The Wild Potato or Indian Potato Vine – Desirable or a Pesky Weed?

Food, Plants
[caption id="attachment_26946" align="alignright" width="480"] Ipomoea pandurata on fence. Image by Kevin Ternes[/caption]Also called the wild sweet potato or the man-root, this tuber-producing vine is viewed by some as the free source of tubers that smell like sweet potatoes and have a tasty, unique flavor. By others, it is viewed as a pesky, invasive weed. Which will it be for you? Although these "potatoes" are free, it takes a little work to gather them. Many hands make the work light. One thing about these natural treats is, they are certainly easy to identify. [caption id="attachment_26951" align="alignright" width="200"] Ipomoea pandurata root. Image by Kevin Robertson, Pebble Hill Plantation, 2015[/caption] The wild potato can grow quite large, one lone potato weighing as much as an entire 20-lb. bag of grocery-store potatoes. But, as…
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War, France, and Chicory – The Little Blue Flower Along the Road

Food, History
Perhaps you've seen along the roadside, some plants rising above their surroundings with pert little blue flowers that look like the cross of a dandelion with an aster. This is the common chicory, Latin name Cichorium intybus. They are considered weeds, and to be honest, the stalk that supports the flowers does little to improve their appearance. Yet, this unobtrusive plant is of positive interest historically. France! In France for instance, chicory, for the coffee drinker, was welcome. In his conflict with England, Napoleon wanted to wreak havoc on their economic system. He, with the cooperation of some other countries, enacted a blockade. There were ramifications that led to a shortage of coffee. [caption id="attachment_26921" align="alignright" width="400"] Amazingly large roots![/caption] It was already known that properly processed root of the…
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Iodized Table Salt – How Is Iodizing Salt Beneficial?

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_26701" align="alignright" width="480"] "Is tasteless food eaten without salt?" - Job 6:6a[/caption]Iodized table salt, for me, it is a pleasant memory... When I was a youngster, we'd all sit together at the dinner table to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Oddly, we salted the food before tasting it to see if it was salty enough already. In those days, the word "salt" referred to Morton salt just as the word "tissue" always meant a Kleenex tissue. Morton salt came in a midnight-blue cylindrical cardboard box. There was a little girl in a short yellow dress walking in the rain with a somewhat oversized umbrella, spilling the salt as she walked. The motto beneath was "When it rains, it pours." I always wondered as a kid why the girl was carrying…
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Garlic Dietary “Spokesperson” Allicin Speaks Out

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_26504" align="alignright" width="480"] Basket of Garlic Bulbs[/caption]Garlic is considered by the majority as a healthful food. By nearly every person, it is recognized for its pungent, odor. Most will humbly admit the odor is disagreeable. Garlic Question Since the odor of a clove of garlic is pretty nearly non-existent, it must be wondered: Why does garlic produce so noticeable an odor when it is crushed? It is because the odor is produced by a chemical reaction, the combining of two substances within the garlic. The Two Substances The two substances are alliin and alliinase. Whenever the suffix part of a compound name ends in -ase, suspect an enzyme. Perhaps you've heard of laundry detergents that are said to be "enzyme cleaners". What is an enzyme? An enzyme is a…
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Xylitol – A Natural Artificial Sweetener

Food, Health
Most of us are familiar with xylitol because the label on our chewing gum boasts it is sugar-free¹, using xylitol in its place. This so-called artificial sweetener is prepared industrially by the catalytic hydrogenation of xylose. Xylose itself is a sugar. It may be isolated from wood. Xylitol is not decomposed in the mouth by bacteria. It is not well-absorbed in the small intestine. Hence, it is less of a threat to the diabetic and does not add to the dentist's paycheck. In the Mouth [caption id="attachment_26073" align="alignright" width="238"] Streptococcus mutans[/caption] In a person's mouth, Streptococcus mutans bacteria consumes reactive sugar (usually sucrose or table sugar), releasing in its place, carboxylic acids. Over time, the acid environment damages teeth. Xylitol is not a reactive sugar, meaning the acids are not…
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Can Eating the Meat of a Rabid Animal Give You Rabies?

animals, Food
[caption id="attachment_25951" align="alignright" width="480"] Image by Scientific Animations CC BY-SA4.0[/caption] We're told to cook our chicken through to the bone to avoid salmonella. Then too, there is trichinosis. And there are others. However, salmonella and trichinosis pose no problem if, as we mentioned, we cook our food thoroughly. But there are other issues with food that are not so easily solved. For instance, there is the so-called "mad cow disease". You can cook the beef as much as you want and it still is dangerous! Mad cow disease is more officially known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE. Most of Us At least in the U.S., most of us probably get the bulk of our food from three sources: 1. Grocery store 2. Garden 3. Farmer's market A fair number…
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Artificial Butter Flavor – Just a Product of the Chem Lab?

Chemistry, Food
You are crunching away at some tasty munchable. Since you're not doing anything else and would like to prove you can do two things at once, you turn the bag/box around and read the ingredients. Yes, yes, oh that! And yes, yes, ah. What's that? Artificial Butter Flavor? What's artificial butter, the product of artificial cows? What Is Artificial Butter Flavor? Simply put, the expression "artificial butter" refers to taste and use, rather than to any single, particular ingredient. A Simple Compound Diacetyl is considered to impart a buttery flavor to foodstuffs. As the illustration shows, diacetyl is a small, simple molecule. Writing it out in full, it is... CH3(CO)(CO)CH3 Note the similarity to two acetic acid (vinegar) molecules... CH3(CO)–OH + HO–(OC)CH3 [sc name="MidArticleAdsense"] Synthesis The second image depicts one…
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Algae, Seafood and Domoic Acid: Should You Be Concerned?

Food, Health
[caption id="attachment_24898" align="alignright" width="480"] Steamed mussels - yum![/caption] You are aware that an asp is a poisonous serpent or snake. Cleopatra died from the poison of an asp. But there is another kind of "asp". This kind is an acronym for Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning. What's that? Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning As its name implies, amnesic shellfish poisoning is a marine-related illness. It results from consuming domoic acid, an organic acid neurotoxin produced by algae. The algae is eaten by such marine creatures as shellfish, sardines and anchovies. It is theorized a major factor in the increase of such poisonings due to a corresponding increase in algal blooms, apparently fueled by climate change. One recently discovered important source of toxic algal blooms is the phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia. How Serious a Problem? The algae…
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Heavy Cream and Whipping Cream: What’s the Difference?

Food, Health
You shop often at your local grocery store, and you're pretty well acquainted with what they carry. Even if it threw you for a loop at first, you learned the difference between baking soda and baking powder. In time, you even learned what gefilte fish was! Your grocery list today includes cream for use in a dessert topping. You head to the dairy section and see assorted cartons of milk, half and half, light cream, and... heavy cream and whipping cream. Hmm. Which one do you buy What's the difference between them? Both Work Generally speaking, both whipping cream and heavy cream will achieve the desired result. In fact, some brands have taken to more specific labeling to better identify what they are. Some companies have chosen to say their…
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Introducing Nutmeg: A Little History, A Little Chemistry

Food, History
[caption id="attachment_24498" align="alignright" width="480"] Grate nutmeg just before use.[/caption] Once, at the grocery store with my wife, the checkout girl picked up a small green bundle and rang it up. She wondered what it was. We informed her, it was asparagus. It shocked the two of us that anyone could fail to know what asparagus was. Introducing Nutmeg As with asparagus, I wonder how many people don't know what nutmeg is? Since it is used in sweets, perhaps only a small number. But how many people, if asked what nutmeg is, would say "It is a can of spice you buy at the store." The word nutmeg refers to a spice. But it also refers to the seed that is grated to produce the spice. Nutmeg grows on trees (Myristica…
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