Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jelly Fish for Dinner?

By Justin Nobel on September 15, 2014

First the bad news: Jack mackerel have been decimated, Atlantic cod populations have collapsed and Mediterranean bluefin tuna are declining at alarming rates. In fact, in recent years some marine ecologists have claimed, controversially, that all fisheries on earth could collapse by 2048. But in the tiny port town of Darien, Georgia, there’s a happier story to be told.

Thornell King’s salty 73-foot shrimp trawler, the Kim-Sea-King, steams down the muddy Darien River, past Sapelo Island’s big red and white striped lighthouse and into the Atlantic. About five miles offshore a crewmate spots, floating near the surface, a mat of gyrating grapefruit-sized globs that stretch the length of five city blocks, a slick so thick it appears as if you could walk on it.

Cannonball jellyfish.Cannonball jellyfish.

These are cannonball jellyfish. Locals call them “jellyballs.” And they will be dinner.

“Jellyballs have been very, very good to me,” says King, who has worked as a state trooper for the last 20 years, and might be the only jelly-balling cop in the country. This past season was particularly robust: King and his men caughtan estimated 5 million-plus pounds of cannonball jellyfish. At what King says is this year’s price (seven cents a pound), this equates to $350,000. Statistics are absent in this burgeoning new industry, but since King operates three of the fewer than 10 boats legally fishing jellyfish in Georgia, and there are maybe a handful in Florida and South Carolina, the market value of the jellies being fished in the U.S. can be estimated at somewhere in the low millions.

National Marine Fisheries Service data for the U.S. suggests 2,152 metric tons of cannonball jellyfish were harvested in 2011, worth $301,000, but the figure doesn’t include confidential data submitted by states, which would likely raise these numbers dramatically, and thus is incomplete.

The cannonball jellies in the waters off the southeastern U.S. are so plentiful that even the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doesn’t know exactly how many there are. The main thing holding the industry back is the development of more processing plants.

To catch jellyfish, this funnel — capable of holding 3,000 pounds of jellies at a time — is dragged through the water.1Thornell King repairs nets with one of his crew.2
1To catch jellyfish, this funnel — capable of holding 3,000 pounds of jellies at a time — is dragged through the water.
2Thornell King repairs nets with one of his crew.
These brownish Cnidarians (from the Greek knide, or nettle, for their abilityto sting) are now the state of Georgia’s third biggest fishery by volume, behind crabs and shrimp. The first cannonball jellies were commercially harvested off the Gulf Coast of Florida in the early ’90s, and since then Darien, Georgia, has become the epicenter of the industry. In 1998, the DNR issued experimental permits to allow some harvesting, and in 2013 jellyfish became a formally regulated state fishery. “It has been a really good success story,” says DNR biologist Jim Page. “We went from a critter that back in the ’60s fishermen hated because it clogged their shrimping nets to an animal these guys have been able to take advantage of, and I imagine this fishery will continue to expand.”

With one licensed jellyfish processing plant in Darien — called Golden Island International — and another purportedly opening soon, the jellyball industry (consisting of, in addition to the plant, six boats, three of which are King’s) is a job creator. During the peak season from November to about May, it employs around 150 people, a sizable number for the town of about 1,900.

We may have no choice but to eat foods that make sense ecologically — or can at least thrive in a changed environment.
At the Golden Island plant, the jellies are dried and shipped to China and Japan, where they are cut into long, thin strips and served in salads with cabbage and teriyaki sauce. If prepared right, the jellyfish are crunchy, like a carrot. Jellyfish are popular in China, along with other sea creatures like geoducks (those gigantic phallic clams from the Pacific Northwest) for similar textural reasons.

But these sorts of foods are being embraced well beyond Asia. And as climate change and the global industrial agriculture system continue on what many view as a doomed course, we may have no choice but to eat foods that make sense ecologically — or can at least thrive in a changed environment. Jellyfish, prolific breeders with low metabolic rates and the ability to eat almost anything (some breeds just ingest organic material through their epidermis), have survived in unfriendly environs for centuries. But in the end, even jellyfish are prone to humanity’s insatiable appetite; the reason why the Georgia cannonball jelly industry is booming, according to at least some involved in the industry, is because the creatures have been overharvested in parts of Asia.Proteins are perhaps the biggest hurdle to feeding a growing planet. “I am not a doomsdayer,” says Dr. Paul Rozin, a biocultural psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, but he does believe that our ecology is threatened. Not only are the world’s fisheries in trouble, but the meat industry has received increasing criticism for inhumane practices.

When the boat returns to shore, jellies are vacuumed onto a conveyor belt before processing.When the boat returns to shore, jellies are vacuumed onto a conveyor belt before processing; Outside Golden Island International; Partially dried jellyfish in brine, ready to be shipped to Asia.
“What we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated,” states a 2013 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report on edible insects. The paper points out that insects already form part of the diets of at least 2 billion people. Rearing insects uses less land than traditional livestock, and insects can be equally if not more nutritious and are more efficient at converting feed into protein. Crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle (and half as much as pigs and broiler chickens) to produce the same amount of protein. “The case needs to be made to consumers that eating insects is not only good for their health,” reads the U.N. report, “it is good for the planet.”

Still, for now, most Americans are averse to eating bugs — or jellyfish. But Rozin points to sushi as an example of how tastes can change. In the 1950s, average Americans would have politely spit into their napkins if served raw fish. Now even residents of deeply landlocked metropolises can eat fresh sushi at a Japanese restaurant. But the main lesson is one of foodonomics. Sushi is associated with worldliness and wealth, even though you can now find it at most malls; i.e., sushi was popularized from the top down.

“The question is, what is it about a particular animal that makes it more disgusting than others?” asks Rozin. “We don’t want to eat bats; we don’t want to eat rats; we don’t want to eat cats.” Why don’t we want to eat jellyfish? Rozin believes it could be because of the sliminess factor. Yet other slimy foods have gotten around this to thrive in America — most notably oysters.

Outside Golden Island International.1Partially dried jellyfish in brine, ready to be shipped to Asia.2
1Outside Golden Island International.
2Partially dried jellyfish in brine, ready to be shipped to Asia.
Back on the coast of Georgia, King says he doesn’t think Southerners will ever appreciate the jellyfish. “I don’t want to disrespect,” says King, leaning against the shiprail of the Kim-Sea-King as summer thunder rumbles in the distance, “but if I take something home to my wife for dinner, it’s not going be jellyballs.”

At nearby Golden Island International, though, a Friday afternoon jellyfish taste test is underway. April Harper, Golden’s spunky manager, has chopped celery into thin slices and shredded carrots. To this she adds a teriyaki vinaigrette and slivers of jellyfish. Moments ago, the slightly diaphanous product looked like a granny’s shower cap, but cut into strips and put in the salad it resembles a tiny bowl of linguine, and Harper says it is very refreshing. The samples are for the fishermen, most of whom are unfamiliar with the product they are out there catching, but Harper plans on inviting other Darien residents soon. The company plans to push the product on the American market after completing research on its nutritional value.

“Right now, you go into a sushi restaurant and you order a squid salad,” says Harper enthusiastically. “I mean come on, I think we can beat the pants off a squid salad!”

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ridiculous Fried Ravioli Burger is a Real Thing at this Southern California Restaurant



They call it The Rustic Ravioli Burger, and it’s Slater’s 50/50′s latest monthly burger project which features an Italian sausage and Brandt beef patty, fried ravioli, grilled broccoli, roasted tomato and pesto Alfredo on a brioche bun.
The burger will be available for the entire month of September as their Burger of the Month.
While we haven’t tried this beast yet — it looks like one of the most interesting entries the chain has offered up in recent memory. Slater’s is known for their 50/50 burger, a blend of 50% ground bacon and 50% ground beef.
Since the chain’s inception, they’ve brought to light a ridiculous amount of burger concepts including the Turducken Burger, a 100% bacon burgerBulgogi BBQ Beef Burger, a Kangaroo Burger, a Donut Burger and our favorite flavor bomb, a Chorizo Burger.

Here’s a full look:


Monday, August 11, 2014

The Ultimate Birthday Present – a $900 cupcake?

By: Erica Schecter 

Earlier this year we wrote about a sundae that costs $1000. Now the bakery gods have gone berserk again, this time with a $900 cupcake.
The owner of Toronto’s Le Dolci bakery, Lisa Sanguedolce, was approached by a client who wanted an extravagant cupcake created for his wife’s birthday.

$900 cupcake

So what exactly goes into a cupcake with a $900 price tag? Well there was a pastry cream filling, flavored with champagne that costs about $1,000 a bottle. Buttercream frosting, made with butter from Normandy, chocolate from luxury Italian chocolatiers, specialty coffee, French sea salt, organic cane sugar, and Tahitian vanilla beans. Obviously. Tiny champagne bubbles sprinkled over the cake were created using molecular gastronomy  and “diamonds” carved out of sugar were placed around the edge of the cupcake.  Fondant flowers  etched in edible gold and stylized gold strips crisscrossed the sides of the cupcake, complete with edible gold branches and leaves. And finally, because the previously mentioned items weren’t enough, there was a pipette of the Courvoisier cognac, to be drizzled on top before it was eaten.
The cupcake required the work of two pastry chefs, a cake designer, two days of labor and many hours of planning.

Whether the lady thought her husband was absolutely brilliant for doing this for her or absolutely furious for wasting all that money, no one knows.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gummy Bear Bratwursts

 By: Peter Pham


Nope, that’s not a misprint. Apparently the demand for sausage made with gummy bears is actually a real thing and it’s spreading across the United States. Bratwurst, as we all know, is made from the finest cuts of beef, pork and veal. Gummi Bears, on the other hand, are sugar incarnate.

 Spencer Grundhofer, owner of Grundhofer’s Old-Fashioned Meats, located in Minnesota, came up with the idea of gummy bear bratwurst initially as a joke. A friend of his suggested that he make a flavored bratwurst using gummi bears. The joke took a life of its own, however, demand for the crazy combination began to grow once folks discovered they actually tasted good.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Scientists are Working on a Pill for Celiac Disease

Researchers believe that they have found a way to help those with celiac disease.
A study conducted in the Gastroenterology journal found that the gluten-specific enzyme ALV003 reduced a patient’s exposure to gluten better than a placebo.
While most people don’t seem to know what gluten really is , you’ve probably seen it linked to Celiac Disease, a digestive disease that damages the intestine when consuming gluten.
Researchers hope the ALV003 enzyme can lead to a pill that aids gluten-intolerant folks. Even with a gluten-free diet, there is still potential harm being done to the intestines through accidental gluten consumption. Theoretically, the pill would reduce the harm done by the sneaky protein composite.

In the study, researchers randomly selected 41 people in Finland diagnosed with celiac disease to take either ALV003 or a placebo pill every day. They then asked them to eat 2 grams of gluten daily for 6 weeks and took samples of the small intestine to analyze. Daniel Adelman, the lead researcher found that the those who took the placebo pill had a notably higher amount of intestinal injuries and inflammation than those who took the ALV003 pill. There a was no visible change in the intestines of the subjects who took ALV003, suggesting the pill protected them from  harm.
 By: Isai Rocha

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Beer brewing waste could help bone regeneration


Researchers at the UPM and the CSIC have developed biomaterials for bone regeneration from beer brewing waste.

As a result of a research study conducted by researchers from the Centre for Biomedical Technology of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) and the Institute of Materials Science and the Institute of Catalysis and Petrochemistry of Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), all in collaboration with the Mahou and Createch Co., have developed biocompatible materials to be used as support for bone regeneration from the food industry waste, mainly bagasse (residue) from beer brewing. These new materials can be considered as an alternative to the prosthesis made from processed sheep bones or synthetic materials which are more expensive and more harmful to the environment.

The waste obtained from the beer brewing process contains the main chemical components found in bones (phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and silica), that after undergoing modification processes, this waste can be used as support or scaffold to promote bone regeneration for medical applications such as coating prosthesis or bone grafts. The waste usage from the food industry is a great source of raw material recovery rich in chemical diversity, and simultaneously it can reduce the impact generated by the accumulation of waste in the environment
So far, the usage of synthetic materials as bone substitutes is the most used therapy for treatment of bone diseases. The therapeutic strategies are based on stiff porous scaffolds made of biocompatible materials to be used as molds. These molds will provide mechanical stability and will promote the growth of the new bone tissue that helps its regeneration.
The synthetic calcium phosphates are frequently used as matrices and coatings for orthopedic implants because of their resemblance to the composition of a bone. These materials are often obtained through chemical reactions of complex synthesis that use toxic reagents (for example benzoyl peroxides benzene and aniline) and calcinations at high temperatures close to 1500 ° C. As a result of this process, we obtain bioceramics but just after adding silicon through the hydrolysis of TEOS and sintering over 1,100 ° C.
The billing of the brewing sector was €2,990 million in 2012, almost covering completely the total production of malt and hops in the country. The most common products in the production process are bagasse, yeast and malt dried residues.
Bagasse is constituted by organic waste from malt, never experiencing modifications afterwards. This is the reason why bagasse is considered a subproduct, commonly used to make fodder and it is inexpensive. The treatments applied to bagasse residue in this research give as a result a new material rich in silicon, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. The analysis of this new material shows the presence of interconnected pores of between 50 and 500 microns in diameter which is similar to the porosity of cancellous bone. All this would facilitate the complete vascularization after the bone implant.
A first approach using cell cultures has established the biocompatibility of the materials by analyzing the cell viability of cultured osteoblasts in the presence of powder materials components. Then, after compacting and sintering the materials that became 3D solid matrixes, the ability of bone-like cells to adhere to these materials were analyzed. Also, researchers analyzed how these materials proliferate and distinguish from the mature bone cells which are able to express typical markers of bone phenotype such as alkaline phosphatase and to conduct the collagen synthesis and mineralization of the extracellular matrix.
Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Monday, June 9, 2014

You catch (and kill) more flies with this sweetener

Drexel University

A popular non-nutritive sweetener may be an effective and human-safe insecticide, researchers have discovered through a study that began as a sixth-grade science fair project. Erythritol, the main component of the sweetener Truvia, was toxic to fruit flies in a dose-dependent manner in the study. Flies consumed erythritol when sugar was available and even seemed to prefer it. No other sweeteners tested had these toxic effects.

In a Drexel University study, flies raised on food laced with erythritol lived for only 5.8 days on average, compared to 38.6 to 50.6 days for flies raised on control and experimental foods without the sweetener. The research was inspired by a scientist's son's sixth-grade science fair project.
Credit: Baudier et al., Drexel University
[Click to enlarge image]
In a study that began as a sixth-grade science fair project, researchers at Drexel University have found that a popular non-nutritive sweetener, erythritol, may be an effective and human-safe insecticide.

Erythritol, the main component of the sweetener Truvia®, was toxic to Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies in a dose-dependent manner in the Drexel team's study, published in PLOS ONE. The flies consumed erythritol when sugar was available and even seemed to prefer it. No other sweeteners tested had these toxic effects.
Based on this discovery, Drexel and the researchers are pursuing a patent on erythritol as an insecticide and are continuing to study its effectiveness.
"I feel like this is the simplest, most straightforward work I've ever done, but it's potentially the most important thing I've ever worked on," said Sean O'Donnell, PhD, a professor of biology and biodiversity, earth and environmental science in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences, who was a senior author of the paper.
Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that is present in small amounts in many fruits. It has been tested in humans at high doses and found safe to consume; it has been designated as a generally recognized safe food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 2001 and is also approved as a food additive in many other countries.
And the new evidence that it is toxic to flies, which are drawn to its sweet flavor even when other foods are available, makes it a killer combination. It is particularly promising because it is safe for human consumption, unlike other pesticides that have caused tragic accidental poisonings such as one that killed 23 Indian school children last year.
This line of research would not have started without the curiosity of one of the paper's co-authors, Simon D. Kaschock-Marenda, who is now in the ninth grade. Three years ago, Kaschock-Marenda questioned why both of his parents had stopped eating white sugar when trying to eat healthier.
"He asked if he could test the effects of different sugars and sugar substitutes on fly health and longevity for his science fair, and I said, 'Sure!" recalled Daniel Marenda, PhD, Simon's father and an assistant professor of biology in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences -- and now co-senior author of the study. Father and son proceeded to buy supplies at their local supermarket -- as many types of sugar and sugar substitutes as they could find. Marenda's lab supplied "baby" flies and growth medium for his son to raise flies in each of the different types of sweeteners at home, in preparation for the science fair at the Julia R. Masterman School in Philadelphia.
"After six days of testing these flies in our house, he came back to me and said, 'Dad, all the flies in the Truvia® vials are dead...'" Marenda said. "To which I responded, 'OK...we must have screwed up somehow. Let's repeat the experiment!'"
Under more rigorous testing conditions in the lab, they replicated their result and knew they were onto something -- and could use a hand. "I only use insects to study the brain, so I needed someone who knew something about insects," said Marenda. So he brought the find down the hall to O'Donnell, whose background in entomology suited him to the task.
Working together, the team further pursued the question of how fruit flies responded to sweeteners -- testing flies grown feeding on each of multiple non-nutritive sweeteners as well as sucrose (table sugar) and corn syrup.
Flies raised on food containing Truvia® lived for only 5.8 days on average, compared to 38.6 to 50.6 days for flies raised on control and experimental foods without Truvia®. Flies raised on food containing Truvia® also showed noticeable motor impairments prior to their deaths.
"Indeed what we found is that the main component of Truvia®, the sugar erythritol, appears to have pretty potent insecticidal activity in our flies," Marenda said.
They found that the toxic effect did not come from stevia plant extract, which is present in both Truvia® and the non-nutritive sweetener PureVia®. PureVia® was included in their experiments and had no toxic effect on the flies.
"We are not going to see the planet sprayed with erythritol and the chances for widespread crop application are slim," O'Donnell said. "But on a small scale, in places where insects will come to a bait, consume it and die, this could be huge."
The scientists haven't yet confirmed which insects erythritol might kill, other than fruit flies, or how its toxic effects take hold.
The compound is even naturally produced in some insects, which use it as anti-freeze to protect their bodies against cold conditions -- but that may not mean much, as their experiments bear out that the dose makes the poison. The researchers plan to conduct further experiments on other insects such as termites, cockroaches, bed bugs and ants. They will also test erythritol's toxicity as it moves up the food chain by experimenting on praying mantids, which eat fruit flies.

Until further research helps refine the safest and most effective uses of erythritol for insect pest control outside of the lab, can a supermarket dose of Truvia® help get rid of fruit fly infestations in the kitchen? The scientists aren't sure. That might be an experiment to try at home, or for the next science fair.