How China Plans to Feed 1.4 Billion Growing Appetites

National Geographic magazine • February 2018

Watching Jiang Wannian and Ping Cuixiang harvest a sixth of an acre of daikon seed in the north-central province of Gansu feels a little like traveling back in time.

In a dry valley ringed by dusky mountains, on a brick-paved lot, Jiang drives a rusted tractor over a hip-deep mound of dried plants. As they crush down, Ping, Jiang’s wife, plunges a homemade pitchfork into the straw and arranges it for another pass. Eventually Jiang and Ping work side by side, wiry figures with tawny skin. It’s hot, but they are swaddled in clothes to protect themselves from the dust and the sun. They have handsome faces, taut and lined from years of laboring outdoors, and they turn them skyward as they throw fine chaff up and watch ruddy seed rain down. This rhythm continues for hours. In a singsong voice Ping encourages the wind, murmuring, “Blow, blow!” Machines can do this work in minutes, but they are too expensive for Jiang and Ping. Instead they still thresh the daikon by hand, just as farmers did centuries ago. Continue reading “How China Plans to Feed 1.4 Billion Growing Appetites”

World Food Prize Winners: Why Sweet Potato Color Matters

“The Plate,” National Geographic • June 28, 2016

A handful of scientists have spent the last 15 years convincing Africans to swap white sweet potatoes for their more colorful and vitamin-packed cousins, orange sweet potatoes. But if a tuber associated with holiday excess in the U.S. sounds like a strange focus for science, consider this: Those scientists are receiving the world’s most prestigious prize for agricultural research, the $250,000 World Food Prize, which celebrates agricultural efforts that combat food insecurity.

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6 Ways Food Is Immigration’s Biggest Success Story

“The Plate,” National Geographic • June 9, 2016

Anyone who’s pondered the fact that Italian tomato sauce owes a botanical debt to Central America, where the fruits first evolved, knows that foods, like humans, do travel. Many foods have traveled because intrepid humans made it their mission to seek and return with the most delicious foods around the globe; witness the introduction of Corsican lemons and Chilean avocados to American soil, thanks to explorer David Fairchild.

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Supermarket Beef Is Battleground for Deforestation Debate

“The Plate,” National Geographic • May 2, 2016

One of Brazil’s largest supermarkets, Pão de Açúcar, has agreed to stop selling beef produced on deforested land or with forced labor by June 1. But while advocates hailed the announcement, they also questioned whether the retailer was being realistic about the promises it’s making. Continue reading “Supermarket Beef Is Battleground for Deforestation Debate”

New Ally in the Fight Against Diabetes Wears a Cape

“The Plate,” National Geographic • April 7, 2016

A red-suited superhero alights on top of his foe, bringing his fist down with a blow that smashes his enemy to smithereens. The foe’s name, though, isn’t the Joker or Lex. It’s diabetes. Continue reading “New Ally in the Fight Against Diabetes Wears a Cape”

The Global Cooking Class That Promotes Diplomacy

“The Plate,” National Geographic • March 30, 2016

 

When Razi Jafri, an Indian-American from Detroit, saw a Facebook post about a cooking class with an Iranian chef, he knew he wanted in on it. “I love cooking for people and I love looking at different types of cuisine,” he said. Plus, said Jafri, a fellow with micro lender Kiva, he was fascinated by Persian food and diplomacy; he’d followed the Iran nuclear deal closely. This would be perfect.

The catch? It required an application, and if Jafri made the cut, there would be no trip to a formal kitchen. Instead, he’d share a lesson over a Google Hangout with eight or nine others. Continue reading “The Global Cooking Class That Promotes Diplomacy”