Mark Lewis, Chmachyakyakya: 8000-year Crops


Part I: Mark Lewis, Chmachyakyakya: 8000-year Crops
foragingThe most local form of local eating is wild plant foraging, and Mark Lewis of Arizona has been foraging the deserts and mountains of the Southwest for a long time, harvesting 2000 edibles and 500 medicinals throughout Arizona and the Sonoran/Bajan SW for 45 years using experience and knowledge from his grandfather and his grandfather’s grandfather. Having taught at university since 1983, Mark focuses on scientific and cultural insights about the plants — from economic botany, nutrition, horticulture, and traditional culture — that can inform cuisine based on these plants, Mark gives classes and Walk and Talks and, since 2012, has been presenting and offering prepared samples weekly each Saturday morning at the “Chmachyakyakya: Thirty 8000-year Crops” booth at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market using 80 different plants and 30 mushrooms/morels. Some crowd favorites include cholla cactus panna cotta, prickly pear wolf berry shrikhand, and saguaro bao.

CONTACT Mark Lewis at

Part II: Caryn Hartglass, On The Road Again
Caryn at the beachCaryn gives updates on Golden Rice and other GMO news. She unscrambles the confusion behind caged eggs and free-range eggs. She also covers the good news: Vegetariansim promotion in Italy, Veggie Dogs in Ballparks and more delicious news while traveling.


Hello everybody. Hello everybody, hello. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. It’s All About Food. It’s All About Food. Thank you for being here. As you know, what we talk about on this program is food and I try to the best of my ability to cover all aspects of food—the good news, the bad news, the delicious news, the toxic news, the cruel news, the happy news, the environmentally destructive news and anything else that’s related to food. I love food. It’s my favorite subject. I have a particular preference for plant foods. We’re going to be talking about a fascinating subject, fascinating to me, and that is a lot of plants out there that we don’t know anything about. I think in our collective memory we’ve done a lot of forgetting of some really important knowledge for our own personal well-being and the well-being of the planet. That’s why we’re going to be talking today with Mark Lewis who’s a forager. The most local form of local eating is wild plant foraging and Mark Lewis of Arizona has been foraging the deserts and mountains of the Southwest for a long time, harvesting 2,000 edibles and 500 medicinals throughout Arizona and the Sonoran/Bajan SW for 45 years using experience and knowledge from his grandfather and his grandfather’s grandfather. Having taught university since 1983, Mark focuses on scientific and cultural insights about the plants — from economic botany, nutrition, horticulture, and traditional culture — that can inform cuisine based on these plants, Mark gives classes and Walk and Talks and, since 2012, has been presenting and offering prepared samples weekly each Saturday morning at the “Chmachyakyakya: Thirty 8000-year Crops” booth at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market using 80 different plants and 30 mushrooms/morels. Some crowd favorites include cholla cactus panna cotta, prickly pear wolf berry shrikhand, and saguaro bao.

Caryn Hartglass: Mark Lewis, thank you for joining me today.

Mark Lewis: Howdy.

Caryn Hartglass: Hi, how are you doing in Arizona?

Mark Lewis: Well, it’s toasty today.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I bet it is, hot and toasty. It’s hot in a lot of places, everything is getting a little hotter, isn’t it?

Mark Lewis: Well, that’s ok.

Caryn Hartglass: “That’s ok,” I like that. That’s ok. We always have to keep a positive attitude.

Mark Lewis: We’ve had some really amazing harvests this year so we just kind of roll with it. Probably we won’t have winter in the future but, for now, we’re just adjusting to the climate.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Why do you think you’ve had amazing harvests this year?

Mark Lewis: It’s just a combination of when the rains come and how much and how the temperatures are in the winter versus the temperatures in the summer. What we’re seeing right now, at least in Arizona, is a lot of plants that should have been maybe leafing and flowering in February are now doing it in January. Things that were finishing up in October are now going all the way into the end of November, early December. So we kind of have to adjust what we expect. It used to be very easy. You could say, “It’s May, I’m going to go collect XYZ at this location.” And you’d be right on the money because year after year you’ve paid attention to where and what and when. So you know of the many different plants what’s going to have a fruit, what’s going to have a flower but now, at least since 2007 but especially starting last year–very, very different. We’re seeing things that are having fruit and flowers completely out of step with what they’ve done in the past. It looks like, assuming there’s global warming, which I don’t know how else to explain it, it looks like things are starting to adjust to some kind of different climate regimen right now. We’re just watching that and enjoying the benefit of having, for example, this year the palm trees have fruited out twice. The yuccas, twice and the mesquite and wolfberries, three times. So it’s been a really good year. This is the middle of the summer. If things were early we wouldn’t expect them to be doing anything now and yet, things have been early and things are still going full guns. Got a lot of good stuff out there.

Caryn Hartglass: Mark, I live in New York City and what amazes me is some of the wild plants that insist on popping up just about anywhere they can. I’ve been on a few foraging tours with Wild Man Steve Brill in New York City who takes us through Central Park and other areas and shows us what is edible although I’m hesitant to forage in those areas just because of all the other life that’s present in urban environments. It’s not as clean as I’d like it to be but I imagine Arizona is very different. You have so much knowledge from your grandfather and your grandfather’s grandfather. Tell us a little bit about your 45 years of foraging and the edibles and medicinals and why you even do it.

Mark Lewis: It’s fun. It tastes good. There’s a lot of vitamins and minerals, especially now. The crops nowadays, except for organics and things that you grow in your own garden, a lot of the stuff has been losing the vitamin wallops you used to get out of the different plants. I read a USDA thing, I can’t remember now, it’s been maybe 5-6 years ago and it indicated for a variety of different plants, like tomatoes and corn and eggplants, it just went down this list of all these common things that we eat and since 1970 it looks like about 40% of the vitamins are dropping out. So they’re the same crops that we’ve been eating, it’s just that…you go to a commercial grocery store, they look pretty but they don’t have the vitamins that they used to have. It’s mostly because the soil is depleted. All of those issues drop away when you’re out foraging because you’re getting plants that A, they have to survive so those vitamins and things…what those vitamins are their protection against the hot sun, the insects, competition with other plants. So they’re packed full of vitamins and minerals that I wouldn’t be able to get if I were just relying on commercial stuff. A lot of the plants here in Arizona…wolfberry it’s the same thing as goji. You hear about goji being a superfood, well all the desert plants are superfoods, almost all the things you would forage because they’ve got the vitamins that we’ve lost from lack of vitamins in the soil after years and years of harvesting. You have to think about it, the yields of the commercial crops have gone way up and we’ve been using the soil forever and ever. It’s got to take away the nutrients that are there. The foraged foods don’t have that problem. So you are getting plants that are related to things—goji, wolfberry, it’s a relative of the tomato—you’re getting all the lycopene cancer protection, you’re getting all the Vitamin C, you’re getting the Vitamin A, the B12 that everybody says you can’t get …you tell vegans you can’t get B12 unless you get it from meat or dairy or pollen or something like that. I can run down a list of plants that we have in spades out here in Arizona, like mesquite pods. They have Vitamin B12 in them. It’s fun to go out there. It’s a confidence builder for little kids to be able to identify and bring home food for their families. It’s like when little kids go out hunting. You’ve got all the vitamins and minerals. You’re preserving the environment because if you do this correctly you want to be able to go year after year. You want to be sustainable. All of these things I think, plus I grew up doing it. It’s three quarters of my food.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow, that’s great.

Mark Lewis: I can’t think of reasons not to do it, really.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I could give you one reason but not for you personally. There’s 7.4 billion people on the planet and we can’t feed them all by foraging unfortunately. So maybe we need to have a lot less people…

Mark Lewis: Well, people say things like that and I agree. It would be possible to bring more of these kinds of foods into our diet in a cultivated way. We’d have to watch out and make sure we didn’t exhaust the soil again but a lot of these foods I think… These are future foods. These aren’t things of the past. These are things that will save us in the future. Right now in the grocery store…I can’t remember the figures but I’ve heard that we’re relying on something like 6 animals and thirty plants and there are thousands of them out there. They’ve always been there and they’ve always been good. I’m sure that the idea of everyone going out and foraging isn’t viable especially in large cities but it would be possible to bring more of the different kinds of things into our diet I think and in the process our idea of what a farm would be would probably change.

Caryn Hartglass: It absolutely has to. You mentioned earlier how your food has more vitamins. There have been some scientific reports that talk just exactly how you were describing it. We’re a lazy culture right now and our plants are getting lazy because they’re protected by herbicides and pesticides and they don’t have to work as hard to protect themselves. As a result they don’t have the nutrients, which as you mentioned are actually their form of protection. We benefit from that too. I remember reading a book, I think An Unnatural Order by Jim Mason and he went back 10,000 years or so, whenever we believe agriculture started. One of the things he pointed out to me that just got one of those wows from me is that every time we have improved the ability to grow more food the population has increased but hunger has not gone away. So now we have 7.4 billion people on the planet and about a billion of them are hungry.

Mark Lewis: Another billion of them are obese.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, there’s that too. So we clearly need a different food system. And maybe less people on the planet but I would love it if we could, for example, stop raising plants to feed animals to feed people and brought all of that land back to a more wild natural state where we could actually grow some more wild foods. Anyway, tell me what you’ve learned from your grandfather and your grandfather’s grandfather.

Mark Lewis: Well, cactus are delicious. (Laughs)

Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs) Cactus!

Mark Lewis: For example at the farmer’s market, I like to take cholla cactus, that one c-h-o-l-l-a, cholla.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, the one I mispronounce.

Mark Lewis: Everybody does. So cholla are some of the spiniest…they seem like they’re mean, but you know, but they’re cactus, so what do you expect? They are some of the spiniest, most dangerous things. They’ve got two different kinds of spines on them. The spines you can see are the easy ones. The spines you can’t see are the ones that get in your fingers and then in your eye and all over the place. I hear people say constantly, for example, one woman at the farmer’s market said, about wolfberries. She said, “We have those in my yard, too bad they’re poisonous.” I just thought, OK, used to be people thought when tomatoes were first coming into the mainstream food thing, everybody said that they were poisonous. That seems to be everyone’s approach. First it’s dangerous, it’s going to kill me. Then it usually comes in as poor people food. And then somebody decides it’s super food or something then it becomes chic and hip and then it goes mainstream. I remember when kiwis came. I’m old enough to remember when in the grocery stores you never saw kiwi. You didn’t know what it was, right?

Caryn Hartglass: I remember that.

Mark Lewis: It was weird. It was weird, who’s going to eat this weird thing. Now, you tell kids, “I remember when kiwis came”, they look at you like you were insane. Right now I’ve seen in Albertson’s rambutans. We were military so we knew…

Caryn Hartglass: I love them!

Mark Lewis: Yeah, I know. They’re delicious food. It’s the same with all these desert things. So we’ve got the cactus, we’ve got the prickly pear cactus, which you’re starting to see in the grocery store fairly regularly.

Caryn Hartglass: Are we growing rambutans somewhere in the United States?

Mark Lewis: In California.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m in California right now. I didn’t know that. I’ve got to find them. I used to get them in Costa Rica and I love them but they’re growing here?

Mark Lewis: You e-mailed me and said you right now were over in LA.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m in Northern California.

Mark Lewis: Sorry. Well around LA there are a lot of people growing them plus it’s a commercial crop there now.

Caryn Hartglass: If anybody wants to know what they look like, they’re kind of like a litchi nut, right, with rubbery arms sticking out of them?

Mark Lewis: Exactly, yeah, and they’re delicious.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah

Mark Lewis: We’ve got the prickly pear. There are people growing the goji berries from Tibet in California and Utah. Here in Arizona I’m trying to convince people right now to grow wolfberries because they’re native and they don’t take any extra water. In fact they love to be neglected, essentially. They fit in with the environment here. You see nopalitos, those are the prickly pear pads, the green pads, in the grocery store now. So it’s just a matter of… We have saguaro cactus, those are the big ones that you always see in the Western movies that have the arms, they have edible fruit and edible seeds. The seeds are filled with linoleic acid, oleic acid, omega-3, 6, 7, 9, right, salmon of the desert?

Caryn Hartglass: Everything we need, yeah.

Mark Lewis: Yeah, a lot of the plants here in the desert, especially the cactus, they’re distant relatives of kale and chard and beets, so they’re filled with calcium. The cholla buds, the flower bud of the cholla, is usually one of the things that you eat first, it’s March-April that those are coming out. One little flower bud has more calcium than an 8-ounce glass of milk. It’s easy to see how the people here get some amaranth—amaranth is another super food that people have probably heard of. They grow like weeds here, you can get them for the greens, you can get them for the seeds. Chenopods, which are a relative of quinoa, again, greens and seeds. These things are filled with calcium. You’ve got the prickly pears, mesquite pods, all kinds of calcium in there, Vitamin E, B12. Grandpa taught me a lot and I learned the vitamin stuff because basically those are the questions that everyone asks me at the farmer’s markets and at the colleges when I’m teaching. Year around out here we’ve got basically from January to January there are things that you can harvest. It’s really easy to pull up hundreds and hundreds of pounds of food all year round. Now you had mentioned that you had gone on some of Steve Brill’s walks in New York?

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Mark Lewis: Yeah, there’s a guy who wasn’t appreciated for a long time. He just showed everybody what was right under their noses. It’s true you have to be careful about the cleanliness of certain things but there are a lot of things that are safe. In those gardens…isn’t New York filling up with gardens now?

Caryn Hartglass: To some extent there are a lot of rooftop gardens, urban gardens, people are growing more things in little island spaces.

Mark Lewis: Yeah and a lot of those foraged things can grow there because most of these foraged things, they love disturbed ground. They have a history with people. They are actually out here in Arizona they are indicators that there were people in a location. A lot of them, you see them and you go, “Ahh it looks abandoned now.” I feel like I’m in the wilderness but actually these things wouldn’t be as thick as they are right here if somebody hadn’t been harvesting them.

Caryn Hartglass: Evidence…

Mark Lewis: Yes, in the West a lot of it is like that. These are plants that go way back with the people.

Caryn Hartglass: You have a booth at the Old Town Scottsdale Farmer’s Market and I’m not going to pronounce the name but can you pronounce it and tell me the significance of it?

Mark Lewis: You listed off the Cholla Pannacotta…

Caryn Hartglass: No, the name of the booth.

Mark Lewis: Oh, the booth. Chmachyakyakya, yeah tiny babies can say that. Break it into two parts. If you’re looking at it, if you’re on the radio you’re not looking at it, c-h-m-a-c-h-y-a, stop right there, ok. Second part, k-y-a-k-y-a. Both parts have a “ya” on the end. See there?

Caryn Hartglass: Yes.

Mark Lewis: The first part, chmach, means food or crops, the “ya” is a little grammatical thing there. Then “kyakya” means eternal or forever. These are things that have been around forever, so my booth is called “Eight Thousand Year Crops. Some of the crops go back 12,000 years but all of them go back at least 8. So I’m basically showing people the indigenous foods, the stuff that’s been here forever that people have been taking care of, working with, since 12,000, 8,000 years, chmachyakyakya.

Caryn Hartglass: The way I found out about you is you are looking for sponsors and supporters because you want to participate in Mad Feed in Copenhagen in late August. Tell us what that is.

Mark Lewis: Yes. Mad Feed is…300 people are invited over to Noma, Noma is a restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark. The chef there is René Redzepi. It’s basically 300 chefs and non-chefs and people there exchange ideas about…this year it’s the Kitchen of the Future, the idea. It will be a chance to work with other foragers because one thing René Redzepi is known for is he likes to forage. He’s the man who put Noma on the map as the number three restaurant in the world, focusing on the very, very local foods of Denmark. He goes out and forages for, for example, seabuckthorn, which is a plant with a yellow berry and it’s a relative of jujube, if you’ve ever had jujube fruit…

Caryn Hartglass: Mmhmm.

Mark Lewis: …and also a plant that we have here in Arizona, which is called graythorn or ziziphus. To go there would be a chance to learn from and to share ideas with all kinds of other people who are interested in making foraged food something more mainstream, something grown, something that we start to see in the supermarkets.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. If people wanted to find out more about it and support you, how would they do that?

Mark Lewis: The easiest way would be to reach me by email at

Caryn Hartglass: I’m curious, do you have an idea of how we might incorporate more foraged foods or create more spaces so that wild foods can grow?

Mark Lewis: Find out in your area because all over the United States there are different plants and mushrooms as well, that you can grow either in pots if you have limited space or in a small area of your yard. Any kind of a garden that you can grow you could have your local plants in there. Pickup ones that you think will give you the most bang for your buck, for a lot of people things like amaranth or quinoa or ramps or different kinds of berries. All of these are things that if you know that you like blackberries, do blackberries. Grow blackberries, learn where they live. Go and harvest them. Make sure when you’re out there in the wild that you are careful because you want to be able to come back next year and you want to be able to share this with your family and other people. You don’t want to exhaust a site. You don’t want to hurt the plants, damage the branches and things like that but you do want to essentially engage with the plant and the environment there. If you are careful and you do your homework ahead of time, you’re not going to hurt yourself or get sick and you’re not going to hurt the environment and you’re going to help these plants spread both by growing them and by telling other people about them.

Caryn Hartglass: You’ve also harvested medicinals, about 500 of them. Can you talk about some of them and what they are capable of treating or healing?

Mark Lewis: There’s an awful lot of stuff right there. A lot of things that people have heard about, that if you go to different kinds of natural grocery stores, you’ll see many, many kinds of plants now and maybe you wonder what they are. Well a lot of them grow right here. Elderberry is one of them that’s all over the country. Elderberry is an unusual plant, distantly related to things like honeysuckle and it’s got a chemistry that sets it apart from almost anything which probably explains why it can clear up the flu before you even get it. Obviously you’d want to find out more about anything that’s supposed to be medicinal. There are a lot of books out there. A lot of people have published a lot of good stuff about how to identify the plant and how to tell what sorts of things would be helped by using those plants. There are books that all they do, they have like 50 different plants with photographs–excellent, excellent photographs–that will start you off in the right direction. Here in Arizona we’ve got really three different zones. It’s almost like walking from Mexico up to Canada so we’ve got things that are from all over the country, low land, riparian. Sunflowers, actually parts of sunflowers have all kinds of chemistry in them that will help you. Also think about the idea that the food that you eat is medicinal. You eat the right sorts of foods, then get all the vitamins that you need, balance and diversity of diet, that will go a long way to keeping you healthy and helping you back away if you got diabetes. A lot of the foods that we’ve got here in the desert we recommend so that people will, if they have diabetes, their symptoms will lessen, cholla is one of those, mesquite is another, all cacti, nopalitos, the prickly pear pad—anti-diabetic. They’ve got mucilage in them. There’s just a ton of stuff. There’s a guy named Moehrman and he did two really large volumes of Plants of North America. One of them focuses on food and one of them focuses on medicine. I recommend those for anybody who’s starting out.

Caryn Hartglass: That sounds great. I’m curious, I’m quite curious. It’s mind-boggling. We invest so much on biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. We want to create things. And yet all we need to really do I think is to discover what’s been given to us and what’s there and figure out what everything can do for us. I think we’d be a lot further ahead.

Mark Lewis: I agree.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, let’s bring more sense to more people. Mark, thank you for joining me and I wish you a lot of luck getting to Mad Feed in Copenhagen.

Mark Lewis: Thank you!

Caryn Hartglass: Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food, Mark Lewis.

Mark Lewis: Bye bye.

Caryn Hartglass: Bye. Okay everybody, if you happen to get to Old Town Scottsdale, you want to go to the farmer’s market, I think it’s on Saturday mornings and you can meet up with Mark and find out more and try some of these wonderful edibles and medicinals that are out there.

Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, August 18, 2016


Remember Joel Helfrich? He was on the program two weeks ago and he talked about the Rochester River School, the first vegan public school in the United States. He was launching a fundraiser, well it’s now up on And if you were curious about it, want to know more about it, or want to help, you can go to and look for the Rochester River School, and the Rochester River Foundation. You can help there. I just told Joel, I would give a shout out about that, I think it’s really important project, and I would love to see more schools actually incorporate some of the ideas that they are considering for the Rochester River School.

Okay, good news, bad news, what do you want to hear first? Bad news, that’s what I want to talk about first because I like to end on a happy note. So perhaps you have heard about golden rice, golden rice, can you say golden rice? It sounds so lovely, doesn’t it? I wonder who actually came up with that name. It sounds expensive! It sounds heavenly. Well do you remember back in 2000, sixteen years ago, the TIME magazine cover, back then, said that this rice could save a million kids a year. And I remember learning from an organization called, Amberwaves, they have a website, And you can read what they have been talking about for over fifteen years, about this genetically modified rice, called golden rice, which was supposed to save a million kids a year. And guess what? It’s still not happening. This golden rice, this genetically modified rice, is still years away from field introduction, and may surprisingly, surprisingly to whom, may fall short, of the great health benefits. A new report came out a few months ago, and I just want to read some of the abstract because I’m enjoying reading it, rereading it, and mouthing all of these words. Here it is:

Golden rice has played a key role in the argument over genetically modified crops for many years. It is routinely depicted as a generic GM vitamin tablet in a generic plant, bound for the global south. But the release to golden rice is only on the horizon, only in the Philippines, a country with a stored history, complicated present, and contested future for rice production and consumption. The present paper corrects this blinker view of golden rice through an analysis of three distinctive rice worlds of the Philippines.

The green revolution rice is developed at the International Rice Research Institute in the 1960s. Golden rice is currently being bred by this institute and scheme to promote and export traditional heirloom landrous rice. More than mere seed types, these rice are at the centers of separate rice worlds with distinctive concepts of what the crop should be and how it should be produced. In contrast to the common productivist framework for comparing types of rice, this paper, compares the rice world on the basis of geographical embeddedness or the extent to which local agro ecological context is valorized or nullified in the crops construction. The green rice revolution spread generic, disembedded, client seeds to replace locally adapted landdrousses, the heirloom rice. As well as peasant attitudes, and practices associated with them.

The disembeddness of golden rice that boosts its value as a public relations vehicle has also been proved difficult to breed, has also been the main impediment in it reaching farmers’ fields, as if it has proved difficult to breed into varieties that grow well, specifically in the Philippines. Finally, and I love this, somewhat ironically, the International Rice Institute has recently undertaken research and promotion of heirloom seeds in collaboration with the exports scheme.

So this report has discovered that golden rice isn’t ready, golden rice is difficult to grow in the Philippines, golden rice is difficult to get the local people excited about this particular food. It’s not working and fifteen sixteen years ago, Amberwaves and other groups knew it wasn’t going to work. It’s still not working to the point where this institute that’s been promoting it all this time is actually starting to look at heirloom seeds because the foods and the seeds that are natural to that environment, that people want to eat, that people want to grow, that’s what should be going on there. It just boggles my mind that so much money has been going into creating a new food and this new food, of course they say, they will give freely, but you know ultimately that they want to make money off of this food, when there are so many heirloom varieties that are that naturally work in the area that would do so much better with support, different kind of support, maybe we could learn more about those heirloom varieties and why they might not be flourishing at a particular time and help them to flourish.

This is one of the things I believe is inherently wrong with G.M.Os today, where our favorite companies like Monsanto are creating these foods that have been genetically modified, that they want us to grow and eat, and it is reducing the biodiversity of our planet because when we chose their products we are mono-cropping and growing the same foods and growing genetically modified foods encourages todays current agricultural practices that we were talking about earlier in the program, that deplete nutrients, deplete the soil of its life, and its value, and its richness, ultimately creating food that aren’t healthy and don’t do well in particular environments.

I mentioned before the book that I had read, An Unnatural Order by Jim Mason, which I read a long time ago, and I really should read again, and I recommend it to you because it’s an excellent book. It talks about food, obviously, and mono-cropping food and the dangers that are related to it, and to the point where we are growing so much food that its enabling the population to grow and yet we are still not getting food to everyone which was the marketing behind golden rice, which was to help save the millions of lives and yet, we still have a billion people starving. It doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work.

We can’t believe the marketing hype, and it’s the wrong path to go down. I would love to see, here’s my solution; we really reduce and eliminate growing animals so that we don’t have to grow all those mono-cropped plant foods to feed the animals to feed the people, we free up lots of land that we can learn how to regenerate, with beneficial insects the Xerces Institute can help with that, that’s x e r c e s , I love that organization, and wild flowers and bring back all of these edible wild foods. We could do more foraging, and have more locally grown food. It’s a beautiful plan to grow everything organically. I’m just taking in that image, because that’s a really lovely image.

Ok so back to golden rice, so it gets crazy because in late June you may have read that more than a hundred noble laurates signed a letter urging Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms. They were specifically encouraging the golden rice, the strain of rice that these particular laurates said could reduce vitamin A deficiencies, which cause blindness and death in children in the developing world. Now this is a terrible thing, blindness and death in children in the developing world, but golden rice is not going to solve the problem.

The problem is bigger than that, the problem is politics, and the problem is distribution of food which is done unfairly. There’s so many issues, that are related to poverty where people are paid next to nothing to grow food that ends up being exported so that the landowner can make money, and the farmers that are growing whatever it is that’s being exported, don’t even have enough money to eat or grow their own food. It’s the system that isn’t working, we don’t need golden rice, we need equality and we need more education, and we need more diversity, in people and in plants. So when these laureates come along and tell Greenpeace to buck up and stop its opposition against G.M.O.s, there all so close minded because they are not looking at the big picture.

Sure it’s fun to be a scientist, and get funding, to discover new kinds of varieties, and create something on your own that may have new properties that seem to be beneficial, and you feel really good about yourself, and a lot of these scientists, feel like they’re really doing great work. But unfortunately, I think, many of them are short sided, and are not looking at the big picture. Global, big problem with the breed, golden rice. So Greenpeace came back and they came back with everything I’ve just been talking about, saying that accusations against anyone blocking genetically engineered golden rice is false. Golden rice, has failed as a solution, and isn’t currently available, for sale even after more than twenty years of research. So people are trying to shut down Greenpeace, and Greenpeace is not necessarily my favorite organization because they have not talked enough about the environmental devastation going on by growing plants to feed animals to feed people. They could be promoting a more plant based diet. That’s slow going, but I do agree with them on being opposed to genetically modified foods. Ok that’s golden rice.

Then there was a lovely article recently, in the New York Times called Eggs That Clear the Cages but maybe not the conscience, and this is a story that brings a lot of anger to me and I imagine a lot of other people. We’ve talked about the difference between animal welfare and animal rights, and the animal welfarists are taking small steps, which they believe are beneficial, for animals.

One of those small steps, was eliminating the cage that egg bearing hens were crammed into, this tiny, tiny space, and they’re claws would grow over the wire, it was just a disastrous situation. They encouraged getting rid of the cages so that the hens could walk around freely. Now we are learning since this regulation was approved, a lot of places, a lot of companies said, ok we are going away from cages and we are going to have hens that just can roam around inside the hen house freely. Well of course there not roaming around freely to begin with, they have been engineered to be top heavy in their chests, their legs are weak, they can barely walk around as it is, and there’s no space for them to walk around.

So there’s no cage, but they’re crammed in this high density population of filth. This article is talking about how this change may not have brought about anything positive. These unfortunate animals are not in a cage anymore, but they can’t really move, and the conditions may be unhealthier. So I’m disappointed that so many organizations, like the Humane Society, have promoted getting rid of the cage because they haven’t gone far enough. We need to get rid of factory farms. We need to get rid of animals being raised in confinement, in hell, in order to make food for people. You know, I’m a vegan. I don’t even think we need to eat eggs, period. But the first step is not to eliminate cages, the first step is to get rid of the factory. Hens should not be in a factory, they should be roaming outdoors, freely having fun with their families, pecking at each other, and you know if they happen to drop an egg here and there, if somebody wants to take advantage of that, that’s one thing. But the factory has to go.

Ok let’s talk about some happy things. Good news! Have you heard about Italy’s Five Star Movement? This is a populist, anti-establishment, environmentalist, anti-globalist, Euro-septic, Euro skeptic movement. The members of the M5S, Five Star Movement, say that it’s not a party but a movement, and doesn’t include the traditional left-right paradigm. Now these five stars reference five key issues for this party or movement; public water, sustainable transport, sustainable development, right to internet access, and environmentalism. Love it. Don’t you love this? The party also advocates direct democracy, principle of zero cost politics, degrowth and nonviolence. They have condemned military interventions of the west, and the Greater Middle east, and as well as American intervention in Syria.

Okay so that brings us to, the mayor of Turin, in Italy, who is a vegetarian, Chiara Appendino, and she is pledging to promote vegetarian and vegan diets as a priority in her administration. This is really, really exciting. The Five Star Movement has a sixty-two page manifesto and it calls for better urban planning, protection of public land, and this endorsement of a meat-free and a dairy-free living is fundamental to the production of environmental health and wellbeing of animals. That’s what this new mayor in Turin is saying. I don’t know if you have seen the story, but this is something to be excited about. Especially with all the other junk going on in the news today, I love promoting these kind of stories. People, in places, that are making positive change. We can do it, even with all the craziness going on, there’s a lot of good things happening.

In my world there’s a lot of good things happening. So as you many know, I live in New York but I’ve been in the Bay area now for two months, and we are staying with family, enjoying some work out here. I happened to be invited to a surprise party at the Seascape Resort, in Aptos, California. Seascape is a lovely resort, I can’t say that I can afford to stay there, but it is nice to be invited to parties. I’m almost ashamed to say, I had almost a smug attitude, when heading there because, even though, the invitation allowed me to select what I wanted for a meal, I think it was either beef, chicken fish or vegetable, I thought, I wonder what does vegetable really means.

I was thinking, gosh they’re probably going to come up with a pasta dish. And I was dreading it thinking that it was going to be boring and unimaginary, unimaginative. I told the server my partner, Gary, and I were vegan and she was totally on it. She served us beautiful salads, to begin with, with those wonderful colorful cherry tomatoes that tasted like candy. And then the main dish came and I was blown away. It was delicious, imaginative. I’ve never had anything like it and that’s what I loved about it too. And I’ll tell u what it was. But it was made, from whole foods, and it was a celebration of local produce, plant foods, colors, flavors, just incredible.

So what was it? It was on the bottom of the plate, is what I call cauliflower steak, it was a big slab, like a slice, if you slice into cauliflower and you make big circular slab of it. So that had been grilled or roasted, I don’t know. But it was the bottom of the plate. And then on top of that was a big pile of sautéed spinach, and on top of that was two big slices of eggplant steak. And I’m not quite sure how they cooked that either. It was either roaster or braised or something, whatever it was, it was just phenomenal. On the side was a roasted, caramelized, onion, and all of it was in this rich roasted red pepper curry sauce. It was a blending of roasted red pepper, curry sauce, seasoning, probably some olive oil. It was very rich. Then there was this sprinkling of pistachio nuts and microgreens on the top. Is your mouth watering? It was a beautiful, colorful dish, just gorgeous. You can see it in my, What Vegans Eat post. I posted pictures of it. I’m going to tell you what day, so you can go and see it because it really was incredible. So I’m thanking, gratefully thanking, the chefs at Seascape and I’m taking back any bad thoughts I had, in my mind about what we were going to get. What Vegans Eat Day 529. You can see that lovely, lovely, lovely dish. I may try and make something like it myself. Why not?

Alright, the other thing I’m very excited about, this isn’t healthy food. This is just fun and I’m glad it’s out there. We went to a Giants ballgame last night. A friend of mine had some tickets that couldn’t be used and Gary and I and his cousins got to benefit. We went to a Giants game at the AT&T Park at the San Francisco. And while I was there, I started searching on my phone about the food that was available there and I found out that the San Francisco AT&T Park is the most vegan friendly of all.

There were lots of choices. The challenge in the choices was that the lines were long everywhere. It was all about how much patience you had standing on line. I interviewed about five years ago Johanna McCloy who has created a website called Soy Happy, it’s now called If you go there, you can get guides to the sports stadiums all over the country and find out what they have and what’s vegan friendly. I used that guide to guide me while I was there last night because I found out that FieldRoast frankfurters are served at the AT&T Park. They also have a beautiful, edible garden, where they have all kind of greens growing, and you can get fresh salads there. This is really very encouraging, very positive. Now a veggie dog is not the healthiest food. But it’s wonderful to go to a ballgame, an American ballgame and enjoy a veggie dog. And that’s just what we did. Happy Ending.

I want to thank you for joining me and remember please visit That’s where I live. My What Vegans Eat Blog is now at day 531, there’s over five hundred posts to help you and give you ideas about vegan eating. That’s all I want to do, I want to make it happy and healthy and easier and delicious. So have a great time and have a delicious week. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food.

Transcribed by Swetha Ramesh, 8/13/2016

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