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Agriculture

Spring 2006

Eat more garlic

If there’s just one thing you plant in your garden, make it garlic.

For one thing, it’s extraordinarily easy to grow. Plant it around Columbus Day. Cover it with mulch. Or don’t. Water it now and then when it starts growing again in the spring. And that’s about it.

You can start eating it at any stage, though obviously you don’t want to eat it all up before it develops heads. Thus, you need to plant a lot. You can chop the young shoots and add to a stir-fry. Pull the developing young heads and slice, using it for a mild flavoring. In early summer, … » More …

Spring 2006

Cool, Soothing, Lucrative Mint

If you drive through Central Washington’s mint-growing country in mid-summer, you’re likely to be overwhelmed by the scent of mint rising like an exhalation—at once delightful and inescapable—from the surrounding fields. In fact, your senses might deceive you into believing that not much has changed in the last 30 years or so. But during that time Rod Croteau, professor at the Institute for Biological Chemistry at Washington State University, has been doing research that has helped make Washington mint plants produce more and better peppermint.

Peppermint plants produce menthol, which is a terpene, as are all the other compounds Croteau researches. Terpenes are chemicals put … » More …

Fall 2002

Keeping our food safe

If you’re worried that our food supply might be the next target of international terrorists, you probably needn’t be, says Barbara Rasco, associate professor of food science and human nutrition. Rasco’s research centers on bioterrorism and the safety of our food and water supply.

“I don’t think the events of September 11 mean there’s any increased risk to our food supply,” she says. Domestic ecoterrorists and bioterrorists are more likely to target our food supply than are foreign entities, she says. “The risk from them hasn’t changed.”

A lawyer as well as a food scientist, Rasco has worked on the prevention of international terrorist incidents. … » More …

Fall 2002

Killer compost

If you use compost in your garden, you may be setting yourself up for either a bumper crop or a bummer crop.

Gardeners, greenhouse operators, and organic farmers from Washington to California have experienced crop failures on certain plants after using compost to enrich their soil and help their plants grow.

The problem begins when common composting materials such as grass clippings and leaves collected from grounds that have been treated with an herbicide named clopyralid are sent to commercial or municipal composting facilities.

Clopyralid, made by Dow AgroSciences, is used to control dandelions, thistles, and other noxious broadleaf weeds on lawns, golf courses, and … » More …