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Have You Tried...?

News of New and Unusual Products

Sweet Vodkas
In recent years the spirits market has been flooded with flavoured vodkas, beginning with fruit vodkas and more recently sweet vodkas. In Vodka: A Global History, Patricia Herlihy mentions  the "invention of Todd Thatcher, a well-known American mixologist, who offers what he calls a McGriddle, which tastes like a maple-flavoured pancake from McDonald's. He mixes bacon-infused vodka with cream, maple syrup, a whole egg and confectioners sugar. A consumer pronounced it as a very sweet and good as a dessert drink... Modern Spirits has produced Pumpkin Pie Vodka made with puréed pumpkin and spices, another sweet treat for the fall season. For the British taste, there is Chase Marmalade Vodka."  Read more about Vodka
This Might Be Vodka mug
Goat Meat
Goat meat is a low-fat atnd low-calorie food, more than 50 percent lower in fat than American beef and about 40 percent less saturated fat than chicken. The goat meat industry is on the rise in the U.S., but 90 percent of America's supply still comes from Australia and New Zealand.  Read more about Goat Meat
The fruit of a woody climbing shrub, guaraná is a round orange-red capsule about 1 inch in diameter. When ripe, the capsule splits partially open, revealing a black seed covered with white flesh only on its innermost side. The edible portion, the seed with the white flesh removed, is rich in caffeine..  Read more about Guaraná
Indigenous to much of Europe and Asia, gooseberries belong to the same genus as currants. They grow naturally in alpine thickets and rocky woods and have been widely cultivated. Popular with gardeners in the United Kingdom, gooseberries are less familiar in the Americas because federal and state governments outlawed their cultivation to prevent the spread white pine blister rust. The federal ban wasn't lifted until 1966..  Read more about Gooseberries
Macarons are dense cookies made either with coconut or with a coarse almond paste. Dating back to the royal bakeries of France in the 18th century, they are a traditional pastry shaped as meringue-like domes with a flat base. Concocted primarily from egg whites, almond powder, icing sugar and sugar, macarons are ethereal sandwich-like pastries with a cream or ganache between two thin candy-colored cookies.  Read more about Macarons
Despite their name, tomatillos are not small tomatoes.
Grown on a rambling vine, this small tart fruit ripens
yellow to purple, but is generally harvested and used
Read more about Tomatillos
Bamboo Shoots
In Asia, marklet shoppers look forward the springtime emergence of fresh bamboo shoots the way those in the Americas look for asparagus, rhubarb or morel mushrooms. The aromatic, just-cooked shoots taste much like artichoke, corn and hearts of palm.  Read more about Bamboo Shoots
Bamboo Shoots
Light Foil
Light bulbs will soon be obsolete, replaced by thin, flexible sheets of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) used for everything from lighting tiles and strips in homes and offices to windows that can simulate sunrise and sunset  Read more about OLEDs
Light Foil
Perry Pears
Thought to be descended from wild hybrids, or "wildings," perry pears are the fruit of pear trees found primarily in the west of England.  Read more about Perry Pears
Crafts From The Countryside
Purple Tomatoes
Scientists have expressed genes from snapdragon in tomatoes to grow purple tomatoes high in health-protecting anthocyanins - naturally occurring pigments found at particularly high levels in berries such as blackberry, cranberry and chokeberry.  Read more about Purple Tomatoes
Purple Tomatoes
Native to warm-temperate Caucasus region of southwest Asia, the quince is a small deciduous tree related to apples and pears that produces a bright golden yellow pome frut. Ripening in late autumn when the green fruit changes to its almost fluorescent-yellow hue with a hard flesh that is strongly perfumed.  Read more about Quince
The Italian word for witchcraft, Strega is also a fine liqueur of long-standing reputation. Dinstinctively yellow in color with a smooth and soft taste. Distilled by the family Alberti in Benevento since 1840,  it is produced in small pot stills and fermented in oak vats using a closely guarded concoction of herbs and spcies that includes saffron, which gives the liqueur its distinctive solar complexion.  Read more about Strega
Laser Comb
Laser Combs
Do laser combs really help stop hair loss and make hair grow thicker? There was a huge rumble in the “stop hair loss” products industry in January 2007 when the FDA approved the HairMax Laser Comb® for promotion of hair growth in males with androgenetic alopecia (Norwood IIA to V with Fitzpatrick skin types I to IV). The FDA has only approved two other products as solutions to help stop hair loss, so this was indeed a major breakthrough. Read more about Laser Combs 
Laser Comb
HairMax LaserComb
Giant Miscanthus
Giant Miscanthus, a tall, perennial grass, is the sterile cross between two plants, and a mule is the sterile result of a cross between a horse and a donkey.
The $1 million question is whether Giant Miscanthus, like a mule, can take on a heavy load - in this case, the job of freeing the U.S. from its dependence on overseas petroleum. Giant Miscanthus is one of the leading candidates for cellulosic ethanol production..
Read more about Giant Miscanthus, 
Giant Miscanthus
Pecan Oil
Pecan oil will soon take its place alongside other cooking oils like corn, olive, peanut, canola and sunflower on grocer's shelves. "This healthy nut now has a new cooking product that, although not cheap, broadens the availability of pecan products on the market," said Wojciech Florkowski, an agricultural economist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Read more about  pecan oil.
Pecan Oil
Edible Ornamental Peppers
Can you eat your peppers and enjoy looking at them too? Yes, you can. Since 1991, John Stommel, of the ARS Vegetable Laboratory, and Robert Griesbach, of the ARS Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit, both in Beltsville, Maryland, have bred peppers to please both the eye and the palate.  The eye-catching Black Pearl, released in 2005 and honored as a 2006 All-America Selections (AAS) winner, attests to their success in developing new cultivars with both aesthetic and culinary appeal." Read more about  new edible ornamentals.
Black Pearl
Black Pearl pepper
Body Jewelry
Body jewelry is not merely a decorative fixture; it is also a personal style statement. You can use it to bring attention or to take away attention from a specific part of your body. It is quite in vogue these days and has been in existence since time immemorial. If you have the attitude and the panache you can carry of any kind of body jewelry. Read more about 

Crystal Heart Belly Bar


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Breeding Field Crops
Breeding Field Crops

Dog World

Food Lover’s Companion

Catch Me If You Can
based on the book
Catch Me If You Can

based on the book
The Orchid Thief

The Sweet Potato Cookbook
Tried a new product? Share your experience!
We'll post your observations here.
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Husk Cherry Tomatoes
Body Jewelry
Fountain Pens
Husk Cherry Tomatoes

Luffa Soap
Sweet-Potato Pasta
Sweet Sorghum


Made from dried red peppers called pimiento, pimenton is a smoky-tasting, aromatic paprika made in Spain. The peppers are slowly dried over smoldering pedunculate or holm oak logs for 10 to 15 days before they are ready to be processed into pimenton.

Cultivation of the pimiento in Spain began in the 16th century with monks from the Yuste Monastery in Caceres. Their secrets of drying and processing the peppers spread to local farmers, who call it el pimenton. Today, it is the region's main source of income.

There are three varieties of pimenton -- sweet, hot, and bittersweet.

Although similar to paprika, which is made from ground and dried sweet peppers, pimenton has a smokier andand spicier flavor.  In Spain, it is used primarily to flavor sausages -- chorizo -- and other processed meats, but it can also complement egg, meat, seafood, and poultry dishes.

Pimenton may be found in markets selling Iberian and Latino foods.


A staple food source in the Caribbean, the plantain (platanos) is a type of banana that is treated like a vegetable. It is rarely eaten raw; instead, it is fried, boiled, mashed, stuffed, used for stuffing, baked, picked, and even grilled. 

"The plantain while green is considered a starch, when ripe a fruit," according to El Boricua. "Plantains must be cooked. For those recipes requiring green plantains, choose the greenest without a hint of yellow. The best yellow plantains (called amarillos) are very yellow almost orange, often with black speckles. The favorite Puerto Rican plantain recipe is tostones."

When peeling plantains, moisten hands and rub with salt to prevent the juices from sticking to your hands. Cut off the ends. Using a sharp knife make two lengthwise slits at opposite ends of the skin. While holding the plantain steady with your left hand, use your right hand to slide the tip of the knife under the skin and begin to pull it away, going from top to bottom. Soak the peeled plantains or bananas in salted water. Drain on a paper towel to use in your recipe.

Plantain and banana trees can be purchased in plant nurseries. Keep indoors as houseplants. They like moisture and heat. Mist the leaves often.

Recipe: Caramelized Ripe Plantains

The petals of this annual flower can be used as a salve, diffused oil, tincture or tea. Resembling the marigold,.the calendula has large yellow or orange terminal flowers which bloom from June through October.

"It prefers full sun and moderately fertile soil and readily self-seeds," according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. 

"Calendula is used externally for its antiseptic and healing properties, similar to comfrey. As a tea or tincture, it can be swished and swallowed to help heal an oral lesion, sore throat, or gastric ulcer."


Grown in California, Chile and New Zealand, kiwifruit is a sweet-tasting, Vitamin C enriched fruit that's now available year-round in many areas. The egg-size fruit has a fuzzy brown exterior and brilliant green flesh.

Kiwis are ripe when the firm exterior begins to soften. They will keep at room temperature for 3-4 days, or in the refrigerator for nearly a month.

This fruit can be eaten raw. Split in half and scoop out  the fruit with a spoon or peel and slice. Thin slices of kiwi can be layered on desserts or used as a garnish.

For more information, visit the PLANTanswers website of Texas A & M and the Fruit & Nut Information Center of the University of California at Davis


Kiwifruit is a sweet and juicy fruit. It is extremely high in vitamin C. My family will sit and scoop the juice out quite happily.


"What is Port?," asks Ray Isle in Gastronomica. "A sweet, red (usually), fortified wine, Port comes from the Douro river valley in northern Portugal, at least the honest-to-God, absolute, real stuff does, though there are Port-style wines available from the U.S., South Africa, and Australia as well. It is pleasant with dessert, even better by itself, after a meal, and perhaps at its best with a good, strong cheese — Stilton is the classic choice — or a handful of walnuts."


from Le Cordon Bleau Kitchen Essentials

Seaweed is among the strangest of vegetables and one, in the West, that we are not entirely comfortable about eating. Seaweed's association with the euphemistic "fresh sea air" of the seaside tends to linger. Yet seaweed can be extremely delicious and it is also extremely nutritious, being rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Seaweeds have been a popular part of Eastern cuisine for centuries, and in Japan particularly, many species are so important that they are cultivated commercially.


Famous in the West as the traditional wrapper for sushi, it is made from a red seaweed, but when dried into sheets turns a dark green/black. The flavor is delicate and mild. Nori doesn't need soaking, but should be toasted if using as a wrapping for sushi (seePreparing Dried Seaweed). It can also be cut into strips and cooked with rice, or crumbled to garnish rice dishes.

This comes in long, dark curly strands. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Soak well for a few hours before using in salads or stir-fries, or sprinkle over rice dishes.

In the West, kmbu or kmbull is known as giant sea kelp. It is massively popular in Japan and Korea. It is the principal ingredient of the Japanese stock, dashi, and also features in many other dishes as a vegetable or a flavoring. It has a distinctive flavor and is best used in slow-cooked dishes, where as well as adding flavor, it also helps to soten other ingredients.


This tropical plant has leaves that are eaten like spinach, or made into tea with either fresh leaves or dried. The plant also has a fruit that's edible.

Native to Hawaii, popolo is now extinct on Oahu, but can still be found growing in isolated areas of Kauai. The plant grows to about 5 feet, and will fruit and flower in two years. A small shrub, it grows to no more than 3 feet with small white flowers that grow  in clusters. 

Popolo plants have been propogated at the Kauai Wildlife Reserve. For information on obtaining seeds, contact: Halawa Xeriscape Garden, 99-1258 Iwaena Street, Aiea HI 96701.

What do you know?

Enoki are fragile, flower-like mushrooms with long, slender stems and tiny caps, according to The Mushroom Council. They grow in small clusters and have a mild, light flavor with a slight crunch. 

With a shelf life of up to 14 days when refrigerated in paper bags, they can be used raw in salads and sandwiches, or as a garnish for soups and salads.

Source: The Mushroom Council


Commonly referred to as "corn smut" by U.S. farmers, a fungus called huitlacoche has become an increasingly popular dish on Mexican and Southwestern menus.

Prized by Mesoamerican cultures, such as the Aztec and Maya, huitlacoche is often sautéed with oil and garlic, cooked with scrambled eggs or stuffed into tacos. It has a distinctive flavor and odor, and is not very appetizing in appearance.

Rarely available fresh outside of Mexico, it is exported in cans with the name "Cuitlacoche" on the label. Farmers who grow it receive as much as $10-15 a pound for the exotic fungus.

Huitlacoche Con Creme (in Spanish)
Huitlacoche Soup


Rabbits have significant potential to improve food security, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO). They are highly productive, thanks to short gestation and great prolificacy (up to 40 offspring a year, compared to 0.8 and 1.4 for cattle or sheep) and constitute a cheap source of protein. A female rabbit can produce up to 80 kg of meat per year, i.e. 2900 to 3000 per cent of its own weight in meat, according to experts.

Rabbits produce highly nutritious, low-fat, low-cholesterol meat rich in proteins and certain vitamins and minerals. Being herbivores, rabbits do not compete with humans for their food and are easily adaptable to different environments. They are easy to transport and market for food, fur and raw skin for garments and gloves.

Backyard rabbit raising can supplement the income of small farmers and upgrades the diet of poor rural and urban households, according to FAO. Investment and labour costs are low and rabbits can be cared for by the most vulnerable family members. "Rabbits fit well in household production and can be looked after by women farmers," says FAO expert René Branckaert.

Rabbit meat consumption is a secular custom in the Mediterranean. It goes back to1000 BC when Phoenicians are said to have discovered wild rabbits in North Africa and Spain and the Romans spread them throughout their empire. In France, consumption of rabbit meat became the sole right of the lord of the manor during the Middle Ages.

In Europe, rabbit breeding began in the 16th century and the small prolific animal was introduced to Australia and New Zealand through colonial expansion. Today, rabbit meat is a delicacy in most Mediterranean countries, from the famous French "Lapin à la  provençale," to Italy's "Coniglio alla cacciatora". Malta holds the highest per capita consumption with 8.89 kilos a year, followed by Italy (5.71 kg/year), Cyprus (4.37 kg/year) and France (2.76 kg/year). The town of Naples, in the South of Italy, is said to be the world's biggest consumer of rabbit meat at 15 kg/year per inhabitant.

Global rabbit production is currently estimated at 957,000 tons. Biggest producer is China (some 300,000 tons a year), followed by Italy (210,000 tons) and Spain (110,000 tons).

In developing countries, rabbits may emerge as one low-cost answer to the problem of hunger, undernourishment and rural poverty. "Backyard rabbitries are the perfect answer to today's demand for sustainable development projects", says René Branckaert, FAO livestock production specialist.

Constraints to widespread rabbitry include lack of training in rabbit breeding and animal epidemics that could have devastating effects.

                          Well, perhaps that is an overstatement, but short of submerging the roots in
                          stagnant water for months on end or a sudden freeze when you forget to bring it
                         in from a wintertime “sunning”, it is almost indestructible.

                          There are two common versions of snakeplant, the green-leafed form has gray
                          cross-bands. The fleshy, sword-like leaves grow up to three to four feet long.
                          They arise from an iris-like rhizome. Its variegated counterpart, Laurentii, has a
                          yellow band to the leaves. The dwarf form, birdsnest snakeplant, grows in a
                          rosette only six inches high.

                          Snakeplant is a member of the century plant family, and like other members of
                          this family, hails from desert regions, in this case southern Africa. Old plants
                          occasionally flower, usually in late winter or early spring, on three-foot long stems
                          bearing small, tubular fragrant, greenish-white flowers that are more interesting
                          than beautiful.

                          Sansevieria is a good introductory plant for children because its toughness instills
                          confidence, its slow growth teaches patience and all sorts of interesting things can
                          be done with it.

                          One of the common names for sansevieria is bow-string hemp, taken from the
                         fact that Africans used the fibers from the plant to produce the strings for their
                          bows. Pulverizing a few leaves to extract the fibers might be a fun but somewhat
                          messy project. Snakeplants can also be propagated from leaf cuttings with leaves
                          cut into three-inch long segments and these then stuck in soil ? with the bottom
                          end down. In about three months, the plants will root and send up a new shoot. If
                          the variegated form is propagated, it will produce a normal green shoot because
                          the plant is a chimera ? a kind of mutation.

                          Snakeplants became popular across the U.S. because they were one of the
                          plants, along with African Violets, that Woolworth stores sold in the 1920's and
                          30's. The Florida foliage plant industry had its start growing these plants for
                          distribution to that chain.

                          Snakeplants survive in about as low a light level as you would encounter in the
                          home. They may not grow in these really dimly lit recesses, but they will sit there
                          just the same ? and with an occasional dusting ? will be as good as the day they
                          were placed there. They don’t need a lot of water and fertilization seems
                          optional, at least when the plant is inside. If you want your plant to grow, move it
                          to the patio in the summer and give it an occasional shot of fertilizer and an
                          occasional watering.

                          Keep snakeplants rootbound for best effect. I like to transplant my plants when
                         the expansion of the rhizomes cracks the clay pots in which they are confined.


A large evergreen, the jackfruit tree produces huge fruit weighing
up to 27 kilograms (60 pounds) each. Growing from nodes on the
trunk and old branches, the fruit is covered by a tough, greenish
husk and consists of many small, yellowish fruitlets. A mature
jackfruit tree can yield 200 to 500 large fruits each year.

The fruit is harvested both immature, as "vegetables" for curries,
or mature for its sweet, waxy flesh.  Seeds may be boiled, fried
and roasted; the fruit can be preserved by sun-drying and smoking.
Fruit husks and leaves can be fed to livestock. The wood of the
tree makes a top-grade timber for general carpentry, door frames
and windows.

Native to India, jackfruit was spread northward by traders to
Nepal and China and eastward as far as Papua New Guinea. Today,
jackfruit is so valued by rural Asian households that people call its
source  the "rice tree."

More on jackfruit from
California Rare Fruit Growers
Diethelm Travel


Many consumers are now finding products in the
grocery stores with the words olestra or olean on the
package label.

Olestra is a calorie-free fat substitute the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) recently approved. The most common
products consumers will find containing olestra are salted
snacks such as potato chips, corn chips, tortilla chips and

The unique aspect of olestra, often marketed under the name
olean, is it cannot be absorbed by the body. Normally when
fats are eaten, the body's digestive enzymes break them
down, allowing them to be absorbed.

Olestra is too complex to be broken down by these enzymes
and cannot be absorbed as is. It simply passes through the
body unchanged.

"Often when people hear of a food that is fat-free or low-
fat, they think they can eat more of it without any
consequences," said Janice Hermann, Oklahoma State
University Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist. "While
foods containing olestra offer fat-free and reduced-fat options,
moderation should still be the key."

For those individuals who are trying to lower their dietary
fat intake, these foods do offer a wider variety of food
choices. However, if lower-fat foods are added to the diet
rather than serving as replacements for full-fat foods, a
reduction in total fat intake is unlikely.

Hermann pointed out some people who consume foods containing
olestra may notice some changes in their digestive system.
Because olestra passes through the body unchanged, some
people may notice digestive changes such as softer stools.

"These changes are similar to those experienced when eating
other foods that aren't well absorbed, like high-fiber
cereal," she said.

Olestra has been supported by more than 100 long- and short-
term studies that included more than 20,000 people before it
was approved by the FDA.

Olestra home page
Center for Science in the Public Interest's "Facts About Olestra"


A course, upright annual legume, sesbania is a fiber crop similar to alfalfa. Better suited as a cover crop than forage, it thrives in the same climates as alfalfa, but will also tolerate extremely wet conditions.

Duane Johnson, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension alternative crops specialist, is researching methods for processing sesbania into particle board, paper and even lumber.

Anything made from wood can be made from sesbania except, of course, a log. But pressed logs can be manufactured from the crop. Fiber-crop boards are strong enough to support a building, Johnson reported. Plant fibers can be mixed with plastics and other substances to make flexible or weather-proof products.

The interior stem fibers of sesbania, called a hurd, is soft and white and makes excellent peat for landscaping. In addition, it is an excellent fiber food-filler and, because it is cellulose, sesbania can be used in the production of camera film. The bast fibers, or outer stem fibers, are used to make paper and board products. An average crop yields about 4 to 4 1/2 tons per acre.


A blend of black tea and spices like cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, cloves or nutmeg, chai is a traditional Indian drink that's become popular in many North American coffee houses. It has a sweet and spicy flavor that goes well in many drinks, desserts and marinades.

Mixed with milk, it can be served hot or steamed like a latte. Others prefer it on ice as a cold drink or with ice cream as a kind of cooler.

Chai coolers are easy to make. Combine equal parts chai concentrate, milk, vanilla ice cram and crushed ice in a blender and mix until smooth.

Chai concentrate is available at specialty markets and natural food stores in both liquid concentrate and powder. Or, you can buy the ingredients to make chai from scratch and adjust the spices to match your own taste preferences.

The following recipes for making a chai blend are available at the Chai! website.

Chai from Scratch
Traditional Chai
Indian Railway Tea

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