A World Without Ag Wednesdays: Avocados–“Are They a Vegetable or What?”

I have recently learned to truly appreciate the yummy avocado vegetable/fruit/green thing. What is it anyway? Avocados are actually a fruit, and more specifically a berry. Blew my mind too. According to Huffington Post article, a fruit is defined as having a tough outer layer, soft middle layer that encompasses the seed. Sounds like a avocado to me. There is a lot more to avocados then you would think.

Photo Cred: Huffington Post
Photo Cred: Huffington Post

History

Avocados came from Mexico and surrounding areas and were used by the Aztec people. Over the centuries, the avocado has been called many different names including Alligator Pear. Horticulturists did not like this name as it was misleading and negative. So the name avocado was settled upon. Avocados have obviously spread from Mexico to a wide range of places.

Where are all the avocados?

 

In the USA, California is the largest grower of avocados followed by Florida and Hawaii. In 2011 the value of the avocado industry was  $492.1 million, and the industry is growing.

125

Did you know?

  • There are over 1,000 varieties of avocados
  • Avocados can be different colors

    Photo Cred: University of California
    Photo Cred: University of California
  • Avocados grow on trees.
  • There is twice as much potassium in avocados than a banana.
  • Avocados will ripen more quickly in a paper bag with an apple or banana thanks to the gases circulating.
  • You can use avocados as a substitute for butter in baking recipes, and no it won’t make them green.
  • Avocados are packed with protein!
  • They aren’t just for eating. They make great beauty products.

How I used them

I used avocados for the first time at home this week, and it was delicious. I made guacamole to accompany chicken enchiladas I made (enchilada recipe to follow soon). I had to learn how to tell if they were ripe or not. I learned that you look under the button at the end of the fruit. Pop that button off, and if it is brown, it is too ripe. If it is a nice green, it is good. Also be sure that the fruit is not super firm. A little give is important.

So… here is the recipe I used. Not only was it healthy and yummy, but it was pretty too. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 ripe avocados
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 large Plum  or Roma tomato, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
You can also add onions to this or other type of peppers.

Directions:
avocado green
I accidentally matched the avocado…
  1. Cut your avocados in half, and use a spoon to scoop out the seed. After this, spoon out the flesh and put in a medium bowl.avoo
  2. Add the lime juice to the avocado and use a fork to smash the avocado until creamy. Chunks are nice too.
  3. Finally, add the rest of your ingredients and stir. Serve immediately or store in the fridge.guac

PS How do you like to use avocados? Does the green bother you? I think they would make a great St. Patrick’s Day meal 🙂


 

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/22/avocado-health-facts-didnt-dont-know_n_3786419.html

http://ucavo.ucr.edu/General/General.html

http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/fruits/avocados/

http://www.inspiredtaste.net/20172/our-favorite-guacamole-recipe-with-video/

http://www.californiaavocado.com/assets/Uploads/Consumers/Healthy-Living/Health-Professionals/June-is-California-Avocado-Month.htm

A World Without Ag Wednesdays: I want a steak

I just got out of class–6 hours of class. A lot, I know. After that much lecturing, discussions, and brain power, all I really want is a steak. Yes, it is past 9 o’clock pm and I want a steak. If you are around me much, you will quickly learn that I always crave steak or chicken wings. Tonight is a steak night, though. Sadly, all I have is pretzels and peanuts. Anyways, since my taste buds are not able to enjoy in the deliciousness of steak, I figured I’d feature steak on today’s “World Without Ag Wednesdays.” So, here goes. I’m not sure how wise this is considering the degree I want a steak right now.

Where does a steak come from?

Let’s ask the obvious question right? Well, it comes from a cow. The less obvious question is where from the cow does it come from? Well, it depends what kind of steak you want–sirloin, rib-eye, T-bone, filet mignon, etc. Here is a nifty diagram for you to get an idea:

imageJust because it all comes from a cow, does not mean that all steaks are equal. There are few things that make them different.

What makes a good steak?

There are three key things that effect how good a steak is besides how it is cooked–marbling, muscle groups, and quality grades.

Marbling–

Marbling is the internal fat in a steak. The more fat in the steak means it will be more flavorful; however, if there is too much fat it gets pretty gross.

marblingMuscle groups–

Depending on the location that the steak comes from, it has an effect on the tenderness of the meat. For example, a filet mignon comes from the tenderloin which is used less strenuously by the cow than say a leg muscle which is more fibrous. This is why cuts from the rump like the round steak are far less favorable and are typically ground for processed meats. Muscles like the loin provide a more tender cut of meat.

More than the degree that the muscle is used, the way muscle groups tie into each other also have an effect. So, a sirloin is a steak that is made up of many different ends of muscles. If you look back at the cuts diagram above, you can see that the sirloin comes at the end of the loin muscle and connects to other muscles in the hip. In this way, it is far less favorable because it is not as neat and tidy as say a T-bone, which is only two muscles.

Quality grades–

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sets standards for what quality of beef can be made into steaks. They have come up with the following system that includes eight quality grades (prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner) and five maturity grades (A,B,C,D,E).  The maturity grades represent the following age groups:

  • A- 9 to 30 Months
  • B – 30 to 42 Months
  • C – 42 to 72 Months
  • D – 72 to 96 Months
  • E – More Than 96 Months

Only A and B maturity grades can be used for steaks. It is a pretty strenuous process, and I didn’t even mention yield grades.

 

maturity_chart

So, there you go. That is a little steak trivia for you. I would include how to cook a steak and a recipe, but I’m afraid that is going to be too much for me. Oh goodness, I can just smell it now… I’m so very thankful for the cattle business, a $49.5 billion industry. If only they did steak delivery.

 

Sources:

http://www.thecattlesite.com/articles/1279/beef-grades

http://www.bovineengineering.com/quality_grades.html

http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/animal-products/cattle-beef/statistics-information.aspx

A World Without Ag Wednesdays: Marshmallows

Of all of the byproducts that pigs and other animals give us, I think marshmallows are one of the most fun. I mean, they are squishy, delicious, and a necessity in hot chocolate and at campouts. I decided to write a poem for this week’s World Without Ag Wednesdays. I hope you enjoy!

Ode to Marshmallows

Oh marshmallow, oh so white,

Although now, you come in colors so bright.

You’re fluffy and sticky,

But definitely not icky.

Made from pig byproducts like gelatin.

Some people say, “oh what a sin!”

How can they, though,

When your attendance is imperative in the campfire glow?

This brings me to your relationship with chocolate and grahams.

Wow! That combo is a grand slam.

Your glory doesn’t stop there.

You and hot chocolate are quite a pair.

Pigs love you as a treat,

That’s how we get them ready to compete.

Mini, or jumbo–we love all of them.

Thanks to pigs and ag we have the marshmallow gem.

hot chocolate

I also wanted to share this fun video. I hope everyone knows that this is NOT how we get marshmallows. It is simply a humorous video 🙂

 

World Without Ag Wednesdays: Lanolin Love

Oh my goodness. Where did the time go? Another semester of graduate school started today, as did the colder weather. True to North Carolina weather, it was in the 70’s on Sunday, and now it has barely gotten above freezing. Thankfully, I have a wonderful wool coat for the trek from the parking deck to my classes. No worries, guys, Rural Ris isn’t a popsicle yet–that may be in the morning though.

Tomorrow is supposed to be no higher than 27 degrees. Now, for those up north, I know 27 degrees is not that cold, but for us here in NC, it might as well be Antarctica. That much cold also means putting extra bedding down for the animals, setting out heat lamps, and making sure all pipes and hoses are drained. Depending how bad it gets, I may be swinging an ax trying to break the animals waters–funny sight for sure.

Anyhow, this first day of classes is now over, and I have survived. So, now on to “A World Without Ag Wednesday” where we highlight some of my favorite things.

ab397-wheatdivider

I may be a farm girl, but I am all about bling, dressing up, and makeup. Oh, makeup. It is inevitably dangerous for me to go into the makeup aisles of the local drug store. I just want all of it. makeup

Clearly, I don’t need anymore (that is only half of my makeup collection). What am I saying? You can never have too much makeup.

I also appreciate a good lotion, especially in the winter months when my hands get chapped. What I love even more is that agriculture has a part to play in my beloved makeup and lotion.

In a world without ag, a lot of makeup and hand creams would not be the same if it were not for lanolin.

What is lanolin?

Lanolin is the grease from a sheep’s wool. It is also called wool wax or wool fat. It is of a yellow tinge and comes from the oil glands of a sheep. When you touch a sheep or unwashed wool, your hands will feel greasy and sticky. This is the lanolin you are feeling. It is the equivalent of the oils you secrete.

How do you get lanolin from the sheep?

After the fleece is shorn from the sheep, it is scoured (boiled) in water with added salt. The lanolin floats to the top. It is then purified by shaking it with olive oil and water. The impurities will move to the water and the oil with the lanolin floating between the two properties.

What is it used for?

Lanolin is a great moisturizer and is often used in lotions. This is a favorite of mine:

wool cream

It can also be used in other cosmetics. Cool huh? Wait, it gets better!

Because lanolin is water-repellent, it is used on oil rigs as a corrosion inhibitor. In the same way, it is also used for spare auto parts when put into long-term storage. In addition, it can also be found in paints, and is used as a leather finish.

Embrace the lanolin love. It gets a bit messy when you play with sheep all day but makes fabulous products!

 

 

Sources:

http://www.pbs.org/weta/roughscience/series3/shakers/handcream.html

http://www.pbs.org/weta/roughscience/series3/shakers/handcream.html#lanolin3

A World Without Ag Wednesdays: Confetti

Introducing “A World Without Ag Wednesdays”, where I highlight something that we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for agriculture. Be sure to check every Wednesday for a new feature!

This week’s feature is confetti. Quite appropriate, since in just a few hours, over a ton of it will pour down on hoards of people in Times Square as the clock strikes midnight. You may have asked questions like, “How do they clean up all that mess?” (the answer to that is over 150 people work to clean it up by 8am the next morning), or thought, “Wow! The rainbow of paper sure is pretty!” Have you ever thought, though, “What would New Year’s Eve look like without confetti?”

confetti

Well, if it wasn’t for agriculture, we wouldn’t have confetti or the beautiful display on New Year’s Eve (maybe the cleanup crews would like that). You see, confetti is made from paper, and as many of us well know, paper comes from trees. Yes, trees are a part of agriculture too. In fact, it has its own fancy name, called silviculture. Silviculture comes from the word silvics–the knowledge of how trees grow, reproduce,  respond to changes in the environment, seeding requirements, and location (WVU Extension Service). Pretty neat, huh?

Here are some fun statistics for you:

  • 751.2 million acres of United States soil is forest land
  • 60% of United States forest land is privately owned
  • The United States is one of the leading producers and consumers of forest products
  • United States forest product industry produces $200 billion in sales every year and employs around one million people.

 

For me, the whole timber industry hits close to home. My grandfather recently harvested his pine tree plot. He planted those trees when I was born. 20 years later, they were cut down, and the land is now being replanted with pecan trees. Who knows, maybe those pines are part of the confetti falling from Times Square.

Pine trees purposefully planted to later harvest for products like confetti!
Pine trees purposefully planted to later harvest for products like confetti!

 

What used to be pines, is now being planted with pecan trees
What used to be pines, will soon be planted with pecan trees

So, when you count down to 2015 and watch all that confetti fall, remember to thank agriculture. Without ag, there wouldn’t be New Year’s confetti.

 

Sources:

http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/forestry/silvics.htm

http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/forestry.html 

http://www.loggers.com/timber_facts.htm

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/01/01/after-party-in-times-square-comes-the-cleanup/