Digest – Features: Methyl bromide alive and kicking in Cali, beyond-kosher movement

Do we need strawberries and tomatoes in winter that badly?: Methyl bromide, a common pesticide and fumigant, is not only toxic to humans but harms the ozone layer. So why is the U.S. still using it? And why does California, which has some of the toughest laws governing its use, spraying 6.5 million pounds of the stuff? (San Francisco Chronicle)

“‘Meat’ is a euphemism”: …says Nigel Savage, the founder of Hazon, an organization dedicated to exploring Judaism and food. “‘Meat’ is a word we use to partially shield ourselves from the fact that we are eating a dead animal." Hazon and other groups like Kosher Conscience have been seeking to deepen the connection between Jews and what they eat. (Forward.com)

All hail the pork pioneers: A small but obsessive band of hog farmers and entrepreneurs are aiming to create distinctly American cured meats that rival the famed salumi of Italy and charcuterie of France. (Washington Post)

Foraging for dear life: Ethicurean guest blogger Charlotte (who has written most recently for us about Alice Waters and the Ameya Preserve) shares how mushroom hunting helped her get over a Victorian Illness. (Culinate)

starBut can you get a massage afterwards?: The popularity of agritourism grows as more and more urbanites want to see where their food comes from and even help harvest it — on their vacations. Ethicurean idol (and pal) Tom Philpott's Maverick Farms is a featured destination. (New York Times)

star"Getting gussied up to party with the hardy"?: Despite the preceding execrable phrase, this is an excellent Rick Weiss piece on how climate change will affect global agriculture and how seeds are being genetically modified to withstand extreme weather. (Washington Post)

star"You can't just spray the herbicide and go play golf": With organic corn and soybeans currently fetching $10 and $17 dollars a bushel, respectively, why aren't more Iowa farmers switching to organic? The answers are more psychological than economic, says this trade mag. (Brownfield Network) Related: Interesting account of a family-owned conventional flower grower who decided to start growing organic produce, strictly on the dollar figures alone. (Inside Bay Area)

And then there's planetary health: Normally we ignore those weekly articles headlined "Is organic better for you?" — but this version, by Carol Ness, is worth reading for its roundup of the available science. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Landrace against time: Variants on a familiar fruit or vegetable, called landraces, may harbor special talents, and special genes, that might ensure crop survival in a harsher climate, such as tomatoes that can ripen off the vine, or onions that store well. But in Italy, they're dying out along with the aging farmers and gardeners who have tended them. (New York Times)

The organic originals: Realizing that it was tough to compete purely on price, Amish farmers in southern Ohio have formed an organic farming co-op called Greenfield Farms. (WCPO)

Dan Barber — locavore or devil-maycare hedonist?: A Q&A with Blue Hill Stone Barns chef Dan Barber about why he raises Broad-Breasted White turkeys (the "Darth Vader… the absolute epitome of industrialization") and eats blood oranges in winter. (Salon Life)

Treading gingerly: The WSJ attempts to trace where in China the ginger tainted with a forbidden pesticide came from go nowhere, and serves mainly to make the point that food safety has a long way to go in that country. (Wall Street Journal; subscription required)

Good companies we love: Q&A with Joe McGarry, a regional chef for Bon Appétit Management, which runs university cafés and corporate restaurants with a sustainable focus. (Culinate.com)

Raw-milkshake to go, please: The Grille Zone in Boston is billing itself as the first eco-friendly fast food restaurant, and it actually just might be. The Grille Zone produces an average of 15 pounds of waste a day, compared to the US restaurant average of 275 pounds.(ABC News)

Cash Saves Agriculture: A small farm with grassfed beef and turkey has an interesting approach to a CSA — subscribers pay $300 to establish an account they can draw upon from the farm's wares. (The Register-Guard)

Or, you could just buy organic: A video news clip about how chicken labeled as natural may be 50 percent saltwater — give a 4-ounce breast as much salt as a large fries. Includes delightful footage of the industrial injecting machine. (Webcastr.com)

"It really wasn't the corn picker's fault": A South Carolina farmer cuts off his trapped arm to escape fire he started while trying to free it. (AP)

Reflections on a year of eating locally in Milwaukee (Journal-Sentinel)

Reasons to grow perennial vegetables (San Francisco Chronicle)

Extra-strong vinegar approved as world's first 'food grade' organic weed killer (press release)

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