Robert Krulwich of Radiolab was recently awarded the Macarthur Genius grant. Bravo!
His most recent post on Krulich Wonders, an NPR blog, presents a beautiful and delicious meal. Complementary dishes for vegetarians and meat eaters, what Studiofeast calls their Doppleganger Dinner. Looks like something I could really get behind… Duck breast with celery and sweet potato vs. grilled watermelon with fennel and carrots.
Image courtesy of NPR
Not only does this seem like a fun culinary exercise, it makes a statement about vegetarian diets. That doesn’t seem so bad in light of our expanding agricultural environmental footprint (more on that later).
The best part about an online magazine, is that they send you emails only if you want them. And in the case of Saveur, I get tasty recipes to try on a regular basis. Last week, a number of recipes for a Summer Vegetarian Feast filled my email inbox. One was a delicious leek and zucchini galette, combining great flavor and seasonality.
There are leeks growing alongside my onions in some fields. Some of the growers I work with have a few different Allium species growing including garlic and leek. These crops could be subject to leek moth infestation, but leek moth is currently only known in certain areas of New York and Canada (in North America). An invasive species from Europe, leek moth, Acrolepiopsis assectella, is a small, brown to black moth with yellow-green caterpillars. The pupae are small cocoons with a distinct lacy casing.
Adult Leek Moth courtesy of AgroAtlas
Leek moth pupal casing
Leek moth damage include mining and perforations in the leaf, with window-paning damage where the caterpillar has not eaten all the way through all layers of the leaf tissue.
Leek moth damage
While there are no chemical treatments yet in New York, cultural treatments such as crop rotation, row covers, and removing vegetative debris at the end of the season are recommended. In Canada, a parasitoid wasp Diadromus pulchellus was released as a biological control agent as part of an integrated pest management approach to control leek moth. Perhaps that may be an option for leek moth control here as well.
That cute little critter from Wednesday is a pest of the plant below!
If you’ve never seen asparagus growing in a field, this is what it looks like (picture was taken about a week ago in western New York). It’s asparagus season, and in fact I had some deliciously prepared asparagus at a tapas restaurant in town last night. My favorite preparation of asparagus is quite simple. I arrange the stalks on a baking sheet, drizzle with some olive oil, squeeze some lemon juice over them, sprinkle a bit of garlic powder and pepper, then bake for about 30 minutes at 375º until tender but crisp.
Wednesday’s bug is the spotted asparagus beetle, Criocercis duodecimpunctata. Here’s our spotlight pest on the crop itself.
Photo courtesy of Insect Images
The beetles are quite small, about 6-8mm in length. Spotted asparagus beetles are in the family Chrysomelidae and may resemble ladybugs to the untrained eye. It is distinguished from ladybugs by the six spots on each wing with longer antennae and an almost rectangular shape. (Ladybugs tend to be more oval or almost totally round with similar but varying coloration.) This particular species of asparagus beetle is often considered a secondary pest of asparagus, with the asparagus beetle Criocercis asparagi the most common pest (below).
Photo courtesy of Flickr
Both these pests directly damage the asparagus crop by feeding on tips and spears. Furthermore, C. duodecimpunctata feed on the asparagus berries of the male plant. Cutting stalks close to the ground is a good way to manage for asparagus beetle, not allowing larvae to establish in the crop. Removing dead stalks over winter can also help reduce success of overwintering populations. Particularly for the spotted asparagus beetle, removing asparagus berries can help reduce pest populations in home gardens.
Now that the weather has finally warmed up, it’s time to get working on the summer garden. As soon as these thunderstorms let the soil dry up. Happy gardening!
It seems an auspicious time when I come across extremely similar recipes on two different food blogs that I follow…especially when they’re crispy potato roasts from The Bitten Word and Smitten Kitchen. And my office mate was just talking about home made potato chips. Good thing I’m making dinner for the house tomorrow.
With all this talk about potatoes, how could I not mention the devastatingly cute Colorado Potato Beetle and all the havoc it’s wrecked over the years.
Leptinotarsa decemlineata is a beetle native to North America that originally fed on other Solanaceous plants. It’s primary host is the cultivated potato, but also does damage to tomato and eggplant crops. The potato beetle is multivoltine, having several generations per growing season. Because of this, early management of the pest is key to minimizing loss. While chemical control is perhaps the most common management strategy, the development of resistance to insecticides is increasing in many populations. Other non-chemical controls are equally important in managing this pest, which might include changing crop planting times, applying mulches, or lining trenches in the periphery of the field to reduce early season colonization of the pest. At home, physically removing adults or egg masses can be an effective way of managing the problem.
Until next time, I leave you with delicious preparations of potatoes, so versatile!
Potato au gratin
Twice baked potatoes
And if that weren’t enough, there’s always potato-origin beverages…. Happy Slope Day 2011!
They’re coming. In fact, in places south of Ithaca they’re already here. Yep. They’re stink bugs.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys, family Pentatomidae) is an introduced pest from Asia and has become a major pest of fruit and vegetable crops. In Pennsylvania, where the pest is believed to have been introduced, the apple and peach crops have suffered major losses. It’s really too bad if you want to make peach jam scones.
Appropriately named, stink bugs stink when you squish them. This is due to a chemical defense against predation. Imagine how that smell would taste… These bugs feed directly on fruit causing a type of damage known as catfacing. It’s spotty damage that renders fruit unmarketable. If these apples were growing on my tree, I’d probably just cut out the damaged parts and make applesauce or apple galette.
While stink bugs cause economic loss in the agricultural sector, most people encounter them in their homes. They often get in through cracks or open patio doors on a sunny day. I was in Pittsburgh last week, and stink bugs flew around the living room like nobody’s business. Not so fun when you’re Wii bowling and one flies into the side of your head at an alarming speed.
The brown marmorated stink bug is particularly pesky, and some other stink bugs in the family Pentatomidae are pests as well. But not all! There are, in fact, some beneficial species that are predators of caterpillar pests. Like this guy!
Spined soldier bug
Bee feeders were recently featured on Good as a response to the onset of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD popped up around 2006, when apiculturists (bee keepers) began noticing a decline in honey bee populations and empty hives. We haven’t figured out exactly what is going on, but there are speculations of fungal infections, mite infections, other pathogens, pesticide toxicity…the list goes on. It’s important to recognize the severity of the situation because bees are important pollinators to a wide variety of crops in the United States and world wide. Some of these include peaches, squash, apples, coffee, and berries. It’s almost berry season again, so I’m including a berry pavolova recipe. Berries and meringue? Delicious. So I’m in favor of keeping the bees around.
How might the bee feeders help out? The bee station a great idea in theory, but I’m not convinced they would be used in the manner proposed. I’m no expert so I’ve got some questions about this contraption:
-Is it like a bee motel, housing wayward bees that can’t make it back to their hive?
-Is it like a drive through restaurant where bees can stop in for a quick bite to eat before heading home?
-What do you put in the bee station to make it attractive for the bees?
-How do you prevent other insects, like ants, from annexing the bee station and making use of it themselves?
I would have to do more research on the efficacy of the contraption. They are pretty cute though. But maybe that’s also because of the stark white minimalist appearance on which Apple has also capitalized. Shiny.
On a cold
winter spring day like today, I crave something warm and bready, like figgy pudding. But really, I’ve never had figgy pudding. These fig biscotti are much more appetizing. Unfortunately for me, figs will not be in season until late summer. But that doesn’t stop me from talking/writing/reading/dreaming about them now.
Gleaned from a variety of sources:
“If you study tropical frugivores, or carnivores, directly or indirectly you will end up studying figs.”
“If you study figs, you will end up studying wasps.”
“If you study wasps, you will end up studying their figs.”
“If you study figs, you will end up studying the animals that eat them.”
Nice, eh? With so many scientists studying figs, it seems inevitable that at one point or another, I would encounter them. So here I go.
With approximately 800 species world wide, all fig trees are in the genus Ficus in the plant family Moraceae. Figs engage in nursery pollination, meaning the fruit are brood sites for pollinators. The figs provide a nursery service to the wasps. Meanwhile, the wasps pollinate the fig flowers which develop into fruit. There is benefit to fig host and wasp pollinator, but there is deception as well. Female wasps can only lay eggs in the male functioning structures, which are almost indistinguishable from female functioning structures. Only the female structures are edible fruit. Eventually, when the fruit has ripened, frugivores (bats, primates, birds) chomp up the figs and pass the seeds somewhere else. Fig tree life begins again, and a new generation of wasps are out to find them.
I’ve in no way done justice to the complexity of the system. Suffice it to say that figs have enabled scientists to answer ecologically and evolutionarily important questions. But many others have arisen, and many remain unanswered.