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Fall 2017

Till gone

“Life can multiply until all the phosphorus is gone, and then there is an inexorable halt which nothing can prevent. We may be able to substitute nuclear power for coal, plastics for wood, yeast for meat, and friendliness for isolation—but for phosphorus there is neither substitute nor replacement.”

—Isaac Asimov

The Greeks called phosphorus “the bearer of light,” a chalky white mineral that ignites spontaneously and gives pizazz to matchsticks and fireworks. Theories suggest it even arrived on Earth in a fiery meteorite crash billions of years ago.

The fifteenth element could also be called the bearer of life. Wound into DNA … » More …

Fall 2017

Streaming solutions

High in the Cascade and Olympic Mountain snowfields, pristine rivulets trickle into brooks that descend through forest, farmland, and town. Streams merge into rivers and sweep through cities until finally breaking into Puget Sound and the marine waters of the Pacific.

There, in the southern arm of the Salish Sea, the waters mingle in a fertile estuary teeming with biodiversity.

“Looking out at the waters of Puget Sound, you see the sunset, the beautiful mountains, and people think, ‘Everything is good, we’ve got the orca.’ But we have invisible problems,” says Chrys Bertolotto, natural resource programs manager at the Washington State University Snohomish County … » More …

Spring 2017

Leeks

All Ray de Vries asks is that we enjoy leeks three times a day. The Skagit Valley farmer known as the Leek King is not being selfish, though. He’ll also tell you how to grow leeks so you can eat them all year round—and that everyone in the Pacific Northwest should grow them. “We’ve got the perfect climate,” he says.

The de Vries family got into leeks after Ray’s dad, Ralph, retired from dairy farming and planted a large produce garden. Ralph went to Seattle’s Produce Row and asked sellers what they needed. “We need leeks! As big as you can grow ’em!”

So that’s … » More …

Spring 2017

Waste not

Someone forgot about the fruit salad. When the refrigerator door opens, the sickly sweet aroma delivers a potent reminder. All the rotting apples, pears, and bananas in the bowl will need to be thrown out, and hopefully composted. It may seem insignificant, but that fruit salad represents a piece of the 40 percent of food wasted in the United States, about 20 pounds per person each month.

In recent years, food waste in this country and many other places around the world has grown not only in volume, but also in the collective consciousness. The numbers are staggering. Americans throw away an estimated $165 billion … » More …

Fall 2013

Water to the Promised Land

As an aquifer declines, farmers hope for water promised 80 years ago.

LAST SUMMER as we stood in the middle of Brad Bailie’s onion fields just north of Connell, the discussion, as discussions seem to do in the Columbia Basin, turned to water.

Bailie ’95 pumps irrigation water from a well drilled down 800 feet. Neighbors have pushed wells down to 2,000 feet. At such depths, the water is often laden with salts and minerals. After a while of irrigating with this water, a crust can form over the soil surface. Farmers must use a variety of means to break up the crust, including … » More …

Fall 2016

Peaches

It’s just not a summer without them

Among the fruits of summer, one stands alone for its juicy sweetness, sunset colors, and soft fuzzy skin. There’s a reason we refer to good things as “peachy.” Washington’s fame may be apples, but peaches sit proudly next to them, as well as our pears and Rainier cherries at roadside stands and farmers markets.

The volume of other tree fruit grown in the state dwarfs peaches and their siblings, the fuzzless nectarines. According to the USDA, Washington produced 13,800 tons of peaches in 2015, compared to 3.15 million tons of apples and 340,000 tons of pears.

One reason … » More …

Bubbling cider
Winter 2015

The drink that built a nation

Bubbling a revolution in Washington State

It’s canning day at Tieton Cider Works in Yakima. Tall, red cans of Rambling Route cider pass through a pasteurizing unit as they come off the conveyor belt of the mobile canning truck. Sold in four packs, the company’s first canned product is intended to reach the masses, perhaps even enticing craft beer drinkers with a moderately-priced, portable cider.

The label on a can of Rambling Route cider describes the journey apples made across the country to Washington: “When it reached the land that would be called Washington, the apple knew.” It knew it had found a home in … » More …

Winter greens
Spring 2015

Winter Greens—Beyond the kale

Kale’s culinary star has certainly enjoyed a recent rise. For a long time this basic brassica was a humble, overcooked, nutrient-rich winter green. But now it has become a salad, a crispy chip, and even a baby green.

It features on the plates of vaunted establishments like Seattle’s iconic Canlis where it serves as a support to the grilled swordfish, but it is equally at home at Tom Douglas’s pizza joint Serious Pie—where it is delivered fresh with parmesan, chilies, and pine nuts in a tangy, spicy vinaigrette.

Now it’s time to look beyond the kale to a whole world of winter greens. WSU researchers … » More …