Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.
Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss and this episode we are focusing on superfoods for the sixth time.
Hallie: It is superfoods time again. It’s been a little while and we are back at it again.
Chris: We are. Hey, you know what I had for dessert last night?
Chris: Or actually no, I made it yesterday and I had it for breakfast this morning.
Chris: Chocolate chia pudding.
Hallie: Yum, right?
Chris: It was really good. I made chocolate milk out of oat milk using my hot chocolate recipe and then I put it some chia full. You got to mix the chia seeds up at some point because otherwise they get all gloopy at the bottom.
Chris: That’s takings I’m getting used to, but it was delicious.
Hallie: So good.
Chris: Yeah, oat milk is good stuff people.
Hallie: Oat milk is the best of the milks.
Chris: It is.
Hallie: Should we dive into it? Oh, first I wanted to tell everyone that these superfood ideas came from polls that we held on Twitter and Instagram.
Chris: That’s right.
Hallie: If you want to get involved in choosing the next superfoods for the next episode, then you should make sure you’re following on Twitter and Instagram because that is how we are now deciding which foods we’re going to be talking about.
Chris: You have questions, we’ve got answers.
Hallie: We’ve got answers, you all. First crop is wild rice.
Chris: Wild rice, the kind of rice that I never liked to eat as a kid.
Hallie: Why did you not like to eat it?
Chris: I liked white rice. That was enough rice for me.
Hallie: What do you mean that was enough rice for you? You didn’t like wild rice?
Chris: That was the best rice. That was the only rice that I thought was good.
Hallie: Because it’s plain and starchy and boring and not delicious?
Chris: Yes, just like me.
Hallie: Yeah, exactly. You’re plain, white, starchy and boring.
Chris: That’s right. Born and bred. No, but I don’t know.
Wild rice and brown rice, they just all tasted weird and different.
Hallie: I mean, they are different. That’s part of the thing that people don’t know about wild rice. Brown rice and white rice are very similar. Wild rice and white rice are actually quite different.
Hallie: They’re fully different species.
Chris: Because it looks like plain rice but it’s a bunch of different colors.
Hallie: Yeah, when you get the wild rice that’s mixed up and it is different colors, oftentimes it’s different kinds of rice that they have taken and mixed together. Like if you get wild rice off of one rice plant, they’re all the same color usually.
Chris: Are you saying they’re lying to me?
Hallie: I mean, it is wild that they do mix multiple kinds of rice and pack them.
Chris: [Laughs]. That is so wild.
Hallie: Because oftentimes the rice in those bags has different cooking times from each other because it’s different plants. It’s different kinds of rice.
Chris: Oh, that’s outright annoying.
Hallie: Yeah, it’s kind of annoying, but it usually ends up tasting good, but you can actually buy straight up one species wild rice if you want and we’re going to talk about that.
Chris: Okay. Talk about that.
Hallie: Wild rice is also called Canada rice. It’s also called Indian rice. It’s also called water oats. The ojibwe word for it is manoomin.
Chris: Is it called Canada rice because it grows in Canada or because Canadians are particularly wild?
Hallie: Because it grows in Canada.
Hallie: [Laughs]. I think we all know Canadians are not particularly wild.
Hallie: The species is Zizania. It’s related to as I mentioned Oryzeae, which is the white rice, but it is a different genus within a similar area of the family and it’s all within the same grass family, which Poaceae, which is the grass family has tons and tons of plants in it. It is native to North America and to Asia. Mostly, it’s found in small lakes and streams. There are four different species. You have Zizania palustris, which is Northern wild rice. It’s native to the Great Lakes region of North America and then a little bit further west up into the plains and forests of what is present day Canada and parts of the US. You have Zizania aquatica, which is wild rice. The common name is just wild rice. It is native to the Saint Lawrence River, which feeds into Lake Ontario and it’s also native to parts of Florida and the Atlantic and Gulf Coast. Then you have Zizania texana, which common name is Texas wild rice. Do you know about this rice?
Chris: I feel like I’ve seen it in the grocery store maybe.
Hallie: You have absolutely not.
Chris: Really? Okay. I know nothing about Texas wild rice then.
Hallie: So I think you probably should know some things about Texas wild rice.
Chris: As in, I need to know this for my survival?
Chris: Or is this something I should have picked up along the way?
Hallie: Yes, the second one.
Hallie: Texas wild rice is endemic. It’s extremely endangered and it’s pretty much endemic to one river in Texas.
Hallie: Which is the San Marcos River.
Chris: Oh, no kidding.
Chris: Were we around it when we went swimming?
Hallie: All the time.
Chris: Oh wow. [Laughs].
Hallie: Yes, constantly. The San Marcos River is a spring fed river.
Chris: Yeah, it’s cold.
Hallie: There used to be a place right at the spring called Aquarena Springs known for dressing ladies in mermaid costumes amongst other things.
Chris: Yes, and swimming pigs.
Hallie: But yeah, Aquarena Springs was home to the Texas wild rice for the decades it was open.
Hallie: Yeah, Texas State has a research station there and they study wild rice. It’s very endangered. It’s kind of weird because part of the main park in San Marcos, I went to school in San Marcos. We didn’t mention that. I went to school in San Marcos, Texas and the main park where all of the college students swim every single day and they jump in and they do challenges and they throw Frisbees, that is where that rice is native to. If you jump in and you swim, there’s all this rice around you and people are always complaining about getting tangled up in the rice and all that.
Chris: It’s so wild to me that it could be endangered because rice is something that I think of as so common, but we just have this little rice plant in Texas that you say I’ve never eaten it. Has anyone eaten it? Is it edible?
Hallie: It’s totally edible, but generally, no. You definitely don’t want to eat it because it’s so endangered. It’s just really, really hard for the flowers themselves to get pollinated because the pollen moves very slowly and it doesn’t move very far, so it’s hard for the pollen to get into the flower and it’s hard for the flower to make fruits. When the fruits are made, we really want those to turn into rice plants because it is hard to get those little rice fruits.
Chris: Then with fewer bees around, that’s probably just making things even more difficult.
Hallie: Well, rice is actually not pollinator pollinated. It’s wind and water pollinated.
Chris: Oh, kill the bees. Rice don’t care.
Hallie: Not relevant.
Chris: Don’t kill the bees. Is there like a black market restaurant where I can pay a thousand bucks a plate to eat Texas wild rice?
Hallie: You didn’t hear this from me, but not no. The answer is not no to that question.
Hallie: But don’t go looking for it at all. Do not go looking for this.
Chris: Oh, wow. Okay. Alright. That might be in the outtakes. We’ll see.
Hallie: The fourth species of Zizania is Zizania latifolia, which is native to China. Manchurian wild rice is the common name. It’s native to that part of China, which used to be called Manchuria. It’s also really hard to find it in China in the wild, so it’s also kind of endangered in China, but it’s actually invasive species in New Zealand.
Chris: That’s where their candidate is from.
Hallie: Yeah, is that the one thing you know about Manchuria?
Chris: It’s the Manchurian candidate.
Hallie: Great, dad.
Chris: That’s it. That’s all I got.
Hallie: The first two species that we talked about Zizania palustris and Zizania aquatica are the species that are most commonly eaten. They’re not endangered. You can find them in the grocery store. They are eaten both today and also have been eaten for centuries by indigenous people that are native to Turtle Island or what we call North America.
Hallie: I mentioned earlier the Ojibwe word for this plant because that’s the one that I was able to find online, but I want to make it clear. This plant was and is very important to many first nations’ people including the Menominee, the Odawa, the Chippawa. If this is a food crop that you personally really like eating, I really highly recommend that you learn more about the people that cultivated it. You can find really great resources and info at nativewildricecoalition.com, including sources on where to buy native grown wild rice.
Chris: Oh, very cool.
Hallie: Extremely cool.
Chris: Thank you.
Hallie: The largest market producers today, unfortunately, are not really first nation’s people. It’s folks in Minnesota and California because everything is grown in California and parts of Canada. Usually, it’s grown on wetland. As I mentioned, it’s native to streams and small lakes. That is usually where it’s grown. Oftentimes, it’s grown on Peats.
Chris: How does Pete feel about that?
Hallie: Oh my goodness gracious.
Hallie: P-E-A-T, as in like a bog.
Chris: Alright. A peat bog is like a marshy grassy puddle thing. Cool.
Hallie: Yeah, marshy grassy puddle thing. Otherwise, it has to grow in these wet conditions otherwise the rice would just be less productive or it would be all the way unproductive. It’s grown somewhat because there’s a market for it, but it does take a lot of water, which is problematic if it’s not growing in its native places where there is already a lot of water.
Chris: Got it.
Hallie: I couldn’t find any specific numbers on how big the market for wild rice specifically is, but as you and I both know it is widely available and very popular. The claims around it. Let’s get into that. Claims are it boosts your energy. It helps with your weight loss. It helps with your immune system. Lots of questions around those claims. No proof around any of those claims.
Chris: Okay. Is it healthier than white rice?
Hallie: It is. It is healthier than white rice. White rice is a whole grain, but it is not terribly healthy. Wild rice does have a good amount of protein.
Hallie: It’s a whole grain. Whole grains are pretty much universally good for the hearts. They’re good for all kinds of stuff. It is gluten-free as you know rice is, but also wild rice because it’s really grown differently it’s not usually processed in the same processing facilities as white rice, which can sometimes have gluten contamination. Sometimes with certain wild rice brands, you can get like a more gluten-free brand if you are really, really sensitive to gluten and even if it’s processed in the same bagging system or something like that.
Chris: Got it.
Hallie: Sometimes that can cause issues for folks. Wild rice, not usually a lot of crossover with gluten, which is helpful. It has got good nutrition. It has got good antioxidants. There’ve been several studies that have showed that wild rice compared to other whole grains particularly is very heart healthy, but you know all whole grains are heart healthy, but there have been some studies that show wild rice might have a little bit of an edge over other whole grains.
Chris: I’m going to go get me some wild rice.
Hallie: Pretty cool stuff, right?
Chris: Good stuff. I’m not going to put a cape on it, but I’m going to eat it.
Hallie: It’s a great grain. It’s a great rice. Very important to a lot of native peoples. You can go to nativewildricecoalition.com to learn more about tribal producers. It’s a great grain.
Chris: When I hear the phrase great grain, I just imagine this sort of images of fields of wheat and this majestic music and maybe David Attenborough’s voice narrating something.
Hallie: The great grain god.
Chris: There you go.
Hallie: Probably not cape worthy, but a great grain.
Chris: Go wild rice.
Hallie: Shall we move on?
Chris: We shall move on.
Hallie: Spirulina. What do you know?
Chris: It’s algae, is it not?
Hallie: No, actually. It is not.
Hallie: You know anything else?
Chris: I know it’s in some smoothies that I used to buy.
Hallie: Back in the before times in the smoothie times.
Chris: [Laughs]. Very much in the before you times actually.
Hallie: I didn’t know there were smoothies invented before I was alive.
Chris: It’s true. They existed.
Chris: We had blenders and everything.
Hallie: Blenders and everything. Spirulina is a cyanobacteria, which is called generally a blue-green algae, but is not an algae.
Chris: Okay. I was about to say. Did I not just say it was an algae?
Hallie: It’s not an algae. It’s a blue-green algae. It’s microscopic. It’s a bacteria. It grows like algae, so we say blue-green algae. That blue-green is quite important because if you cut it off, it would just be algae. But a blue-green algae is an algae like thing that is blue-green and not an algae. Very confusing I know.
Chris: That was very confusing. If I take a giant antibiotic and kill the microscopic bacteria, will this fix my gut?
Chris: If it’s bacteria I don’t know, can it fix my gut bio?
Hallie: Oh, I see. Well, we will get to that.
Hallie: These things photosynthesize much like plants and algae.
Chris: Really? That’s pretty cool.
Hallie: It’s quite cool. Love an autotroph.
Chris: What’s an autotroph?
Hallie: An autotroph is something that creates its own food as opposed to us heterotrophs meaning other and then troph meaning like food energy, so we have to source something else for our food as opposed to like a plant creates an onset.
Chris: Man, if I could create my own food, I would have to leave the couch even less.
Hallie: Wouldn’t that be great?
Chris: [Laughs]. That would be so great. Autotroph made some ice cream.
Hallie: Cyanobacteria is very important on our planet. There is a theory that it is responsible and it seems very likely that it’s responsible for what is known as the Great Oxidation Event, which was a geo historical time period where oxygen levels of the ocean and the atmosphere rose.
Chris: Okay. I was actually going to ask that as this blue-green algae that’s not algae, is it the thing that lives in the ocean along the surface or whatever and you can see little spots of it?
Hallie: Well, it is microscopic.
Chris: But if there’s like a lot of things.
Hallie: Exactly. If there are many microscopic things, it becomes macroscopic.
Chris: There you go and it very possibly raised the oxygen level of the whole earth.
Hallie: Very possibly, but also it just creates a lot of oxygen, like way to go cyanobacteria.
Chris: I was going to say that sounds pretty important.
Hallie: Extremely great. There are species of cyanobacteria that are also responsible for fixing nitrogen in soils, which like way to go.
Chris: Oh, that’s nice. Got to have the nitrogen for the plants to grow.
Hallie: Right. Spirulina specifically is made from three cyanobacteria species, Arthrospira maxima, Arthrospira fusiformis and Arthrospira platensis.
Hallie: It’s confusing because there is actually a species of cyanobacteria called Spirulina where that’s the genus, but that’s not what this is. It used to be called Spirulina and then they changed the genus and I would think that you would just change the other animals gene or the other bacterial genus because this one you had a common name that people were using, but I digress.
Chris: Okay. I’m confused more now, but that’s okay. There’s multiple genuses of this bacteria. Do they all live together or do you find them separated out?
Hallie: That’s a great question. I do not know the answer to it, but great question, dad.
Chris: Thank you.
Chris: I try to pay attention.
Hallie: How do you grow Spirulina?
Chris: Well, I mean, it just sort of exists in the ocean, does it not?
Hallie: It does grow in water, but if you’re going to create a product of it, then you have to have some method of producing it.
Chris: Okay, so I presume you start with some water.
Hallie: You do start with some water. Naturally, it occurs in lakes. We talked about the ocean. These species specifically occur more often in lakes, particularly lakes with a higher pH. For production, they’re usually grown in a controlled environment. You got like a tank of some kind, tanks have to be oxygenated with water movement and then when it’s time for the Spirulina cyanobacteria blue-green algae to be harvested, the water is pumped up. I saw that you also have this, so it’s pumped up through a faucet and you place a really fine mesh screen over the tank. They have a little fountain that comes up with the water and then it just goes back down onto the screen that’s placed over the tank and then the water just goes back into the tank and the blue green algae is caught on that net. Then they have like a little, have you ever made like dough and you have like a dough scrapper. Do you know what I’m talking about like a little pastry dough scraper?
Hallie: They have one of those. They just scrape all the algae together and then they just gloop it into a five gallon Home Depot bucket.
Chris: Okay. You can look at that mix of spirulina and water with a slightly higher pH and say, yeah, basic.
Hallie: [Laughs]. Then the spirulina gloop in the Home Depot bucket is taken away and it’s dried and then processed. What is it processed into? Most commonly, it is a powder and this powder can be put in things like smoothies or tablets, which has become much more common.
Chris: That sounds weird.
Hallie: Like a little spirulina pill to take with all your supplements and vitamins.
Chris: Everything’s got to be a pill.
Hallie: Exactly. There are other specialty products, obviously with spirulina, but pills is what I saw a lot of.
Chris: I guess gloop is not efficient enough for transport.
Hallie: Definitely not.
Hallie: I found a couple of different numbers estimating how big the market was, but on average it was between like $5 and $8 million, so it isn’t nothing. It’s definitely a niche, but it’s like, certainly there is some money there. A lot of claims that it’s helpful for high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes. That it will cure malnutrition, all this stuff, improve your kidney function, improve liver function. Lots of these claims.
Hallie: It is a good source of beta carotene. It is a good source of minerals, a good source of gamma linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid.
Chris: That sounds good.
Hallie: It’s about and I don’t know how, 60% protein.
Hallie: I don’t know how at all, but also to be fair, you would have to eat a lot of spirulina to get your daily protein content.
Chris: Oh, yeah.
Hallie: Like a lot. You had it in just like in a powder in your smoothie. How many smoothies would you have to have? A lot.
Chris: You could still eat a spoonful of powder.
Hallie: But like compared to a steak. If a chicken breast is like your daily protein and that’s like 100% and this is 60% and you had like a tablespoon, how many tablespoons? It’s probably not the most efficient way to get your protein, but for an algae or a cyanobacteria blue-green algae, I should, say it seems like a lot of protein.
Chris: Way to go spirulina.
Hallie: Way to go. It does not seem bad for you at all, but probably will not cure your liver malfunction.
Chris: Is that a claim?
Hallie: It’s a claim. I mentioned that earlier.
Chris: Okay. Sorry, I missed that. That’s out there. I almost want to put a cape on it for being a bacteria with that much protein. Way to go.
Hallie: It is impressive. It is not regulated by the FDA. We are talking about superfoods. I would not necessarily call this a superfood as it is not really regulated by the FDA in the same way. There are technically nutrition labels, but there’s not a lot of science around how accurate those nutrition labels are. I would say if this was like more in the mainstream, if there was better regulation around it, if it was more clear what it was and what was going into all of the things that were on all the shelves, perhaps we could put a cape on it, but I don’t want to tell people to go out and buy spirulina and they’re buying like 50% sawdust, 50% spirulina. Not saying that that’s what’s happening.
Chris: But it’s possible.
Hallie: But what I’m saying is there’s very little regulation and it’s unclear.
Chris: Well, when someone’s trying to sell me something that’s not regulated by the FDA for efficacy or safety, I need a break.
Hallie: A break. Here we go.
Hallie: Dad, do you know what time it is?
Chris: It’s 7:43.
Hallie: It’s time to vote.
Chris: Get out there. Vote your votiness. Use your voting right.
Hallie: Do all the voting.
Chris: I did it today. It took me about 15 minutes and it’s the first week of early voting still. Just because the lines were super long on the first day, doesn’t mean you can’t find a place to go on a quick vote and there’s a lot of resources like VOTE411 that you can go and get sample ballots and see how candidates stand on certain issues. Get out there. Do your thing.
Hallie: Absolutely, I personally am using Ballotpedia as well as the League of Women Voters and my local newspaper who compiled a bunch of statements from local candidates I would never have been able to access this much information on the people running for school board in my area without their amazing work. If you are able to vote in the US we have this election coming up, please, please, please go out there and vote.
Chris: You know who I would vote for?
Hallie: Who’s that?
Chris: Our patrons.
Hallie: Oh, you mean like Paul, who recently upgraded his patronage and our starfruit patrons, Lindsay, Vikram, Patrick, Mama Casey and Shianne.
Chris: Exactly like them.
Hallie: We are so grateful for every single one of our patrons, new, old, medium. You guys are all amazing. We love you so much and we hope you’re having a wonderful day wherever you are and I think that it’s now time to get back to the episode.
Hallie: Dad, do you have a nature fact for us?
Chris: I do.
Chris: Listener, you’re going to have to bear with us for a little bit because this is an audio medium and the nature fact that I found is visual in nature. But part of the joy of this will be Hallie’s reaction to it I’m sure. We will put a link in the show notes where you will be able to go see this amazing feat of nature factness.
Hallie: Now, I’m really confused.
Chris: The next item that we’re going to talk about is kombucha. Alright. Wonder Woman is coming out. The next Wonder Woman movie is coming out.
Hallie: Is it?
Chris: I don’t know. In the next few months or so.
Hallie: How nice?
Chris: It gets delayed for a year from COVID. I don’t know. Check your local listings.
Chris: But apparently with kombucha, you can shape it.
Chris: As you grow it, you shape it.
Hallie: Oh, like the SCOBY? We will talk about what a SCOBY is.
Chris: I don’t know what a SCOBY is. I just found this cost player who made a wonder woman costume out of kombucha.
Chris: Listener, we’re currently looking at a three piece set. There’s a pair of boots on a pedestal. There is the wonder woman. I don’t know. What is that? The dress thingy?
Hallie: The little corset with the skirt.
Chris: There you go on a stand and a tiara and then her cufflinks, her bracelets.
Hallie: Listener, first of all is if it’s safe for you to look, you should pause this episode and go look at this. To be fair, where are you going? You shouldn’t be going anywhere. You should be at home. Go take a look at this. Second of all this, if I’m picturing a costume made out of a SCOBY, I’m picturing something pretty disgusting, right? If you know what a SCOBY is, that’s gross. This is very much extremely cool and not gross.
Chris: It is. It’s all a different color. It’s got all the colors right. Got all the structure right and it’s got a picture of her wearing the pieces.
Hallie: Is that shield made of a kombucha SCOBY?
Chris: I don’t know if the shield and the sword are made of the kombucha or not.
Hallie: This is wild. This is an excellent nature fact, dad.
Chris: Thank you. Thank you very much. I apologize for the visual nature, but once you see it, you will be blown away.
Hallie: What is the artist’s name?
Chris: Christine Knobel. Knobel, K-N-O-B-E-L.
Hallie: Great work, Christine. Absolutely amazing.
Chris: Good job, Christine.
Hallie: So kombucha, what do you know, dad?
Chris: I know that you can make it in the kitchen and it doesn’t taste that great.
Hallie: What? You don’t like kombucha?
Chris: I think it’s one of those things I’ve tried I don’t remember. I’ve tried Yerba Mate once. It definitely did not taste good. It tasted like grass or dirt or something. It tasted like the ground.
Chris: I may be conflicting Yerba Mate and kombucha, but I’m pretty sure I’ve tasted kombucha and I was just like, no. That’s not for me.
Hallie: I’m quite surprised that you have not had kombucha. I feel like it’s very popular these days like you can get it everywhere.
Chris: In fact, I think I got in a jar. I forget what flavor it was supposed to be or whatever and I just remember being no.
Hallie: That is very surprising to me. I like kombucha, but when I was in grad school, two of my three roommates were growing kombucha in the kitchen so we had a lot of kombucha on hand all the time.
Chris: Well, the kids like it. What can I say?
Hallie: It’s good. You should try. It’s like a drink.
Chris: It’s not good.
Hallie: It’s good. It is fermented black or green tea.
Chris: Which just seems like a bad idea. It seems like you’re going to leave the liquid out it’s going to grow mould on it. You’re going to get sick when you drink it.
Hallie: But the thing is you don’t get sick because it’s supposed to have microbes on it. How you make kombucha, you have the tea.
Chris: You know what’s a microbe?
Chris: COVID-19. That’s a microbe.
Hallie: Oh, my God. Cut that out and put it in the outtake.
Hallie: We’re not making COVID content anymore.
Hallie: How you make kombucha? As I mentioned, it’s fermented tea, so you got to have the tea and then you add in a lot of sugar and then you add in the SCOBY, which is an acronym for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
Chris: So wait. Are you making a SCOBY treat, SCOBY snacks?
Hallie: Yeah, you make SCOBY snacks. Exactly and the SCOBY eats it all up and then it all gets fermented.
Chris: I can’t possibly be the first person to think of that joke.
Hallie: [Laughs]. If you’ve never seen a SCOBY, I want to describe it for you. Dad, have you ever seen a SCOBY?
Chris: No, I don’t know what a SCOBY is. You said it was an acronym.
Hallie: It is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
Chris: Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, SCOBY.
Hallie: So I want to paint you a picture. You have like one of those glass containers with the little spouts you would put lemonade in or something on a cold day.
Hallie: Instead on the inside, there is some black tea with a lot of sugar and on the top, there is approximately half a centimeters worth of slimy organism symbiosis and it’s very slimy and it takes up the whole width of the jar. When it is big enough, you lift it out of the water and you peel away the layers.
Chris: You peel it?
Hallie: You peel away the layers and you create a wonder woman suit or you throw it down the garbage disposal or you send it away with your friends to start their own kombucha at their own house.
Chris: You peel it.
Hallie: You kind of peel it away in a way that’s very weird and I did not believe until I saw it with my eyes, but it just peels away. It’s like little sheets of paper, but it’s a SCOBY. It’s wild. It’s very slimy. It’s very delicious though.
Chris: It sounds disgusting.
Hallie: But it’s very delicious.
Hallie: Kombucha possibly originated in China. There’s a lot of theories though. It’s kind of hard to tell because you can peel the SCOBY away and give it away, so it was widely circulated. It is alcoholic as it is fermented, but it’s less than 5%, so it is not regulated.
Chris: Also the fact that it’s made with green or black tea is probably another reason that I don’t drink it because I don’t drink caffeine in general.
Hallie: I don’t know what the final caffeine level is. If like the fermentation breaks down any caffeine molecules I don’t actually know.
Chris: If Texans turned sweet tea into kombucha, is that a [inaudible]?
Hallie: Absolutely. The market for kombucha now is huge. I looked it up. It is billions of dollars.
Chris: Oh, boy.
Hallie: Billions and billions of dollars. It gained popularity in the nineties as a health food and now it has just exploded and you can find it in most grocery stores.
Hallie: There is also a new product called Kombrewcha or hard kombucha.
Chris: Kombrewcha or hard kombucha, so it’s kombucha with more alcohol.
Hallie: It’s like a Mike’s Hard kind of thing, but for kombucha. Claims, it rids your bodies off toxins. It can treat hair loss, it can treat arthritis, cancer, constipation. It can treat diabetes and prevent aging. Lots of claims. It was widely and still is widely promoted as a health food.
Chris: Listener, if you were putting alcohol into your body, you are not riding your body off toxins. You are putting toxins into your body.
Hallie: Probably the same with caffeine, not untrue. Nutritionally in actuality, in reality, it has whatever nutrition was in the teas. Green tea has antioxidants in it. Black tea has some antioxidants in it. That’s pretty much how nutritious the kombucha is. However, there have not been any human trials on kombucha to look at any benefits or risks.
Chris: I thought part of the supposed benefit of kombucha came from the fact that it was an active bacterial culture or something like that.
Hallie: Right. That is something that’s widely spread around. Again, there have not been any trials and there’s not really any reason to believe that the bacteria in the kombucha is going to bolster the bacteria in your gut. They are very different and we don’t have any science showing that kombucha is good for your microbiome. There are some risks with kombucha because a lot of people grow it at home and because there is fermentation involved, there are risks of pathogenic microorganisms getting introduced, so you do have a risk of something bad being in there. Also because kombucha has a very low pH, you do also have the risk of, if you put it in a metal container, it can actually leach metals out of the container. It’s very, very acidic. There are serious health consequences to drinking super acidic things. There are some people who drink kombucha like every single day and it’s not always good to be drinking something that’s as acidic. But again, there are no human studies on the risks or benefits of kombucha.
However, it does not seem to be the best thing for you to be drinking all the time.
Chris: Not only will I not put a cape on this, but unlike wild rice and spirulina, I’m going to say hard pass.
Hallie: I would not say hard pass.
Chris: I would say hard pass.
Hallie: It’s delicious and there’s not a lot of risks. Don’t put it in a metal container. Be aware that as with anything fermented, there are risks to pathogens, but no, I wouldn’t say hard pass. I would say once in a while, if it’s a lovely drink, it’s nice cold drink you’re looking for something, kombucha is a good option. There’s lots of flavors. It’s very delicious. I would not say it should be a habit of yours to drink kombucha all the every time and don’t put it in metal containers, but it’s not going to cure anything. But it’s an okay drink.
Chris: Maybe sit down to dinner my steak potatoes made with some asparagus and I swirl a glass of kombucha.
Chris: [Laughs]. Oh, men.
Hallie: Sniff it. Look at the legs or whatever.
Chris: The legs?
Hallie: It’s a wine thing.
Chris: Whatever. Hard pass.
Hallie: Should we do our last thing?
Chris: Let’s do the last thing.
Hallie: It’s acerola.
Chris: Hey, Hallie. What the flat Jack is acerola? I have never heard of that.
Hallie: Acerola. The scientific name is Malpighia emarginata.
Hallie: The family is Malpighiaceae. One of the common names for acerola is Barbados cherry. Acerola is a malpighiales. It is not a rosid. Cherries are rosid, not a malpighiales. They’re not actually that related.
Chris: It sounds like it’s a bad big.
Hallie: As I mentioned, common name for acerola Barbados cherry, Acerola cherry, West Indian cherry and the wild crepe myrtle.
Chris: Wow. Is that what dumps those stupid flowers all over my car once a year?
Hallie: There is a plant that we grow here in Texas that is native to Southeast Asia called the crepe myrtle. However, and I tried to find this and I could not, they are definitely not at all related. The one that grows in your yard is [inaudible] indigo. It is in the [inaudible] family. This is in the Malpighiaceae family. So different families I don’t know. I don’t know why they’re called the same thing. I couldn’t find it.
Chris: Someone probably saw the flowers and said, “Hey. That looks about right.”
Hallie: Quite possibly. The acerola is from Central America, South America and parts of North America. Generally, it is mostly available in capsules or an extract form. It’s not often eaten fresh except for in the areas where it grows native to. In the Gulf coast areas of what we call North America and in parts of Central America down to South America and the Caribbean, it is consumed in those areas.
Chris: In those areas, what form does it take?
Hallie: Well, it’s a fruit. In those areas where it’s native to it is eaten fresh and other places it’s eaten as an extract or a capsule.
Chris: It looks sort of like a cherry likish.
Hallie: It looks like a cherry, but it’s very different from a cherry.
Hallie: The extract, I found some numbers between $8.6 and $5.8 million for the extract is the market in 2017. Again, similar to spirulina, it’s quite niche, but there is definitely money involved. As an extract, it’s put into supplements. It’s used as a food preservative in packaged foods, snacks, beverages, stuff like that. It’s also used for meat preservation, but most commonly you’ll see it as a supplement. There was a lot of interest back in the sixties after some cool science found some cool things about acerola, which I’ll get to in one second, but no one’s ever been able to make it marketable either fresh or juiced or canned, so all we really have is like the dried extra.
Chris: Was it the same science where they did LSD research on prisoners or whatever?
Hallie: Definitely not, dad. What a weird thing to say? What an energy to bring to the end of the episode?
Chris: You said back in the sixties. I just figured that’s all they did.
Hallie: [Laughs]. That’s I will tell you not what agronomists were doing. The claims, it improves your athletic performance, can fight infections, provide health benefits to smokers, can act as a natural cancer treatment. It can boost your eye health, yada yada yada. There’s a long list of claims as it is marketed generally as a health food supplement. Widely, those are disproven.
Chris: That’s too bad because that sounds great.
Hallie: Right. Almost too good to be true. It does in fact actuality have good levels of Vitamin A, good amounts of iron, good amounts of carotene.
Hallie: It has good amounts of Vitamin C. Now, I want to play a little game with you. Some of the other food crops that we eat that have good amounts of Vitamin C are oranges, broccoli and kiwi. I’m going to read you the amounts of Vitamin C that those three crops have and then I want you to guess how much acerola has because this is the thing in the 1960s that they were researching and this was the thing that led people to try to propagate it as a food crop, so it does have high Vitamin C.
Chris: I feel like I already know the answer.
Hallie: [Laughs. Hang on. Oranges have 53 milligrams of Vitamin C per 100 grams, broccoli it’s 89 and kiwi it’s 93. What do you think acerola has?
Hallie: 200 is your guess?
Chris: 200 is my guess.
Hallie: The answer is 1,676.
Chris: Holy snapdragons.
Hallie: It’s a lot milligrams per 100 grams of acerola.
Chris: It is a lot. Wow.
Hallie: It’s like a whole lot. It’s like, wow! It’s a whole, whole lot.
Chris: Do you know what I remember from biochemistry?
Chris: Is if you consume an excess of Vitamin C, it all comes out. It just makes you pee faster and you just slough it all out.
Hallie: Exactly. It is water soluble, so it just all goes out. That’s one of the cool things about this is there are a lot of vitamins where if you eat too many, bad things can happen to you.
Chris: It’s true.
Hallie: This one, not the case. Imagine if you’re sailing the seas and you get scurvy and then you stumble upon an island in the Caribbean and you find an acerola tree, how lucky are you?
Chris: Oh man, I’m getting me some.
Hallie: Cure that right up. Vitamin C is great. It’s great for scurvy. It’s very crucial to immune system function. It’s important for tissue repair. It’s a good antioxidant. As you mentioned, it’s water soluble. If you’re going to be a food and you’re going to have a lot of all nutrient, I feel like Vitamin C is the one to have because there’s no downsides to having a lot of Vitamin C. You can just max people out immediately. It’s like a chip code.
Chris: If I’m ever lost at sea and I get stranded on the island and I find some acerola in that case, I will put a cape on it.
Chris: [Laughs]. But I still don’t feel like we can play the song.
Hallie: What? No, let’s play the song.
Chris: You think deserves the song?
Hallie: Absolutely. Why not?
Chris: I mean, I love the song.
Hallie: [Laughs]. Here comes the song.
Chris: Alright. If you have a smoothie, maybe have a little spirulina in it. If you want some extra protein any morning, maybe put a giant scoop on your cereal or just take a big spoonful and crunch it away. Eat some wild rice. Wild rice sounds great. I’m going to try it again. It doesn’t cook as quickly as white rice. Doesn’t taste as good as white rice. Maybe you just have to get used to the flavor. I don’t know, but it sounds like pretty great stuff. If it’s native to Texas, it’s endangered. Don’t eat it. Stay the heck away from kombucha.
Chris: It’s bad stuff.
Chris: Hard pass and give acerola a try.
Hallie: If you can find it.
Chris: If you can find it, especially in cherry like form.
Hallie: Cherry like form seems great.
Chris: Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.
Hallie: This show is made by me Hallie Casey and Chris Casey. Our music is Something Elated by Broke for Free.
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Hallie: You can find all of our episodes and transcripts as well as information about the team and the show on our website, onetogrowonpod.com.
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Chris: Be sure to see what’s sprouting in two weeks.
Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.