How Science Helps An Indoor Farm Kick Up Flower Flavour for Restaurant Food

Whitney Pipkin wrote . . . . . . . . .

From inside the overly-lit interior of a 1960s strip mall, software programs and science are helping an urban farm fire up the flavor of fennel fronds and control the size of nasturtium leaves. By carefully monitoring each variable and its impact on the way a plant tastes, looks and grows, Fresh Impact Farms is inching closer to its goal: delivering edible flowers and herbs catered to the taste preferences of top-tier chefs.

To that end, nutrient mix, water temperature, light spectrum and countless other variables are regularly tweaked to produce more of the thumb-sized, lily-pad-shaped leaves chefs prize from nasturtium, each packed with a peppery punch. Lights at the “far red” end of the spectrum shine down on the same plant to coax its orange and vermilion blooms to appear earlier and more often. Every change is an experiment, and every aspect of the plant a potential moneymaker.

But, even though everything grown at the 1,000-square-foot farm in Arlington, Va., will likely be the last element placed onto the plate and the first pop of color a restaurant diner sees, “this isn’t a [typical] garnish farm,” says owner Ryan Pierce.

“We didn’t set out to just grow things that are pretty,” adds Pierce, who, at 32, looks like an off-duty surgeon in blue scrubs, disposable gloves and a hat worn for food safety. “We set out to grow things that become an element of the flavor of the dish. We want to give chefs a palette to elevate their food.”

Pierce comes to the field of hydroponic growing from a career in cloud computing, where he learned to make sense of a dizzying number of data points. He saw in indoor farming an opportunity to apply that background while producing edibles in a way that uses less water and land, reducing pollution and waste in the process.

Those same factors have fueled the hydroponic industry’s meteoric growth in recent years. For urban farmers looking to make the most out of limited spaces, microgreens are often the crop of choice. But shoots and sprouts comprise only a small fraction of Pierce’s business.

Instead, he has found a way to infuse surprising flavor into the plate-topping flowers, herbs and greens restaurants are already accustomed to buying.

Take one of the many varieties of hyssop that Fresh Impact grows, says D.C. Chef Robert Wiedmaier, whose high-end D.C. flagship Marcel’s was the farm’s first customer. “You close your eyes, taste that and it’s like, ‘Wow. What is that? Boom.’ ”

The hyssop, which smacks of mint and licorice-y anise, tops pan-seared scallops at Wiedmaier’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Siren, and makes cameos in cocktails. Wiedmaier is such a booster of Pierce’s business that he hosted a five-course dinner featuring the farm at Siren this fall. There, candy apple sorrel-flavored meringue topped a black sea bass dish and bright orange marigolds starred in a Japanese dessert with pineapple sage shortbread.

But Wiedmaier says: “You can’t throw flowers on just anything.” These garnishes must be used with care or they could overpower a dish. The musty marigold can be a challenge to deploy correctly, even if it’s pretty.

Some of Fresh Impact’s products pack such a flavor punch, they should come with a warning label. But chefs can’t seem to get enough of the hard-to-grow and equally potent wasabi arugula. And, at the Japanese tasting room Nasime in Alexandria, Va., chef-owner Yuh Shimomura isn’t timid about plating tiny yellow flowers from the toothache plant, so named because of their intense saliva-increasing, tongue-numbing effect.

Since launching in 2016, the farm has experimented with 250 plant varieties and currently grows between 50 and 60 at a time. Many of the successful varieties were originally suggested by chefs — some of them new to the concept that a farm could tweak the flavor of an herb or flower they thought they knew so well.

When Johnny Spero, executive chef and owner of Reverie in Washington, D.C., first requested that Pierce grow huacatay, a feathery plant used in Peruvian stews and sauces, he expected it to taste as pungent as varieties he’d tried elsewhere.

But Pierce’s was milder, and Spero initially asked if he could make it more intense.

Adding “intensity” entails stressing the plant, something that is hard to do in a controlled environment where the plants are protected from the elements. Pierce can mimic that stress with an imbalance of nutrients, by applying different spectrums of light or by harvesting leaves from older plants—but every crop is different.

“Our goal is, as we collect data, to understand how small shifts change the overall flavor and success of the crop,” he says. “Ultimately, we want to get to a point where we can tweak those crops on demand to produce specific flavor outcomes.”

The farm’s latest experiment? The succulent iceplant. Its leaves look like water droplets have frozen, still dewy, on the surface, and biting into one of them delivers a blast of hydration. One of Siren’s chefs has said he wants the largest leaves possible for a dish he’s dreaming up. Meanwhile, chefs at D.C.’s two-Michelin-starred minibar by José Andrés say they want the tiny clusters of leaves the plant produces before it blooms.

“If we can get it to production, we already know we have two customers interested in different parts of the plant,” says Pierce.

The farm worked with a company to develop its own software that tracks the feedback received from chefs for each crop. If a chef thought a batch of bronze fennel was too bitter or too sweet, that information is stored and considered for the next crop.

Eventually, Pierce wants to bring all of that data into real-time — with chefs providing feedback through an app. Already, monitors on each of the water basins report data on its Ph, temperature and overall nutrient level to a computer every four seconds. The goal is to eventually measure each of the 17 nutrients essential for plant growth — all the time.

“The challenge is for us to drill down to that level,” says Pierce, who’d like to get the flavor-changing equation down to a science. It’s not going to be easy, he admits. “If you feel like you have this down already, then you’re not doing something right.”

Source: npr

Cod Fish and Asparagus in Saffron Sauce


11 oz white asparagus
11 oz green asparagus
1/2teaspoon sugar
1-3/4 lb cod fish fillets
5 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 oz (3 tablespoons) butter
1 cup cream
a few threads of saffron
4-1/2 oz peas
1 teaspoon vegetable broth
1 bunch parsley


  1. Peel the white asparagus, wash the green asparagus and remove the woody ends.
  2. Cook the white asparagus for 20 minutes and the green asparagus for 10 minutes in simmering salted water with sugar until done. Remove from the water, drain and keep warm in the oven at the lowest possible setting. Reserve the asparagus broth.
  3. Rinse the fish fillet, wipe dry and cut into slices 3/4-inch thick. Sprinkle with lemon juice and a little salt. Coat in flour. Fry in butter for 2-3 minutes on each side, remove from the pan and keep warm in the oven.
  4. Add the cream to the pan and stir into the cooking fat. Add 1 cup of asparagus broth, saffron and peas. Reduce the liquid a little. Pour in the vegetable broth, season with salt and stir the finely chopped parsley into the sauce.
  5. Arrange the asparagus on plates, pour the sauce over and put the fish next to it.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Cooking with Asparagus

Video: How Does Low-Dose Aspirin Work?

You ever see those commercials suggesting people take a tiny dose of aspirin every day?

It’s an amount so small it doesn’t really work for pain relief, yet taking low-dose aspirin is fairly common, among those at risk for heart attacks or stroke.

Here’s why aspirin works in a baby-sized dose.

Watch video at You Tube (4:46 minutes) . . . . . .

Nutritionists’ Picks of the Best Diet Plans for 2019

Serena Gordon wrote . . . . . . . . .

For many, the start of the new year signals the start of a new diet. But what’s the best way to eat if you want to lose weight?

For overall healthy eating, the best diet plan is the Mediterranean diet, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual diet review. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was ranked second on the magazine’s overall Best Diets 2019 list, followed by the Flexitarian plan. All three plans focus on eating a mostly plant-based diet (veggies, fruits and whole grains), healthy fats and lean protein sources.

“I hope these rankings steer people in the direction of doing something healthful,” said nutritionist Samantha Heller of NYU Langone Health in New York City.

“I wish though, that we weren’t so obsessed with weight loss and diets, per se. I wish the focus was on adopting a healthy lifestyle, like eating a more plant-based diet, getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep and managing stress, all of which help us live a better quality of life,” Heller said.

To that end, she said the top three diets are all similar in their food content, and all can be healthy eating regimens.

The Mediterranean diet has been linked to increased longevity and a decreased risk of chronic illnesses, the report said. The Mediterranean diet was also ranked high in multiple categories including: Easiest Diets to Follow, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, Best Diets for Diabetes, and Best Diets for Hearth Health.

If weight loss is part of your plans, here are plans that topped the rankings for the best weight-loss plans:

  • WW (Weight Watchers)
  • Volumetrics
  • Flexitarian diet (tie)
  • Jenny Craig (tie)
  • Vegan diet (tie)

Feel the need to knock off some pounds quickly? Here are the best fast weight-loss plans:

  • HMR program
  • Atkins (tie)
  • Keto diet (tie)
  • Optavia (tie)
  • WW (Weight Watchers) (tie)

Heller said that many people feel that they need to “kickstart” their weight loss for motivation. The problem with plans that focus on fast weight loss, however, is that they don’t teach you how to eat well every day.

“On these types of diets, you often don’t learn how to manage holidays, stressful days or special occasions. You don’t develop strategies for life,” she said.

The easiest diets to follow include the Mediterranean diet, the Flexitarian diet and WW (Weight Watchers).

The magazine asked a panel of nutrition experts to review 41 diet plans. Like Heller, the expert panelists emphasized the importance of well-balanced, sustainable diets that aren’t overly restrictive. These types of diets can help teach lifelong positive eating habits.

Lifestyle diets, such as the Mayo Clinic diet and MIND diet, are healthier and more sustainable than weight-loss plans such as the Ketogenic or Atkins diet are, the panelists concluded.

Although the popular Keto diet ranked high for fast weight loss, it landed way down on the Best Diets list — tying for number 38. Other diets at the bottom of the list included the Dukan diet, the Body Reset Diet and the Whole30 diet.

“I think that diets that don’t differentiate between healthy and unhealthy fats, over time are ultimately an unhealthy approach to losing weight,” Heller said.

But the diet topping any list isn’t necessarily the best diet for you. Choosing a diet is a “very individual thing,” Heller noted, adding that you have to find a diet plan that works well for you. And, hopefully one that teaches you to eat healthy for life.

Source: HealthDay

Read also:

Mediterranean Edges Out DASH for Best Diet of 2019 . . . . .

Making Sense of Skin Spots

Julia Calderone wrote . . . . . . . . .

As your skin ages, it’s natural for more bumps, spots, and blemishes to crop up, says Shari Lipner, M.D., Ph.D., a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian in New York City.

In many cases, they’re simply a minor nuisance.

But sometimes they can signify something more worrisome, such as skin cancer—which becomes more common with age.

The evidence that routine skin checks—by you or a dermatologist—reduce cancer death isn’t strong. Unless you’re high-risk, just see a doctor when you spot anything concerning.

Here, a brief guide to the harmless growths, the ones that are potential problems, and how to tell the difference so that you can treat each properly.

Source: Consumer Reports

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