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Friday, February 18, 2011

Berry Tippling in the Arctic


For winter visitors to Lapland, lingonberries in many forms take the sting out of dogsledding and icebedding. Thank you, Allen!


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Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Lingonberries), the toast of Lapland

Photo: H. Zell, via wiki

By Allen Bush

I was introduced to Lapland through the Weekly Reader in Miss Goodwin’s first grade class at Chenoweth Elementary School. I can’t recall anything else about other faraway places. Lapland was the focus of our attention. I learned at the tender age of six that days in the Arctic Circle were long in summer and short in winter.  There were reindeer, dogsleds and the northern lights. 

I don’t remember hearing about lingonberries, a blueberry and cranberry relative, though Hans Andersen gave hints of them in The Snow Queen.

When they reached the bush with the red berries they found the reindeer waiting for them…


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Posted by Julie on 02/18 at 01:45 PM
CookingGardening & LandscapeTravelPermalink

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Gift of an Orange


Brighter than gold, juicier than frankincense, sweeter than myrrh—and packed with wondrous information.


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Feed the mind and spirit with something ripe and real

Photo: John Groome

By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary

EarthScholars™ Research Group

Our grandparents told us that when they were children, they cherished receiving oranges as a special Christmas gift. We probably looked puzzled and utterly grateful that we would be receiving much more than that. Yet, each year they made sure that we would also find oranges in our own Christmas stockings.  The orange was an object-lesson – one that took hold for both of us.

Today, we make sure there is a bowl with polished oranges on the dining room table to grace our families’ Christmas celebrations, reminding us that a Christmas gift does not have to be battery-powered and expensive to be beautiful and memorable.  Oranges also demonstrate that all life on Earth depends on plants, and that plants are more important for our happiness and survival than anything humans make.  For our own families, the gift of an orange is a tradition we hope to continue across many Christmases yet to come. 

In the 21st century, the experience of smelling and tasting a sweet and juicy orange on a cold winter’s day may not seem as amazing to children as it once was “back in the day.” Still, we know that without thoughtful and intentional, perspective-altering lessons from their elders, children may lose their natural sense of wonder.


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Posted by Julie on 12/31 at 03:54 PM
CookingEcologySecular CustomsPermalink

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Dyed Dextrose in a Smiling Pitcher


A cost-cutting soft drink powder, originally made of plant derivatives, helped put Hastings, Nebraska on the map and sweetens the conditions of U.S. soldiers.


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1937 Magazine Advertisement for Kool-Aid

Photo: plan59

By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary

EarthScholars™ Research Group

Kool-Aid® originated in Hastings, Nebraska, a small town known mainly for having the largest water fountain between Chicago and Denver. In the late 1920s, when soda pop sold for 5¢ per 6.5-ounce bottle, Kool-Aid® cost just 1¢ for a glassful the same size. During the Great Depression, Kool-Aid® prices were strategically lowered by 50% (from 10¢ to 5¢ per package), so that every family could still afford to mix and serve this ice-cold, fruit-flavored beverage at home.


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Posted by Julie on 12/01 at 11:19 PM
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chiltepin - Tongues on the Scales


Each of the Southwest’s native chilis has its day in the sun; pull over for chiltepin.


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Jack Tobar collected tiny, jolting chiltepins after work

September 18, 2010, Austin, Texas.

Photo: Human Flower Project

A gentle knock.

Two passers-by had come to the door asking permission to pick the tiny chilis from bushes on our corner, just what happened a year ago.  Chiltepin season is upon us in Central Texas. Jack Tobar and a friend had knocked off work and caught sight of the tiny “bird peppers” (so called because birds like them and sow them, too). With our blessing, the two men spent a good half hour harvesting from five Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum plants and were off, we hope, for an evening muy piquante.

This spice is a favorite among lots of Mexican, Mexican-American, and South Texas cooks, though Tobar’s pickin-partner, who declined to give his name, said the chilis don’t taste good alone. He recommended making a simple salsa by crushing the chiltepins in a mortar with red and green tomatoes and a pinch of salt. It’s delicious, he said, on tacos, eggs, meat – just about anything that could use a bit of a kick.


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Posted by Julie on 09/22 at 04:53 PM
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