The downside of high times

Drug cultivation in Northern California is a bad trip

Terrain magazine shows how the cozy-sounding northern California agriculture scene is drying up watersheds and poisoning the landscape, all to bring people their drug of choice. Installment one on the boom in illegal water rustling for wineries starts like this: After one of the rainiest years on record -- when parts of the valley had been flooded -- Anderson Creek, a tributary of the Navarro River, was dry. "It was as if we were in a drought year," says Hall, a member of Friends of the Navarro River ... But it was no drought. Hall says he observed trucks filling up water from along the creek at Golden Eye and taking it into the town of Philo and other areas where Anderson Valley's growing population of vintners cultivate their grapes. Worse, lots of these trucks have no legal right to take that water, but enforcement is proving very problematic. As unkind as this is to the critters who live in the region's rivers, witness the landscape-wide destruction being wrought in rural areas by the illegal cultivation of marijuana, California's largest cash crop:

Call it

The quest for the Perfect Late-Evening Repast is over; I win

You only have so many peak experiences in one lifetime, so it seems worth sharing the good news that I have found the perfect late evening repast. As with all the best snacks, this one begins at Trader Joe’s. In the North Seattle branch, they are featuring, and I quote, "dark chocolate almonds, made with Belgian chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt and turbinado sugar." OMFG. I’ve been eating these things like crack-coated Scooby Snacks for weeks now. I just made my wife buy four more boxes today. (She may stage an intervention.) The salt, the sweet, the earthy crunch. …

Organic produce reduces kids’ exposure to pesticides, says study

Pesticide-free produce leads to pesticide-free kids, says a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. Young research subjects who ate conventional produce were found to have organophosphate residue in their bodily fluids, while kids who ate organic produce did not. Will wonders never cease.

A noncarnivorous path to Super Bowl-snack nirvana

Three cheers for vegan snacks! Photo: iStockphoto I have tried and tried to learn about football. Many people have taken the time to sit patiently by my side while a game is on and gently whisper explanations like, “OK, see, there are a series of things called downs …” Right away, my mind trails off. Despite my total lack of comprehension of anything that happens on the field, I enjoy Super Bowl parties: the spectacle, the ads — and the snacks. This year I decided to challenge myself to make a Super Bowl-worthy vegan dish. I wanted to make something …

Mad Flavor in the Bay Area: Coffee fetish

Blue Bottle generates more than just a caffeine buzz, but what does it mean?

In “Mad Flavor,” I describe exceptional culinary experiences from small artisan producers. Mad Flavor is currently reporting from the San Francisco Bay Area. Now these guys obsess over coffee. I say that with affection. For years, I home-roasted my own green beans. I once owned a vacuum pot, and used it lovingly until it shattered. A famous Roman espresso bar once moved me to tears of joy. But I’ve never dropped 20 grand on a fancy brewing contraption. Oakland’s Blue Bottle Co. did recently. At Blue Bottle’s new downtown San Francisco café, customers snake around the corner and down the …

Pesticide-free produce, pesticide-free kids

Organic food reduces organophosphate exposure in children

By now, I think most people understand that organic food is supposed to be healthier for you. But I think there are still some people who feel that the health benefits are a just a bunch of marketing hype. Well, this new study suggests that it ain't just hype -- organic produce really does reduce kids' exposure to some potentially risky pesticides. From the Seattle P-I: The peer-reviewed study found that the urine and saliva of children eating a variety of conventional foods from area groceries contained biological markers of organophosphates, the family of pesticides spawned by the creation of nerve gas agents in World War II. When the same children ate organic fruits, vegetables and juices, signs of pesticides were not found.

Bittman on meat

In case you’d forgotten, industrial meat is a friggin’ nightmare

It’s a little weird that no one on Gristmill has yet pointed to Mark Bittman’s stellar NYT piece on the environmental ravages of industrial meat. Philpott, where you at? Anyway, it’s amazing. Go read it. Here’s a taste (ha ha): Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word "raising" when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that …

Will peak oil force the localization of agriculture?

Stuart Staniford says no. Sharon Astyk says yes. Jeff Vail also says yes.

GMOs as environmental pollution

Schmeiser to play David to Monsanto’s Goliath again

Most of you will recall the high-profile battle fought by Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser when he was sued for growing their GM seed without tithing to the corporation for the privilege. Schmeiser insisted that Monsanto's patented DNA blew onto his land, but he lost an acrimonious fight in Canada's Supreme Court anyway. Now Percy's back for more. Schmeiser has filed suit against the agribusiness giant in his Bruno, Saskatchewan, small claims court for C$600, claiming damages when Monsanto's GM seed blew onto his land, which he had to pay to have removed so that he could plant mustard. His contention is that the GMO rapeseed plants (aka canola) are pollution, and polluters should pay. In a telling move, Monsanto agreed to pay if Schmeiser would agree to a gag order preventing him from discussing the case or its settlement. Needless to say, the feisty Mr. Schmeiser isn't having any. There are more details in The Guardian.