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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Thursday, June 28th
With all of the stresses we all have to cope with on a regular basis, it is so important to remember to sit back and appreciate what you do have going for you once in a while. Today was one of those days on the farm... sure, I could be complaining that milk prices are down 25%, but all that complaining isn't going to fix anything...instead, I am just enjoying the fact that it is sunny, 80 degrees, with just enough of a breeze to keep the bugs away. As I look out my office window onto the farm, I see some 4-H'ers getting their heifers ready for their first show, the milk cows outside enjoying the sunshine, and I am relishing in the fact that, for the moment, all of our cows are healthy, none of the equipment is broken, and our first cutting hay is put away in the barn. To me, that's the best kind of reality check...when you catch yourself in a moment where all is right in your little sliver of the world and you pause for a moment and take it all in (sigh). Tomorrow will bring another day and new challenges, but for now, I'm good...
Regurgitate? Don't Mind If I Do...Why do cows chew their cud?
Friday, June 15th
Did you know that a cow spends 8 hours a day chewing her cud? That's around 30,000 chews per day! So why exactly does a cow chew her cud? There are two reasons actually...
Survival - A cow has few defenses, other than sheer size and horns, they are not built especially well to ward off attacks from predators. The majority of a cow's diet in the wild would be made up of grasses and a meadow is a lousy place for a 1500 pound cow to hide, so she developed a clever system to limit the time she spends exposed. A cow "power eats" barely chewing her food for a short period of time, consuming as much as she possibly can. Then she goes to find a nice protected place where she can finish chewing in peace and begins the regurgitation process.
Digestion - Cows are really amazing creatures - they are like giant garbage disposals. They can eat all kinds of plant material, like cornstalks that are filled with cellulose, they can even eat by-products. A cow can eat the grain leftover from making beer & alcohol, beet pulp leftover from making sugar from sugar beets, potato peels, you name it, they can break it down. However, they can't break all that fibrous material up on their own, they need enzymes to do the tough work. They get the enzymes from microbes, beneficial microorganisms living in their digestive tract. In my nutrition class at college, we were taught that you don't feed a cow, you feed the bugs in her rumen, keep the bugs happy and well feed and they'll keep the cow healthy too.
Without getting into too much of the mechanics of the digestive system, here's a quick summary for you...when a cow eats, she swallows all of her food into the rumen, the largest of her 4 stomach compartments. After a cow is done power eating, she settles down to rest, relax and chew her cud. She brings a mouthful at a time up from the rumen through the esophagus and into her mouth where it mixes with saliva, a natural antacid for her, and she chews it completely and swallows (it's a really cool thing to watch...you can actually see the mouthful travel up her esophogus...but don't get to close to a cow chewing her cud because the smell will curl your toes!). The chewed food returns to the rumen where the microbes get to work fermenting and breaking it down until eventually it settles and then flows into the second compartment called the reticulum. After that, the food moves to the omasum where the water is absorbed and then finally to the abomasum which is the equivalent of our single stomach, where digestion similar to our own takes place.
Fish Eyes & Glue
Friday, June 15th
One of our favorite activities is getting off the farm and out into the public to introduce our pudding to folks around New England. We have literally handed out well over 100,000 samples in our 17 years of operation and there is one question we get over and over again..."What is tapioca anyways?" Let's start out with what it's not - here are some of my favorite nicknames customers have used for tapioca over the years...
Fish eyes & glue
Fish egg pudding
Frog's egg pudding
Frog's eye pudding
In actuality, the tapioca pearls used in our tapioca pudding are derived from the root of the cassava plant which originated in South America. The cassava plant, also known as yuca (different from the yucca plant) or manioc, is extremely drought resistant and can be grown in the poorest of soils. There is evidence that the cassava plant had been cultivated as early as 1400 years ago in a Maya site in El Salvador.
Oddly enough, the leaves and roots of the cassava plant are poisonous, containing cyanide, which if consumed in enough quantity can cause partial paralysis and acute cyanide intoxication. The cassava roots are ground up, soaked and processed to remove the cyanide and make them safe to consume. Then the powder is formed into flakes, bars, or pearls to be used as a thickening agent in puddings, pies, soups and drinks. Cassava is now grown all over the world and is a staple in the diet's of many African countries.
Well, that's the 411 on our 2nd best selling flavor. Perhaps instead of referring to tapioca pudding as fish eyes & glue, we should start calling it caviar custard...has kind of a ritzy ring to it doesn't it? Nah! For me, there's really only one thing to call it...delicious!
Are there any nicknames missing from our list?