs for a modified rotary hammer mill; a design that he has now polished, presented at the NDSU Innovation Challenge, and that won first place in the Corn Track of the competition. Now he not only has the design and support from local farmers, but $5,000 in awards money to begin building the prototype.

WASHINGTON POST | ROBERTO FERDMAN: Why bourbon’s incredible popularity might actually be a problem

“Very little of the wood out there is fit to be used for bourbon barrels,” said Jeff Stringer, a professor at the University of Kentucky who studies hardwood silviculture and forestry. “Only a small fraction of stave logs are high enough quality. That makes it really hard for the wood industry to adjust.”

Stave logs are the oak planks that barrel-makers piece together and then hold in place with metal loops to make the bourbon barrels. Part of the reason it will be difficult to continue to supply enough stave logs to meet the demand of the bourbon industry is that chopping down trees is contingent on the ability to use all the wood—not just that which is fancy enough for bourbon barrels.

“It takes strong timber markets to allow the flow of stave logs out of the woods,” said Stringer. “The number one concern is not the amount of logs out there—it’s the ability to get them out.”

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  1. Progress in the Rainforest. On bigness, smallness, and the business of setting standards. | Food and Farm Discussion Lab

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