News posts from MSK's Archive

Confessions of an Apple Snob

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Chelsea Green senior editor Ben Watson works from his home in New Hampshire and periodically stops by the White River Junction office for editorial meetings and to bring us some tasty treats. Ben knows where to find the best berries, apples, wild mushrooms and so much more. Being the slow foodie that he is, Ben has some apple wisdom to share before you take your yearly trip to the orchard.

Confessions of an Apple Snob

By Ben Watson, Chelsea Green Senior Editor

October 1, 2006

Every autumn, in addition to my editorial work, I assume my alter ego and become a kind of “apple evangelist,” someone who travels around the country speaking to people about the incredible diversity of apples and, better yet, letting them see and taste some of the wonderful old and uncommon varieties that are still being grown by small-scale local orchards.

By some accounts there are around 7,500 named varieties of apples in the world; yet as recently as a few years ago, only eight varieties comprised 80 percent of the US crop: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonathan, McIntosh, Rome, Stayman, and York. Today we have a new wave of market apples: Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Pink Lady, and others. In some ways this represents a big improvement; we find fewer and fewer beautiful but mealy and thoroughly inedible Red Delicious in the supermarket produce aisle these days.

However, in other respects the apple is still a bellwether, a symbol of much that is wrong with our current globalized food system. Even though apples can be grown in all but the most subtropical parts of North America, we are importing “out-of-season” fruit from New Zealand and Chile. Yet because there are all kinds of apples – some that ripen in July or August, others that stay on the tree and don’t ripen until November – our season for fresh apples is really much longer than those few weeks in the fall when most people pack up the kids and go picking in the orchard. Apples are not like strawberries or sweet corn, a fleeting and seasonal indulgence. Some local varieties of apples (like the Roxbury Russet, which was discovered in the 1640s and is the oldest surviving American apple variety) can be stored successfully all winter long, and are still good to use in March or April of the following year. Many apples, like Esopus Spitzenburg, actually taste richer and more mellow and reach their height of flavor after a couple months in cold storage. In other words, local apple season doesn’t have to end at Halloween, or Thanksgiving, or even at Christmas.

Small commercial orchards are part of the historic landscape in much of the US, yet today they are threatened by rampant land development caused by rising property values; by falling prices for apples due to global competition (China has recently surpassed the US as the world’s largest apple-growing nation) ; and, quite frankly, by consumer ignorance and apathy. Not so many years ago, most people knew what different apples were good for. Do you want the perfect apple for baking a pie? There are lots of choices, but almost none of the bland supermarket varieties are good candidates. Instead, go to the orchard and buy Gravensteins, Wealthys, or Northern Spys. Are you making a tarte tatin or strudel? Try Belle de Boskoop, a Dutch variety that holds its shape and turns a translucent golden yellow when cooked; or Calville Blanc d’Hiver, an odd-looking lobed green apple with a red cheek that contains more vitamin C by weight than an orange. What about baked apples for dessert? Try using one of the old-fashioned low-acid apples like Pound Sweet or Sheepnose.

Older folks generally can remember their favorite varieties and what they were good for; yet if we don’t support our local orchardists, our children may never see these splendid apples outside of private orchards and historical museums. Such apples often have a wonderful and distinctive flavor or aroma: once you’ve bitten into a Pitmaston Pineapple or Chenango Strawberry, it’s easy to see how they got their names.

With the growing emphasis on eating more locally, small to medium-sized orchards could, and should, become an important component in our local “foodsheds.” We may not all be able to raise apple trees at home, but we can all definitely become apple connoisseurs, and help to carry on one of America’s proudest agricultural traditions.

For more on growing apples organically on a small scale, see Michael Phillips’ excellent book, The Apple Grower, published by Chelsea Green. For more on old varieties of apples, go to Slow Food USA’s website,, and turn to the Ark and Presidia page. And for more information on a terrific regional celebration of apples and cider (hard and sweet) in the Northeast, come to the 12th Annual Cider Day in western Massachusetts , November 4-5, 2006 (

It’s Official: Biodiesel is a Word!!

Friday, July 21st, 2006

Its official: Biodiesel is a word. Biodiesel, along with ringtone, soul patch, and supersize have made it into Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Soon you won’t have to deal with the red spell-check underline that annoyingly appear when you type biodiesel. And, the word can now earn you some hefty points if you manage to work it into your scrabble game.

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri– Defining a new level of success, the word “biodiesel” appears in the 2006 update of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition . This marks the first time that it has appeared in the dictionary, and signifies that biodiesel is becoming a household word.

What’s more, word has it that Merriam-Webster put biodiesel on the short list of examples of new words added to the dictionary. That means “biodiesel” joins the ranks of “ringtone,” “soul patch” and “supersize” in drumming up interest in modern lexicography.

The new dictionary defines biodiesel as: “a fuel that is similar to diesel fuel and is derived from usually vegetable sources (as soybean oil).”

“Appearing as a word in the dictionary gives biodiesel the credibility that it deserves,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. “It shows we are making an impact on getting biodiesel into the mainstream, and that is very gratifying.”

Biodiesel significantly cuts harmful environmental emissions, promotes greater energy independence and boosts our economy. It has become America’s fastest growing alternative fuel according to the Department of Energy. Production tripled in 2005, reaching 75 million gallons. The industry is on track to double production this year, to 150 million gallons.

More information on biodiesel can be found at To see other new words, visit Merriam-Webster. Sponsored by the USDA Biodiesel Education Program.

Wilson: Day 9

Thursday, July 13th, 2006

Diane Wilson, author of An Unreasonable Woman is participating in the Troops Home Fast. She will be on an indefinite hunger strike until American troops are pulled out of Iraq. Thousands of people from around the world are participating in this rolling fast. Find out more at Here is her report from Day 9.

July 12, 2006

Holding this water bottle pretty close. I try not to use a different plastic bottle every day and end up polluting the earth with more trash. We’ve got enough landfills. The car that has the water jugs is out at the capitol so I’ve got an empty water bottle. Oh well, so much for drinking water. Dick Gregory, the legendary faster and our official ‘doctor’ said drink at least a gallon of water a day and I certainly don’t do that. Probably more like 2 pints. Maybe that’s the reason my voice gets lower and lower; its gotta be a water issue there.

Diane Wilson: Day 4

Friday, July 7th, 2006

Diane Wilson, author of An Unreasonable Woman is participating in the Troops Home Fast. She will be on an indefinite hunger strike until American troops are pulled out of Iraq. Thousands of people from around the world are participating in this rolling fast. Find out more at Here is her report from Day 4.

July 7, 2006

I started a letter on the first day but pooped out. Probably it was that 2 mile walk in the hot hot sun that did it. Dick Gregory, who’s famous for his hunger strikes on the Viet Nam war, made a speech under the trees and said if you’re on a fast its real important to pace yourself, don’t exercise, don’t walk 50 blocks to a July 4 parade. But on the first day, even with seven hunger strikes under my belt, I walked all the way to the parade. Then the rest of the day I sat under a tree, red-faced and exhausted. Not a good start.

Diane Wilson: Day 2

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Diane Wilson, author of An Unreasonable Woman is participating in the Troops Home Fast. She will be on an indefinite hunger strike until American troops are pulled out of Iraq. Thousands of people from around the world are participating in this rolling fast. Find out more at Here is her report from Day 2.

July 5, 2006

The first hunger strike I did on a shrimp boat in Texas is kinda like that tree in the forest illustration. You know, does it make a sound if nobody hears it. I was fasting on a shrimp boat in 1991. A lot of folks were putting me thru the wringer over it. My mom and sisters and two brothers included. The only folks that knew about the hunger strike were Formosa Plastics, a petrochemical plant that I was fighting. So every day, here came the corporate officers in their black suits and they’d tell me how stupid I looked. Didn’t I realize how stupid I looked? Well, no I didn’t, so I stayed there until the captain of the shrimp boat showed up and told me to get off his dang boat or he’d throw me overboard. Amazingly, after 14 days I won everything I wanted on that hunger strike.

Italy Hosts International Conference on Peak Oil

Monday, June 26th, 2006

July 18-19 the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas will host the fifth international conference on Peak Oil. The gathering will showcase top oil depletion experts, including Chelsea Green author Dennis Meadows (Limits to Growth).

“ASPO-5 is the culmination of a year-long collaboration,” says Ugo Bardi, professor of chemistry at the University of Florence and lead organizer of the conference, set in the Mediterranean seaside park of San Rossore, three miles from Pisa. “We’re bringing together an incredible group of experts and scientists along with growing numbers of individuals and government officials who are concerned about energy depletion.”

Featuring a veritable who’s who of the peak oil movement, the conference is expected to make news with fresh assessments of the world’s oil reserves and production capacity, new insights into the likely impacts of peak oil (as well as gas and coal), and creative strategies for negotiating the ride down the far side of Hubbert’s curve.

Find out more.

When Will the Dems Learn to Frame?

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

As my colleague Jonathan Teller-Elsberg would say: How many times do I have to tell you: Don’t Think of an Elephant. The Democrats must learn to do some framing of their own, and learn it quickly.

GOP wants `cut and run’ label to stick
Analysts: Branding of Democrats’ war policy could pay off

The Boston Globe
By Joseph Williams
June 21, 2006

WASHINGTON — It began in the 1700s as nautical shorthand for a swift retreat, a commander’s order to slash his ship’s anchor chain and outrace overwhelming enemy fire. Over centuries, as sailing ships gave way to ironclads, the phrase drifted to the linguistic backwater.

Now, however, “cut and run,” has sailed back into the national lexicon — particularly on Capitol Hill.

As Congress debated the Iraq war yesterday, Republicans bombarded Democrats at every turn with the phrase, the GOP’s latest way of branding their opponents on the congressional record — and in headlines — as weak on defense.


CGP author one of most influential lawyers in Ameirca

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Michael Ratner, author of Guantanamo: What the World Should Know has been selected as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by The National Law Journal.

The National Law Journal
Michael Ratner
63, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York

A human rights advocate, Ratner is president of this liberal public interest group, which uses litigation to advocate positions on government abuse, torture and civil rights; the 40-year-old nonprofit was among the first to bring suits after Sept. 11, 2001, on behalf of alleged terrorists imprisoned in the U.S. Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; has opposed the Bush administration’s use of executive power in the war on terrorism and the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program; an adjunct professor of law at Columbia University, Ratner has written books including Against War With Iraq and Guantánamo: What the World Should Know.

See the list of the 100 lawyers chosen for this award.


Tuesday, November 1st, 2005

Below is a piece by Aldo Vidali, the director who is doing a film based on the ideas in George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant. The Fellini-style film now in production—DEFLATING THE ELEPHANT: The Art and Science of Framing—will show people how to deflate rogue elephants. In this post Vidali deflates a few of the elephant frames behind which George Bush is hiding.


By Aldo Vidali
October 31, 2005

The current White House troubles are evidence of a cosmic law: The truth shall be revealed.

Many who followed the heroic stand of Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier, in Crawford, Texas’ Lone Star Iconoclast may have noticed that the question Cindy repeatedly asked was one too embarrassing for W to answer: “What is the noble cause for which our soldiers are dying?” Conniving George couldn’t answer because his “noble cause” metaphor is an outrageously false frame coined to cover the ugliest of facts (which are the exact opposite of anything noble): the “cause” George paints as “noble” is a series of vile, premeditated international crimes, the worst being an illegal armed aggression against another nation.

The 1945 Nuremberg Charter is clear: “To initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” At the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership, counts one and two, “conspiracy to wage aggressive war” and “waging aggressive war,” refer to “the common plan or conspiracy.” These are defined in the indictment as “the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances.”

A wealth of evidence is now available that George Bush, Tony Blair, and their advisers did just that. Nazi leaders were sentenced to death and hung for their crimes. Under U.S. law the penalty for the same crimes is capital punishment. In the near future when the American people realize fully what has been done to them and their country and understand the irreparable damage they and their children have suffered at the hands of greedy, treasonous murderers, we will witness another war crimes trial.

Jen Nix Podcast

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Should progressive political writers put their money where their mouth is? Jen Nix’s article for Alternet, “Sleeping with the Enemy”, challenged progressive authors to sign their books with small publishers, rather than with the media giants. Jen talk with Francesca Rheannon, producer and co-host of Writer’s Voice about the article and about independent media in a publishing landscape dominated by a few big companies.

Download the Writer’s Voice podcast.

Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By