From Antarctica to Mars: Growing Food in Extreme Conditions

Even those of us with the greenest thumbs are baffled by the idea of growing food in Antarctica. From my tiny desk plant to my neighbor’s cabbage patch, plants generally have the same requirements: soil, sun and water. At the southern end of the planet, however, those are all scarce commodities. Nonetheless, on April 5, 2018, the team managing the EDEN-ISS greenhouse at Neumayer III announced that they had harvested 8 pounds of salad greens, 18 cucumbers and 70 radishes. This project has implications beyond just Antarctica, from moderate climates on Earth to future Mars missions. Continue reading

And You Thought Hot Chocolate Couldn’t Taste Any Better…

Hot Chocolate with MarshmallowsSo, I’m sitting at my desk right now. It’s cold outside. We’re in the late February doldrums of winter here in Wisconsin. As I look out the window at the snow blanketing the prairie around our office building and the blah gray sky, a cup of hot chocolate sounds pretty darn good. Late winter seems to bring out that particular craving for me. Maybe for you, too? I can just imagine how it’d taste: warm, frothy, velvety, creamy, rich, chocolaty, delicious. Can you taste it, too? Mmmm, hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is a good, good thing. This is not news. We know this.

But did you know the color of the cup you select from which to drink your hot chocolate directly affects how good it tastes? Yeah, me neither. But apparently it does. Continue reading

It’s the crunchy bits I like the best

I was supremely lucky this past fall to get six delicious fresh figs. It’s a rare treat for me since figs have such a short season and an even shorter shelf life. This year, I nearly had to leg wrestle my way to the bin at the store to score some of these fresh beauties. I had commented to another patron at the store that I couldn’t wait to get these little fellas home, stuff them with some goat cheese, wrap them in a bit of bacon, give them a quick balsamic and honey glaze, and pop them into the oven. Now, tender, sweet figs stuffed with rich, herbed goat cheese and wrapped with what is, quite possibly, the world’s most perfect meat makes me weak in the knees. The bacon, of course, is sublime, but the sweetness of the figs with the delicate crunch of those seeds really sells it.

My fellow shopper replied with “Well, good for you. I couldn’t possibly eat any of that. I’m vegan.”  Fair enough. In a past life, I worked as a personal chef and did a tremendous amount of work with vegetarians and vegans alike. Although I may never personally understand a life without cheese, I can respect it and I can certainly cook in that fashion.

One portion of that exchange, however, didn’t quite seem right. I actually followed Mr. Vegan (I didn’t ask his name) into the next aisle and asked for some clarification. “I’m sorry,” I continued, “but what did you mean by you couldn’t eat any of it? Cheese and bacon are out, but who could ever turn down a looker like this?” I asked, tapping my fresh figs ever so gently.

He just smiled and told me to look it up. Harrumph. Continue reading

For the Love of Squash

The weather is getting colder, and the leaves are changing color; fall is upon us. It’s time to pull out your sweaters and scarves and cozy up under a blanket. It’s time to pick apples, carve pumpkins and eat one of my favorite comfort foods—winter squash.

Here at Promega our culinary team tends a garden onsite, filling our menus and plates with amazingly fresh and local produce. Our constantly changing breakfast and lunch menus are just as good of an indicator of the season as the calendar. This time of year dishes with tomatoes, beans and eggplant are disappearing and are being replaced winter squash, potatoes and root veggie dishes. Winter Squash Soup is starting to show up on the menu and Nate Herndon, our head chef, has been kind enough to share one of his favorite recipes with us. Continue reading

Ooooh, Fishy, Fish! Please Land on My Dish

Yes, I am a Monty Python fan and I like to play the “Find the Fish” video on YouTube when I need some midday amusement. However, this video brings up the topic of eating less red meat and enjoying more fish on my dish. My husband and I are trying to curb our beef-eating activities by diversifying the protein sources in our diet. We have recently adopted some dining rituals that include Friday Fish Fry (leaning more toward broiling, even though it’s hard to resist a traditional Wisconsin fish fry) and Meatless Mondays for vegetarian fare. One reason for doing this is to hopefully find more sustainable approaches to supporting a healthy diet.

So I was intrigued to learn more about fish farming (aquaculture) at sea when I read Sarah Simpson’s article in the February 2011 issue of Scientific American titled “The Blue Food Revolution”. Sustainability has become more important in many of the buying choices I have made lately, especially after learning that our global population will reach 7 billion in 2011 and is expected to grow to 9.3 billion by 2050. Yikes! How do we provide high-quality protein and nutrition to so many people? Continue reading

DIY: Build a Baby Who Loves Broccoli

I’m about six months pregnant with my husband’s and my first child, a wee thing of unknown gender and much kicking that we’ve taken to affectionately calling “The Colonel.” Amid all the voracious reading that modern moms like me seem compelled to do, I was intrigued to see the results of a study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine indicating what I eat during these nine months of magical gestation may directly affect The Colonel’s openness to eating various foods. As I sit down to dinner every night, am I setting myself up for a picky eater, or will my kid be just as happy to try Brussels sprouts as pancakes (shaped like Mickey Mouse, per my husband’s big plans)? This research may have the answer. Continue reading

A Time for Harvest

Here in the northern hemisphere, yesterday, September 23, was the first full day of autumn. The days are not as long as those in midsummer and will only get shorter. Leaves are starting to turn color and fall from the trees, pumpkins abound in fields and roadside stands, and farmers are harvesting their crops.

My dad and my brother still farm the land owned by my great, great, great grandfather. Although times are different with larger, more powerful machinery, new seed genetics available each year and GPS to help ensure appropriate fertilization and seed density for each field, they are subject to the same vagaries as the previous six generations. Continue reading