Micro-Biome: The Bugs that Eat our Food and the Poop They Feed Us

 

Mapping the micro biome is the next frontier in human health. And, as crazy as it sounds, it has everything to do with food.

You see, the act of chewing our food and swallowing is only the beginning. The bulk of the eating process takes place in our intestines – where all the bugs live. They process what you swallow and it’s their waste that we humans digest. Without beneficial bacteria in our bodies, we would suffer from a long list of possible illnesses. Bacteria does the body good. However, when out of balance, they can cause a person to suffer a heart attack. They can even go as far as influencing your most intimate thoughts and emotions.

Gastromonkn Modern Food Microbiology

There are more bacteria in your gut than people on the face of the earth.

Which all begs the question: is it possible to farm your own herd of super awesome bacteria to stay happy and healthy?

(Enter stage left – Petri dish and agar solutions…)

– Matt

MASSIVE DIE-OFF & The Quest to Grow History’s Lost Banana

 

gastromonk dead banana treesThe banana that we have all grown up eating is the product of one single solitary unique mono-crop cultivar.

The yellow berry that graces the shelf at your produce market is often called the Chiquita Banana. However, it is more appropriately called the CAVENDISH Banana (named after, William Cavendish, the botanist that cultivated it). You can get the Cavendish in various stages of ripeness (stage 1, 2, etc.) and that is pretty much all the variety you’ll get.


Exempli Gratia


 

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–> Please, purchase: Granny Smith Apples, Florida Oranges, Tasti Lee Tomatoes and bananas. image

–> Heard that… Granny, Florida, Tasti Lee and bananas!

 


The type of banana is typically assumed to be… yellow.


Why, may you ask, is there only one type of banana that graces the shelf at the market and not a heaping yellow pile of options that range from Florida to California and everything in between?

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Two Compelling Theories

A) Cultivars out there in the banana world that are dessert ready (no seeds and high brix [a refractory measurement of sugar] levels) are not very shelf stable. That is, they don’t make it from the farm to market to table in delicious or aesthetically pleasing form for consumers on a mass scale. banana-guideSome of the best tasting varieties achieve peak deliciousness when they look like they’ve been bounced out of a rowdy bar and dragged across the pavement. This just isn’t fit for the eye to eat. It’s not a pretty sight and to be quite honest, it’s down right ugly. But, they taste good. They taste way better than the plain tasting Cavendish banana sold at the store. But, the Cavendish banana is yellow. It’s a very yellow banana.

B) The Cavendish has shown strong resistance to problematic diseases that farmers face when growing other types of bananas. This allows the farmer to plant closely for mega crops. Let’s face it, farmers deal in mass quantity to make ends meet. A small crop yield can easily spell doom for the lowly farmer. The Cavendish is easy to grow and can ship green for the market. It’s easy to grow.

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Historically Out of Luck

In the 1950’s, an aggressive fungus (Fusarium oxysporum) destroyed entire plantations of the original variety of grocery store banana… the legendary GROS MICHEL.

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This was the banana that our grandparents ate.

The taste is said to be far superior to the current variety you find at the store. The disease that wiped out the GROS MICHEL is nick-named, “Panama Disease”. It spreads rapidly.

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F. oxysporum

It wasn’t long before major importers of Gros Michel bananas went nearly bankrupt. Some Gros Michel plants survived being mangled by the disease. However, they were located in remote aregastromonk yes we have no bananas.jpgas of south east Asia. Over all, consumer demand for bananas went unsatisfied. There was even a popular song written about the plight of the Gros Michel. The lyrics state that “Yes! We have no bananas.”

In 1965, the Gros Michel was declared commercially extinct. Farmers were left with no choice but to burn entire fields. In the wake of devastation, a solution came to fruition. A new variety that was fully resistant to Panama Disease was cultivated and the era of the Cavendish Banana was born. Cavendish was the solution. And, it worked.

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Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., Banana Market Review

But, what if a fatal unstoppable disease were to spread through Cavendish Banana groves and wipe out the vast majority of their population… what backup cultivar exists to take its place on a grand scale for farmers to grow and merchants to stock our grocery shelves?

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History repeats itself.

The photo above was taken in S.Africa on, 03/19/2013. You can see that Fusarium oxysporum has successfully evolved to infect Cavendish Bananas. History has demonstrated that this disease is aggressive and rapidly spread.

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F. oxysporum in full effect – AUSTRALIA

 

Solutions?

There are potential solutions bantered about the table… naturally cross breeding Cavendish bananas with varieties that are resistant to Panama Fungus, complete intervention with genetic modification and / or possible replacement varieties. Scientists are working hard to find a solution. In the meantime, we should continue to celebrate the Cavendish and all of the happiness that it brings.  

Surprises?

 

Mikey is from true USDA tissue cultured disease free stock. He’s a healthy Gros Michel banana tree baby. He grows happily in his pot of mushroom compost and lives next to my Miracle Tree.

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“Mikey”

One day, he will be a big tree and produce a bunch of bananas… satisfyingly delicious bananas steeped in the magical secret flavors that our grandparents grew up eating when they were kids.

Turkey Thigh Confit in Bacon Fat with Dry Brined Breast Cooked Sous Vide

It’s that time of year.

Turkey tradition will gather us to the table. Some will roast their birds and others will smoke them. The daring will fry them in large vats of hot bubbling oil. This year, I cooked my turkey just like none of those examples.

Here’s what happened…

* when cooking sous vide, use only food grade / bpa free material.  

Quick Review of the Breakdown – 30 Second Video 

Stock Under Pressure & Gravy with Marmite?

To make delicious gravy, we must first make a great stock.

Sounds like a plan… but, what if you need to use the stove for other things besides simmering a pot of bones for 5 hours? 

A pressure cooker (set approximately 15 psi @ 1 atm) can cut cooking time by 1/3. But, is it even possible to use one to make high quality stock

Find out the answer in this video. 

Let’s make a delicious gravy.

I’ve enhanced the sauce with Marmite. It’s a vegetarian yeast (made from beer brewer’s yeast, a natural waste product created during the beer making process) that’s loaded with umami (savory flavor). This step is optional.

To test your gravy for nappe consistency, dip your spoon into the sauce and turn it upside down. The bottom of the spoon (now, facing up) should be coated in a full blanket of slow moving sauce.

For more nappe, add another silver leaf (gelatin) or reduce by 1/3 on low heat. Always, use fresh herb aromatics and season to taste. 

This one minute video explains the recipe.

Three Sisters and High Temperature Fire Roasting

 

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Mel Bartholomew and “Square Foot Gardening”

In 1981, Mel Bartholomew coined the phrase “Square Foot Gardening”.

It was a system designed to maximize space, utilize companion planting and create “living mulch”. As innovative as this appeared, the system of companion planting existed long before, 1981.

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IROQUOIS AGRICULTURAL FIELD – NY State Museum

The companion planting technique was practiced by Native Americans for at least 300 years before Europeans arrived, placing it around seven hundred years old.

THREE SISTERS demonstrates deep understanding of nature (see: Gastromonk Precept 1.1). It truly defines sustainable crop planting based on seasonal rhythms in a simple and elegant way.

Corn (Maize) grows tall and its stalk provides support for bean vines. At seasons end, legumes self-compost and replenish nitrogen in the soil. Low growing squash doubles as a ground cover to block weeds and method to retain moisture in the soil.

The name “Three Sisters” comes from an Iroquois creation myth.

To celebrate this in the form of a dish, I use fire and lots of it. Heat in excess of 900 F is applied using a technique that I call, High Temperature Fire Roasting.

Have a look

Part One: Harvesting the Ocean for Salt with Sustainable Methods and Advanced Safety Protocols

I remember, when my grandmother explained about grey salt and white salt.

She said that grey salt was from the southern part of the island and that white salt was from lagoon. The locals keep the water in coconut shells and then, leave them outside. The water will air dry (solar evaporation) and the sand that remains in the shell…that’s salt.

I was born native to, Guam. It’s a tropical Island that is located in the South Pacific and part of Oceania, a U.S. Territory and approximately 30 x 15 (miles in size).

 

“Spanish Steps” Beach, GUAM, USA

 

Solar Evaporation (what grandma used to make salt) and hydro-distillation are ancient methods of harvesting from the ocean.

We could rightly say that other ancient methods for harvesting from the ocean are things like using bamboo spears to catch fish or Cormorant Fishing (created ~900AD). Cormorant Fishermen are only found in Japan and China. They use cormorants fitted with special collars that prevent their necks from hyper expansion / swallowing fish. The birds are trained to dive for fish and return to the boat.

Give him and bird and he will eat for a day.  Train him to train a bird to fish for him, and…

Comorant Fishing in China's Yongjia County, Zhejiang Province.
Cormorant Fishing in China’s Yongjia County, Zhejiang Province..

Of course, times have changed and technology has greatly improved upon the design of the bamboo spear. Using rust proof metal and ballistics, we now have the spear-gun. The 1,000 year old method of cormorant fishing is all but, extinct. It has been outpaced by modern fishing vessels, sonar technology and advanced capture methods.

Yet, we still harvest salt from the sea like our ancestors. 

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California- Air Drying Bay water for Sea Salt
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Celtic – Raking Air Dried Sea Salt
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India – Raking Air Dried Sea Salt
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Peru – Collecting Air Dried Sea Salt
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Hawaii – Collecting Air Dried Sea Salt

The ocean is no longer the great blue sea of our grandparents.

Rapid industrial growth has led to aggressive dumping of synthetic toxins, organic pollutants and radioactive waste directly to the ocean. We live in a world where our water (fresh and salt) contains unprecedented levels of pollution.

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Sea Salt Extracted From Ponte Vedra Beach (from left to right) – Datil Pepper Salt Flakes, Pure Ponte Vedra, Sawgrass Leaf Smoked Artisan

(what I ended up with after test melting salt at 1,500 degrees fahrenheit for mold capabilities)

This is part one, of my journey back to sea. 

Join me, as I research, test and design modern techniques that honor the past through sustainable methodologies of harvesting sea salt that is fit for human consumption.

 

Taming Lion Fish with Artisanal Vinegar

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The Lion Fish is a voracious predator. 

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It is thought that introduction of this non-native species was due largely, in part, to the exotic fish trade. Populations have flourished off the coast of, Florida and have since began migration into areas once thought to be uninhabitable.

It has no nemesis in the, Atlantic Ocean.

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In, North Carolina,  scientists have measured a 700% population surge over four year period (NOAA). To make matters worse, you can not use a hook line to catch, Lion Fish. Due to their unique behavior and feeding characteristics, each Lion Fish must be hand caught by a diver with a spear.

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Lion Fish – Black Garlic Miso Yaki

When a non-native species is introduced to an ecosystem where it has no nemesis, an ideal environment for infestation, resource destruction, habitat loss and mass extinction exists.

GastroMonk Lionfish

 

Follow me, on a journey of making Artisanal Vinegar

…to serve lion fish, three ways.

Carving Jack O’lanterns and Thorium Based Cloud Chambers

We all remember our first dance, our first kiss, and even, our first thorium based cloud chamber.

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my spooky 6th grade physics science project at state fair – chasing “ghosts” (alpha and beta particles) using a thorium based cloud chamber

There’s a first time for everything.

This was my first attempt at pumpkin carving and in the true spirit of sustainability, I’ve saved all the seeds. Half will be eaten and the other half will be planted. With a little luck and a lot of nature, they’ll provide pumpkin(s) for next year’s carving and pies. 

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Watch the process from start to the very next day’s exhibition: