The Salt

The Salt
5:09 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

A Food Crisis Follows Africa's Ebola Crisis

A street market remains empty in Monrovia's West Point slum as part of quarantine measures to contain the spread of Ebola in Liberia.
Zoom Dosso AFP/Getty Images

In the shadows of West Africa's Ebola outbreak, food shortages are starting to develop.

This time of year is traditionally the lean season in West Africa, when last year's harvest of rice or groundnuts is mostly exhausted. Until recently, people were quite hopeful about the approaching harvest this year.

"The rainfall situation was very good," says Shukri Ahmed, a senior economist with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. "We were actually developing an optimistic forecast for crop production this year."

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The Salt
12:34 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Nestle Nudges Its Suppliers To Improve Animal Welfare

Nestle, the world's biggest food company, manufactures and markets a wide range of food products including dairy, meat, poultry and eggs.
Susana Gonzalez Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 2:27 pm

Chances are you haven't considered the tail of the cow that made the milk that goes into your Nestle Crunch bar or the cheese in your (Nestle-made) Lean Cuisine frozen dinner.

But as animal welfare groups report, many dairy cows have their tails partially amputated, or docked, to help keep their udders clean. Not only is docking painful, but it also pretty much disables the cow's personal fly switch, making it more susceptible to fly attacks.

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The Salt
4:30 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Can Quinoa Take Root On The 'Roof Of The World'?

Grown for thousands of years in South America, quinoa crossed the Atlantic for the first time in the 21st century, according to the United Nations.
iStockphoto.com

For thousands of years, quinoa barely budged from its home in the Andes. Other crops — corn, potatoes, rice, wheat and sorghum — traveled and colonized the world. But quinoa stayed home.

All of a sudden, quinoa is a trendy, jet-setting "superfood." And as we've reported, some American farmers are trying to cash in on its new-found popularity.

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The Salt
12:48 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

California Drought Has Wild Salmon Competing With Almonds For Water

A young Chinook salmon, called a smolt, near Vallejo, Calif., on April 24, 2014. North Coast tribes and environmentalists fear that the smolts and Chinooks may not survive this year's low river flows and warm water.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 4:44 pm

The ongoing California drought has pitted wild salmon against farmers in a fight for water. While growers of almonds, one of the state's biggest and most lucrative crops, enjoy booming production and skyrocketing sales to China, the fish, it seems, might be left high and dry this summer—and maybe even dead.

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The Salt
5:58 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

No. 1 Most Expensive Coffee Comes From Elephant's No. 2

Elephants, unlike humans or civets, are herbivores. The fermentation happening in their gut as they break down cellulose helps remove the bitterness in the coffee beans. Here, an elephant receives medical treatment from the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.
Michael Sullivan NPR

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 9:12 am

I s#&% you not: The world's most expensive coffee is now being produced in Thailand's Golden Triangle, a region better known for another high-priced, if illegal, export: opium.

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The Salt
4:38 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Legendary Vermont Bakers May Stop Selling Beloved Sourdough Bread

Rabin bread on a rock at the farmers market in Plainfield prior to setting up the table.
Jon Kalish for NPR

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 8:30 pm

When Jules Rabin lost his job teaching anthropology in 1977, he and his wife, Helen, turned to baking to keep their family afloat. For 37 years they've baked sourdough bread that people in central Vermont can't seem to live without.

The year before Jules left Goddard College, he and Helen built a replica of a 19th century peasant oven, hauling 70 tons of fieldstone from nearby fields. The stones covered an igloo-shaped brick baking chamber 5 1/2 feet in diameter.

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The Salt
2:57 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Why Vegetables Get Freakish In The Land Of The Midnight Sun

Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off 2013 winners (with placards, left to right): Scott Rob (92.1 pounds), Keevan Dinkel (92.3 pounds) and Brian Shunskis (77.4 pounds). The growers are joined by the cabbage fairies, a group of women who for 15 years have volunteered at the cabbage competition.
Clark James Mishler Courtesy of Alaska State Fair

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 3:03 pm

Everything in Alaska is a little bit bigger — even the produce. A 138-pound cabbage, 65-pound cantaloupe and 35-pound broccoli are just a few of the monsters that have sprung forth from Alaska's soil in recent years.

At the annual Alaska State Fair, which opens Thursday in Palmer, the public will have the chance to gawk at giants like these as they're weighed for competition.

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The Salt
7:56 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Urban Farms Build Resilience Within Singapore's Fragile Food System

A crew of volunteer "aunties" weed and harvest basil at the ComCrop rooftop farm, set high above Singapore's Orchard Road.
Maureen Pao NPR

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 1:32 pm

At a local FairPrice Supermarket in central Singapore, you'll find baby carrots grown in Bakersfield, Calif. — the same ones for sale at my local grocery store in Washington, D.C.

Such well-traveled vegetables aren't unusual in the tiny island state, which imports more than 90 percent of its food from some 35 countries. Singapore may be one of the most affluent countries in the world, but it depends heavily on others for basic foodstuffs.

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The Salt
4:29 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Specialty Food And Agriculture Startups Are Ripening In Greece

Ilias Smirlis (left) runs a small family farm in Kalamata, Greece. Before he met entrepreneur Sotiris Lymperopoulos, who runs the food service Radiki, he struggled to sell his produce outside Athens. "The demand for excellent products will always exist," Smirlis says. "The challenge is to find a market."
Joanna Kakissis/NPR

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 7:38 pm

Most mornings, Sotiris Lymperopoulos walks the craggy shoreline of the western Peloponnese, foraging for salty wild greens.

In his straw hat and shorts, snipping wild chicory, garlic and sea asparagus with a kitchen knife, he hardly looks like a poster boy for Greece's nascent startup culture. But the 35-year-old Athenian, who trained as an economist, found a viable niche in the country's post-crisis economy.

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The Salt
3:40 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Seeking Proof For Why We Feel Terrible After Too Many Drinks

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon August 18, 2014 5:04 pm

It can be nice to relax with a glass of wine, a beer or a shot of whiskey. But one drink too many, and you may be paying the price.

To understand why drinking can make us feel so good and so bad, you have to know a little about science, says journalist Adam Rogers, author of Proof: The Science of Booze.

As Rogers notes, researchers have only just begun to explore the mystery of the hangover and share a common language around it.

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