Are Avocados Toasted?

Nathanael Johnson wrote . . . . . . .

Chris Sayer pushed his way through avocado branches and grasped a denuded limb. It was stained black, as if someone had ladled tar over its bark. In February, the temperature had dropped below freezing for three hours, killing the limb. The thick leaves had shriveled and fallen away, exposing the green avocados, which then burned in the sun. Sayer estimated he’d lost one out of every 20 avocados on his farm in Ventura, just 50 miles north of Los Angeles, but he counts himself lucky.

“If that freeze was one degree colder, or one hour longer, we would have had major damage,” he said.

Avocado trees start to die when the temperature falls below 28 degrees or rises above 100 degrees. If the weather turns cold and clammy during the short period in the spring when the flowers bloom, bees won’t take to the air and fruits won’t develop. The trees also die if water runs dry, or if too many salts accumulate in the soil, or if a new pest starts chewing on its leaves. “All of which is quite possible in the next few decades, as the climate shifts,” Sayer said.

The weather had been strange lately, Sayer told me. In the past year, Californians have lived through a historic drought, a massive wildfire that blotted out the sun, and a strangely warm winter followed by that unseasonable freeze. When I visited in April, his lemon trees were already loaded with ripe fruit—that usually doesn’t happen until June. “Things are screwy,” Sayer said.

From the vineyards of the north coast to the orange groves of Southern California, farmers like Sayer have been reeling from the weird weather.

“We are already suffering the effects of climate change,” said Russ Lester, who grows walnuts at Dixon Ridge Farms, east of Sacramento. “I can look out my window and see trees that don’t have a leaf on them and others that are completely leafed out.

It might feel like we’re peering into the distant future when we hear that by 2050, temperatures may very well climb 4 degrees, seas could rise a foot, and droughts and floods will become more common. But for farmers planting trees they hope will bear fruit 25 years from now, that seemingly distant future has to be reckoned with now.

A lot of the country’s tree crops grow in California, which produces two-thirds of the fruits and nuts for the United States. The same is true of grape vines, which bear abundant fruit for about 25 years (they slow down after that, but can keep going for hundreds of years). It’s in large part because so many farmers are making these long-term gambles on orchard crops that a recent scientific paper noted: “Agricultural production in California is highly sensitive to climate change.”

Jay Famiglietti, the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, goes even further: “It’s a virtual certainty that California will get drier. I don’t think it’s a climate that’s conducive to orchard crops anymore.”

In other words, for anyone trying to make money off long-lived crops, climate change is already here. And yet new saplings are pushing out of the ground all over the state.

IF THESE FARMERS were planting an annual crop, like cilantro, they’d be making a bet on the weather for the next 45 days. But they’re planting trees, which means making a bet on the next 40 years.

After years of putting it off, Sayer is about to place such a four-decade bet by planting a bunch of new avocado trees. There’s no way Sayer can foresee oncoming climate disaster, if that’s what’s hurtling toward the land his family has worked for the past 130 years in Ventura. He can see just a little bit of what might be coming — as if he’s straining to glimpse signs of danger while blinkered. When I asked him how it felt, he said: “Like I’m about to cross a very busy road with my hood pulled over my head.”

When Katherine Jarvis-Shean was a doctoral candidate researching the decline of cold winters a few years back, she thought more farmers should be freaking out. “I used to think, ‘Why aren’t you guys more worried about this? It’s going to be the end of the world.’”

After all, many fruit and nut trees require a good winter chill to bear fruit. But after spending a few years as an extension agent for the University of California—working directly with farmers and translating science into techniques they can apply on the land—she understands better. It comes down to this: Farmers have a ton of concerns, and the climate is just one of them.

“If you decide what to plant based on climate, but then can’t make the lease payment, that’s not sustainable,” Jarvis-Shean said.

If you are worried about water running out in 15 years, you might think it’s a good idea to cut down half the state’s almond groves—but if those almond trees are still putting money in your pockets, that wouldn’t make sense until the killer drought hits. That’s the crux of the matter for Sayer, and other farmers I interviewed. They’re concerned about the changing climate, but they always come up with ingenious plans to adapt to bad weather. It’s much harder for them to adapt to an overdrawn bank account.

Sayer grows mostly lemons right now, but they’re not long for this world. “You can see these lemon trees are getting a little rangy looking,” Sayer said, gesturing toward a leafless branch. “This is going to be their last harvest, then they’ve got a date with the chipper.”

Sayer knows lemons. He knows how to coddle them in old age, how to nudge them to produce more, how to keep them alive when rains fail, how to protect them from aphids and snails and scale insects and the nematodes in the ground. But this land has provided a home to a citrus orchard for 70 years, and each year more pests accumulate to suck the life from the trees. So Sayer needs to move on from lemons, and he’s settled on avocados.

From a climate perspective, the leather-skinned fruit are a risky choice. Avocado trees like their surroundings not too hot and not too cold, and they always need water. One study estimated that climate change would hurt California avocado trees so much that the state’s production could be cut in half by 2050.

As the sun burned off the marine layer of clouds over the orchard, Sayer patiently laid out the reasoning that led him to plant avocado trees. He explained that climate poses risks that are easy for outsiders to see—when you’re reading about historic droughts in the newspaper and driving past acres of withered crops, it seems crazy to plant orchards. But farmers often have to contend with other risks that outweigh the danger of bad weather. Sayers puts them into three categories: climate risk, market risk, and execution risk.

If he were only worried about climate risk, Sayer said, he’d plant prickly pear. “They would grow in any post-apocalyptic hellscape you could imagine,” he said. But who would buy them? Most Americans don’t put prickly pear on their shopping lists. So there’s a huge market risk.

Then there’s execution risk: the chance that Sayer screws things up. If he didn’t have to worry about that, Sayer might follow his neighbor’s lead and start growing annual crops. He pointed across the road from his farm, where orchards once stood, at a flat expanse of strawberries dotted with hustling pickers. There’s always an appetite for strawberries, and they’re cheap to plant, so they pose a low market risk. And because strawberries get planted every year, they’re not such a big gamble on the changing climate. If a freak storm kills everything growing in Ventura, for instance, Sayer’s neighbor would lose that year’s strawberry crop while Sayer would lose a 30-year avocado investment.

But the execution risk of switching to strawberries—figuring out how to grow them, buying the right equipment, and learning how to sell them—is too high for him. “We’re talking about years of learning,” Sayer said. “It would be like me deciding to go back to college to study medicine.” He’s 52, and not prepared to start fresh.

Sayer has one other option that would eliminate all the climate, market, and execution risks: Pave his farmland and build houses. When I visited in April, workers were constructing apartments on what used to be farmland at the end of his street. If more farmers start taking climate risks seriously, a surge of subdivisions could start sprawling across some of the most fertile farmland on the planet. But the thought of that saddens Sayer. He wants to farm.

After weighing all those risks, he decided to bet the farm on avocados. These trees are no climate savior—far from it. But Sayer been experimenting with them for decades and understands how they work. He knows he can sell avocados, because he’s tapped into a network that reserves spots for the fruit in every grocery store, and turns sunburned avocados into frozen guacamole. Also, you might have noticed the market is strong: Americans are chowing down so much avocado tonnage in new, creative ways—smoothies, toast, ice cream, you name it—that consumption has increased sevenfold since 2000.

Orchard can endure weird weather brought on by climate change, but if they don’t get any water, the trees will die. In the past, California farmers have always survived droughts by sticking deeper and deeper straws into the ground to suck up groundwater. But since 2014, the state has had a law against depleting aquifers, and farmers soon won’t be able to take out more water than goes in.

That policy alarms growers, especially since they can no longer depend on snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Mountains hold water—in the form of glaciers—through the colder months, then release it during the warmer months. But as the climate heats up, more of the precipitation that fell in California as snow will turn to rain. That means more floods in winter and more droughts in summer.

To adapt to this boom-and-bust cycle, a few farmers around California are letting swollen rivers spill into their orchards. If carried out on a large scale, this would slow down rushing flood waters and let them percolate into aquifers.

After four years of experimentation in almond groves, scientists have found that this inundation hasn’t hurt the trees. They’ve also identified nearly 700,000 acres under almond trees suitable for recharging groundwater, said Richard Waycott, president of the Almond Board of California. At the same time, growers continue to use less freshwater for irrigation and draw more water recycled from city drainpipes.

In another example of climate adaptation, farmers are developing a kind of hyper-local climate engineering, spraying clay dust over their trees to create shade and cool them down in unseasonably hot weather, according to David Zilberman, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. Elsewhere, scientists have planted a pistachio orchard where no self-respecting pistachio farmer would ever put a tree: in the middle of the Southern California desert near Coachella.

Most pistachio trees grow 200 miles north, where colder winters allow them to settle into their natural cycles. But in a few decades, that traditional pistachio land could have the climate of Coachella. It’s a type of time travel; the idea is to find a version of the future that already exists.

The pistachio trees aren’t at all happy in the desert: “It’s just terrible out there,” said Craig Kallsen, another extension agent for the University of California. “It looked like someone had irradiated the place with toxic chemicals.”

All the same, a few pistachio trees are beginning to produce leaves. By growing this orchard in this analogue of the climate future, researchers like Kallsen can see which varieties stand up to heat, and then zero in on the genes that allow those trees to adapt. Using those genes, researchers hope to breed trees that can thrive in a hotter, drier world.

Sayer is also adapting by growing different varieties of avocados, but the most visible climate adaptation in the orchard was the knee-high carpet of grasses and turnip stems we waded through as we made our way among the trees.

“Back in the 1970s, bare dirt between the rows was considered clean and tidy,” Sayer said. “If you had a blade of grass sticking out, oh man, that wasn’t good.”

Letting plants grow beneath the trees seemed like a squalid, lazy, weed-spreading hazard. When he and his father first began planting between the rows in 2005, it felt taboo. Other farmers would sidle up to them at the coffee shop and ask in an undertone, “What’s going on with your orchard? Is that a cover crop?”

A cover crop protects the soil from heavy rains and helps turn it into a habitat for worms, beetles, and thousands of microbes. As we walked through the dappled sunlight, the ground beneath my feet was yielding like a giant sponge.

Sayer has calculated that, since first planting the cover crop, his lemon orchard can absorb 2.5 million gallons more water in a downpour. “Since every scenario I’ve seen involves water stress, better soil is going to put us in a better position, because it holds and absorbs more rain,” he said.

Lester, the Sacramento-area walnut grower, also plants cover crops. And he has an audacious justification for planting new trees: He hopes to reverse climate change.

Cover crops pull carbon from the air into the soil and—if we can figure it out—all of agriculture could become a giant carbon-dioxide sponge. Lester powers his operation with solar panels and a walnut-shell burning furnace (releasing carbon his walnut trees recently sucked out of the air), making his farm carbon negative.

“Call me optimistic, but I believe if all farmers adopted healthy soils technology, agriculture can play a huge role in stopping, slowing down, maybe even reversing climate change,” Lester said.

Not all farmers are as scientifically literate as Lester or Sayer; many shrug off climate change as just another shift in the weather. But even the ones who readily accept the science of climate change continue to plant trees. Perhaps they are overly optimistic. Perhaps they are just human: It’s not in our nature to ignore threats right in front of our face so we can focus on those in the seemingly far-off future.

After I’d spent the day with Sayer, his decision to plant more avocados made sense: It’s the choice that allows him to keep farming. He’s making preparations based on the best climate projections he can get, while also setting himself up to react to the unexpected. He can see a path to profitability, though he allows that his vision into the future — in terms of both climate and weather forecasting — is severely restricted.

If you recall, he likened planting a new round of avocado trees to crossing a busy road with a hood over his head. There was a second part to that analogy: “At least I know which way to look for the oncoming traffic.”

Source: WIRED


Moist and Delicious Gluten Free Chocolate Cake


1 (4-ounce) bar dark chocolate with cacao, broken into pieces
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup pure cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup unsweetened cacao powder, sifted, plus more to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 9-1/2-inch round cake pan.
  2. On the stove, boil water in a pot. As soon as water boils, turn down to medium-high heat and place a stainless steel bowl on top of the water. Melt chocolate and butter together in the bowl. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. This process will take about 5-7 minutes. Stir frequently, so the chocolate does not burn.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine sugar and vanilla. Mix melted chocolate mixture into sugar mixture, and with a wooden spoon, stir until well blended.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and then honey. Stir until well blended. Sift in cacao powder and stir to combine. Pour batter into cake pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Let cool slightly and serve warm with cacao powder sifted on top and a side of coffee ice cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: The Organic Family Cookbook

Modern Ice Cream Flavours Inspired By History

Charcoal Ice Cream with Pomegranate Swirl and Chocolate Sourdough Breadcrumbs

Laura Kiniry wrote . . . . . . . .

If Stonehenge Monument were an ice cream, it would be a delicious bowl of vanilla blended with bits of oats and hazelnuts and honey swirls.

At least according to Hannah Spiegelman, a small-batch ice cream maker in Baltimore who explores the sweet — as well as salty, spicy and even a little nutty — sides of historical people and places through A Sweet History, her blog, Instagram feed and occasional pop-up stand of the same name.

Spiegelman creates unique ice cream flavors inspired by everything from historical figures to art history, mythology, astrology and historic events. “I’ve always liked looking at history from a visual standpoint,” she says.

That quality is evident when you see a tea cup filled with her hay ice cream, sprinkled with pieces of pistachio and raspberry macarons: Spiegelman’s picture-perfect ode to Impressionism, with the vibrant pink color of its crushed macarons standing out like the small but visible brush strokes that characterize this 19th century art movement.

There’s Spiegelman’s Mint Tea Green Ice Cream with Peach Swirl, a mix she concocted after learning about Edna Lewis, the former Hollywood dress-maker who became a culinary legend for her books on traditional Southern foods. Lewis created a peach cobbler out of fresh summer peaches that many consider to be one of her quintessential dessert recipes, and the “swirls” are meant to represent the fluidity of the garments she sewed. As for the ice cream’s primary flavor? “The aroma of freshly crushed mint heightened the festivity of any occasion,” Lewis once wrote, so Spiegelman took it a step further, combining crushed mint with the ultimate refreshing treat.

Spiegelman also created a green chili ice dream with red chili caramel sauce and biscochitos — an homage to New Mexico’s distinct culinary heritage, as well as the state where she spent her teens. She calls the flavor Red or Green?, using the caramel sauce both as a carrier for the red chili and to show the contrast between the two chili colors and tastes, and biscochitos —anise-flavored shortbread cookies — because they’re New Mexico’s state cookie, as well as a nod to the Spanish settlers who first began making them in the area centuries earlier.

“The thing I miss most about home is the unique cuisine,” Spiegelman says, “which I wanted to highlight in this flavor.”

Spiegelman had been making ice cream as a hobby for several years before realizing she could combine her two passions: food and history. She had recently graduated from Baltimore’s Goucher College with a general history degree, and was splitting her time between research work and a second job at a local ice cream shop, where she met owner Krystal Mack.

“When I talked with Krystal about my interests, she was incredibly supportive,” says Spiegelman,” and told me, ‘there’s no reason you can’t bring them both together.’ ”

She took Mack’s advice and slowly began merging the two, launching in February 2017 with her Custard Ice Cream with Rose Water Meringue, a flavor based on the life of James Hemings — Thomas Jefferson’s private chef (and the brother of Sally Hemings). Hemings’ own recipe for snow eggs — a vanilla custard with rose water meringues — served as a direct inspiration.

Spiegelman has since gone on to create flavors based on everything from the 1904 World’s Fair (which she says, “introduced, not invented as a lot of people think, new foods like ice cream waffle cones and Dr. Pepper,” both ingredients that make up the overall flavor) to Futurism, the 20th century Italian avant-garde art movement that celebrated the machine age and urban modernity. In this case, inspiration for the almond ice cream with its strawberry black pepper swirl comes specifically from the Futurist dessert known as Italian Breasts in the Sunshine: two pieces of almond paste, each topped with a fresh strawberry and dusted with black pepper.

“My favorite part is the research,” Spiegelman says. She’ll often delve deep into a subject, drawing connections between certain qualities of a topic and specific ingredients.

Sometimes the connections are obvious, such as with the aptly named Poe Toaster: a cognac ice cream with rose candy. It’s the sweet tooth embodiment of the “Poe Toaster,” a mysterious person (or persons) who visited Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore grave annually on the author’s January 19 birthday for approximately 75 years, each time leaving behind an unfinished bottle of cognac and three red roses.

Other Sweet History flavors feature ingredients that are more abstract, such as Spiegelman’s Charcoal Ice Cream with Pomegranate Swirl and Chocolate Sourdough Breadcrumbs, her edible manifestation of Persephone —whose decision to eat pomegranate seeds sealed her fate as queen of the underworld, according to Greek mythology.

“I used charcoal for the base to represent the darkness of the underworld,” she says, “and the breadcrumbs are symbolic of the sheaves of grain Persephone is often depicted holding.” As for their distinct chocolate sourdough flavor, “I had them left over from another [ice cream blend] and thought they’d make a nice addition.”

Not every new flavor hits the mark. A friend once commissioned Spiegelman to create a flavor based on Aries, the first astrological sign of the zodiac, but “the recipient was an extremely picky eater,” she says. “It was difficult finding the right mix of ingredients that would both capture an Aries’ qualities and suit her tastes.”

To help streamline her process, Spiegelman keeps a running list of ingredients that she thinks might work well together, and she’ll turn to it when creating a new flavor. The list includes items like honey, hibiscus flowers, and molasses meringue. “I’ll pick out several ingredients [from the list] that I feel best capture the subject I’m working on,” she says, “then continuously narrow them down until it’s an edible combination.” It’s especially useful while working on private commissions, which Spiegelman offers to anyone living in the greater Baltimore area. (She’s currently not shipping flavors).

One commission centered around the artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and two of her paintings in particular — including one from her series of animal skulls.

“While researching Georgia I discovered that she did a lot of her own cooking, grew her own plants, and even made her own yogurt,” says Spiegelman. “I wanted to incorporate these aspects, along with the painting of the animal skull, into the flavor.”

The result: Raspberry Frozen Yogurt with Bone Broth Caramel Sauce. “I used the raspberries because I wanted to match some of the color in her Red Canna paintings,” a vibrantly-hued abstract paintings of a red canna flower up-close.

Along with commissions and pop-up events around her city, Spiegelman also runs ice cream workshops. She’ll be heading to graduate school for gastronomic studies in the fall, though she says those hungry for knowledge shouldn’t worry: Through posts, pics, and occasional commissions, A Sweet History will still be serving up scoops of the past, one flavor at a time.

Source: npr

Five Foods That Cause Stains to the Teeth

Margie Monin Dombrowski wrote . . . . . . . .

Proper oral hygiene is of course indispensable for maintaining a bright smile, but there is one other important bit of advice: Watch what you eat and drink. Certain foods and beverages can discolor teeth. If you want to protect your pearly whites, read on for some common culprits that stain your teeth.

Pasta Sauce

Because of their acidity, bright red hue and tendency to cling to the teeth, the tomatoes in pasta sauce can leave your teeth vulnerable to staining. Dine on some dark green veggies, such as broccoli, kale and spinach, beforehand to create a protective film over the teeth. The film will ward off tomatoes’ staining effect, so spring for a green salad as an appetizer.


Curry, a spice that works well in Indian food and exotic dishes, is also a cause of discolored teeth. Its deep pigmentation can yellow teeth over time. Due to its high staining factor, curry is something you may want to limit in your diet. Whenever you dine on curry-spiced food, mix in fresh fruits and vegetables that prevent stains, such as apples, carrots, cauliflower and celery.

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a healthy salad dressing, but it can also darken your teeth. The reason? Its dark natural color, of course. It also sticks to your teeth, which can lead to staining if it’s not quickly brushed away. You don’t have to give up on this light salad dressing. Whenever you have a salad with balsamic vinegar, be sure to include a crunchy lettuce; chewing the lettuce will help clean the staining balsamic vinegar from your teeth as you eat.


Berries provide health benefits, such as antioxidants, but they also have the potential to stain your teeth. The deep hue in blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries in particular can cause staining, regardless of whether they are eaten whole, drunk as juice or processed as jelly and jam. Don’t let them linger in your mouth for too long, and drink water to combat their staining effect. Finish with a glass of milk or a serving of hard cheese, both of which neutralize acid and strengthen teeth.


A number of different drinks, including coffee, tea, sodas, sports drinks and wine, can cause stains due to their acidity. Teas of all colors, even white tea, have been shown to stain teeth and erode enamel. Sports drinks also damage tooth enamel and discolor teeth. Both light and dark sodas, because of their acidity, also cause discoloration and even encourage further staining from foods. Not only can red wine stain teeth; white wine can as well. Believe it or not, white wine is more acidic than red, which may cause more damage and discoloration to the teeth. Limiting your intake of all of these beverages will benefit both your oral and overall health.

Source: Colgate

Genomic Medicine May One Day Revolutionize Cardiovascular Care

A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association summarizes the state-of-the-science of genomic medicine — the study of the health effects of the molecular interactions of a person’s unique genes — for studying cardiovascular traits and disorders and for therapeutic screening.

“The promise of genomic medicine is to be able to use a patient’s specific genetic material to make a personalized forecast of their risk for heart disease, and if they develop disease, predict its course and determine the particular medications that are more likely to help with their disease,” said Kiran Musunuru, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the writing committee for the statement and an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine and genetics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“Over the next decade, as we learn about cardiovascular disease at the molecular level, the hope is that we can develop therapies that will take advantage of this knowledge and be able to either treat or potentially cure disease,” Musunuru said.

DNA and RNA are two types of molecules found in most living organisms. DNA contains genetic information that is “translated” by means of RNA into proteins and metabolites, the tiny components that form cells and which play many other critical roles in the body. While genes, which are made up of DNA, carry traits inherited from your ancestors and are relatively stable during your lifetime, their “translation” can be altered by environmental factors, such as tobacco smoke, diet and exercise, for example.

Genomic medicine looks at all the types of molecular variation, from the DNA and RNA to the microorganisms in the human gut that seem to play an increasingly important role in maintaining health, and it seeks to find associations between patterns in these data and health outcomes.

An example of genomic medicine that is currently available to doctors is a noninvasive blood test for heart transplant patients, which measures the levels of 11 different RNA molecules to determine whether the patient’s immune system is rejecting the transplant. Traditionally, physicians biopsy cells from the patient’s heart on a weekly or biweekly basis by inserting a catheter into the heart to extract cells to monitor the transplanted organ for signs of rejection. While biopsies are considered relatively safe, there are risks, costs and discomfort for the patient.

“The hope is that with genomic medicine, there will be hundreds of examples of noninvasive tests like this that doctors can do to better forecast and better manage disease,” Musunuru said.

Researchers similarly hope that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) — stem cells that are grown from mature cells in the body, such as skin or blood, and can be converted into any type of cell — can provide clinicians with a noninvasive method to learn more about a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and test potential treatments before they are given to a patient.

For example, doctors could use iPSCs to grow millions of a patient’s heart cells in the laboratory and use these cells to identify the best course of treatment to benefit the patient.

The use of iPSCs is still in early testing and not yet available to patients, but the preliminary results are promising, Musunuru said.

“With induced pluripotent stem cells, we will be able to determine upfront which medications are going to work better and get a sense of a medication’s potential side effects,” Musunuru said. “I am confident we will reach the point where we can start incorporating these kinds of cells into actual patient care.”

The statement is published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Source: American Heart Association

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