Extreme Salad and Crazy Potatoes

Step away from the French fries—and even from that bag of pre-washed mixed greens lurking in the crisper drawer. It's time to reconsider the potato and up your salad game.

Fantasy Salad competition
Multi-species salad, via Stephen Barstow.

In this episode, Cynthia and Nicky talk to science writer Ferris Jabr about the chestnut-flavored, gemstone-hued potatoes he discovered in Peru, as well as the plant breeders working to expand American potato choices beyond the Russet Burbank and Yukon Gold. Plus we meet wild gardener Stephen Barstow, whose gorgeous megasalads include 537 different plants, to talk about ancient Norwegian rooftop onion gardens and the weedy origins of borscht. If you thought you knew your veggies, think again—and listen in!

Huaña harvest3
A farmer holds up a potato in Peru. Photograph by Cynthia Graber.

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No Scrubs: Breeding a Better Bull

In 1900, the average dairy cow in America produced 424 gallons of milk each year. By 2000, that figure had more than quadrupled, to 2,116 gallons. In this episode of Gastropod, we explore the incredible science that transformed the American cow into a milk machine—but we also uncover the disturbing history of prejudice and animal cruelty that accompanied it.

Along the way, we’ll introduce you to the insane logic of the Lifetime Cheese Merit algorithm and the surreal bull trials of the 1920s. This is the untold story behind that most wholesome and quotidian of beverages: milk. Prepare to be horrified and amazed in equal measure.

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Enhanced Eating with Dan Pashman

Have you ever wondered how to avoid sandwich sogginess, what scented soap to pair with your restaurant order, and whether airplane food can be made to taste of anything at all? Dan Pashman has, and his new book, Eat More Better, is filled with deeply researched, science-based hacks to improve your everyday eating. Pashman, host of The Sporkful, shares his pro tips and dream lunchbox design in conversation with Cynthia and Nicky: listen, learn, and win a copy of his book for yourself.

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Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast: the most important meal of the day. Or is it? In this episode of Gastropod, we explore the science and history behind the most intentionally designed, the most industrialized, and the most argued about meal of all.

Armed with a healthy dose of caffeine chronopharmacology, we embark on a global breakfast tour that exposes the worldwide dominance of Nutella, as well as the toddler kimchi acclimatization process. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., we trace the American breakfast’s evolution from a humble mash-up of leftover dinner foods to its eighteenth-century explosion into a feast of meats, griddle cakes, eel, and pie—followed swiftly by a national case of indigestion and a granola-fueled backlash. Breakfast has been a battleground ever since: in this episode, we not only explain why, but also serve up the best breakfast contemporary science can provide.

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Night of the Living Radishes

For this special New Year episode, Gastropod transports you to Oaxaca, Mexico, for the legendary Night of the Radishes, celebrated the night before Christmas eve, where locals present their most elaborate and inventive radish carvings. You’ll also get a taste of entomophagy, otherwise known as the practice of eating bugs, when Cynthia and her partner Tim try chapulines, or grasshoppers, for the first time.
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Kale of the Sea

Call off the search for the new kale: we've found it, and it's called kelp! In this episode of Gastropod, we explore the science behind the new wave of seaweed farms springing up off the New England coast, and discover seaweed's starring role in the peopling of the Americas.

The story of seaweed will take us from a medicine hut in southern Chile to a high-tech seaweed nursery in Stamford, Connecticut, and from biofuels to beer, as we discover the surprising history and bright future of marine vegetables. Along the way, we uncover the role kelp can play in supporting U.S. fishermen, cleaning up coastal waters, and even helping make salmon farms more sustainable.

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Bite: Smoked Pigeon and Other Subnatural Delights

In this week's bite-sized episode, Nicky travels to the campus of Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, for a day of talks and tastings exploring the shifting status of stinky cheese, offal, insects, and other funky foods. At different times and places, these foods have been regarded as "subnatural"—low-class, disgusting, even unhygienic. But what does categorizing these foods as subnatural say about us, and what happens when we decide that they're desirable, after all?

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The Microbe Revolution

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ve probably heard about the human microbiome.

Research into the composition, function, and importance of the galaxy of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that, when we’re healthy, live in symbiotic balance in and on us has become one of the fastest moving and most intriguing fields of scientific study. But it turns out that plants have a microbiome too—and it’s just as important and exciting as ours.

In this episode of Gastropod, we look at the brand new science that experts think will lead to a “Microbe Revolution” in agriculture, as well as the history of both probiotics for soils and agricultural revolutions. And we do it all in the context of the crop that Bill Gates has called “the world’s most interesting vegetable”: the cassava.

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Bite: Forgotten Fruits & the Future of Food?

We're back with a bite-sized discussion of two fascinating food history and science stories that have crossed our paths in the last couple of weeks. This time, co-host Nicky spends a week living on Soylent, the Silicon Valley-spawned food replacement-drink, and then we learn about the weird world of fruit detectives, who hunt down America's long-lost apples with the help of watercolor illustrations drawn by 19th-century USDA artists. In one short, sweet conversation, we go from the recurring futuristic fantasy of the meal-in-a-pill to the unintentionally disastrous impact of Prohibition on America's apple diversity.

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Dan Barber’s Quest for Flavor

In this latest episode of Gastropod, chef and author Dan Barber takes listeners on a journey around the world in search of great flavor and the ecosystems that support it, from Spain to the deep South.

You’ll hear how a carefully tended landscape of cork trees makes for delicious ham, and about a squash so cutting edge it doesn’t yet have a name, in this deep dive into the intertwined history and science of soil, cuisine, and flavor.

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time before refrigerators, before long-distance trucks and ships. Most people had to survive on food from their immediate surroundings, no matter how poor the soil or challenging the terrain. They couldn’t import apples from New Zealand and potatoes from Peru, or rely on chemical fertilizer to boost their yields.

From within these constraints, communities around the world developed a way of eating that Dan Barber calls “ecosystem cuisines.” Barber, the James Beard-award-winning chef of Blue Hill restaurant and author of the new book The Third Plate, spoke to Gastropod about his conviction that this historically-inspired style of cuisine can be reinvented, with the help of plant-breeders, his fellow chefs, and the latest in flavor science, in order to create a truly sustainable way to eat for the twenty-first century.

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