[permaculture] Fwd: [SANET-MG] Upcoming Biodynamics Now! Investigative Farming and Restorative Nutrition Podcast Seeking Your Wisdom
Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lflj at bellsouth.net
Wed Mar 28 09:27:58 EDT 2012
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [SANET-MG] Upcoming Biodynamics Now! Investigative Farming and
Restorative Nutrition Podcast Seeking Your Wisdom
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2012 09:13:40 -0400
From: dylanford <dylanford at OPTONLINE.NET>
To: SANET-MG at LISTS.IFAS.UFL.EDU
Forward from Allan Balliett at bdnow.org
I started the Biodynamics Now! Investigative Farming and Restorative
Nutrition Podcast in the hope that I could use the low cost
broadcasting capabilities of podcasting enable the "Wisdom of the
Cloud" to extract more appropriate and practical information from
today's leading edge thinkers in the realm of Food, Farming and
"The Wild Life of Our Bodies, examines the long human relationship
with other species (be they tapeworms or tigers) and how changes in
those relationships are affecting our health and well being."
Dr Dunn is one of the evolutionary biologists who has popularized the
idea of 're-Wilding Our Bodies" In his book, he writes about the
benefits of re-creating controlled populations of parasitic worms in
our guts, as well as the newly discovered function of the human
appendix (it's a safe house for beneficial gut biology during bad gut
illnesses) He's an expert on probiotic research.
Hopefully, you've already read his book, which will make asking a
great question much easier.
You can get a fair over view of his book at www.bdnow.org right now, though.
and what I'm inviting you to do is place your question(s) there.
Fresh and Local CSA www.freshandlocalcsa.com
Serving Households in the DC-area
WAP Farmers is one of those "Clouds of Wisdom."
What I want to ask of you is, if you haven't already, take a look at
the published work of Dr Rob Dunn and then go to the www.bdnow.org
(leave your questions under 'reply' in the Rob Dunn section of
www.bdnow.org) and ask any questions you have for Dr Dunn at the
site. I'll try to use your questions to get more information from Dr
Dunn and his impressive body of work when I talk to him this coming
A typical article by Rob Dunn
Humankind’s Ascent Took Path of Yeast Resistance
There’s a strong case to be made that the first species cultivated by
humankind was brewer’s yeast, and a generation of researchers will
drink to that.
By Rob Dunn
Once upon a time there were no farms. People ate fruit off the vine
and killed animals as they ran. They roasted things when it suited
them but just as often ate them raw. The world was like this for
thousands of years, a place of arrows and nuts where everything that
was necessary could be found. One might imagine many reasons for
giving up on those old, superficially idyllic, ways. Perhaps it was
hunger, that ultimate mother of invention, or maybe it was just
invention itself, unmotivated by need.
But these are not the only options. Solomon H. Katz at the University
of Pennsylvania thinks it was beer.
Yes, beer. Katz’s argument is that once beer was invented, people
would have liked it and wanted more of it, more than could be made out
of gathered seeds.
Imagine the scenario: An early Egyptian left wild wheat or some other
grass seed in water. Maybe he had intended to make gruel, but he left
it too long and the slurry sprouted (and happened to have fermented,
as well). Yet, because he was hungry or thirsty or simply
dissatisfied, he drank it anyway. When he did, voilà! With that
(little) buzz was born the germ of the need for agriculture.
Or at least this is part of Katz’s idea. He also thinks that beer is,
or at least was, good for us. Beer, he has suggested, is healthy when
compared to the raw products out of which it is typically made.
Relative to raw wheat or barley, for example, beer is enriched in some
fats, vitamin B and the amino acid lysine. Relative to the water
likely to have been found in early human settlements, the first beer
is also likely to have been less ridden with pathogens. Fermentation
purifies. It may be a stretch to say that beer does the body good, but
relative to our early alternatives, it probably did the body better
(as by some measures it continues to do today).
Katz’s beer hypothesis was debated actively in the late 1980s in
scientific papers and Pennsylvania bars. It led to attempts to
recreate the first beers (e.g., Anchor Steam’s Sumerian brews or
Dogfish Head’s ancient ales) from what has turned out to be the oldest
discovered recipe. It also fueled the scientific careers of young,
excitable scientists and helped usher in a new wave of research at the
University of Pennsylvania — think of this as an Indiana Jones of
ancient potables — on the history of food and booze.
But with time, Katz’s idea lost some of its shine. It was not proven
wrong so much as proven difficult to prove. Anthropology is full of
such ripe but hard-to-reach fruits.
When Katz (now, a bit ironically, director of the Krogman Center for
Childhood Growth and Development) first offered his hypothesis, the
evidence he brought to bear was the standard stuff of anthropology —
potsherds, ancient writing and burials mixed with a pinch of raw
insight. But times have changed a great deal since the 1980s. Modern
genetics now allows scientists to see the invisible genes lurking in
all things living and dead, including beer, and with them, more of the
What Katz knew but tended to ignore when he first considered the story
of beer was that it was not the only fermented drink important to the
Fermented drinks and foods, from beer to sake, bread to wine, are
consumed in West Africa, China, Japan and have, almost certainly, been
consumed in one form or another since before the first seed was sewn
(some monkeys are even known to seek out fermented fruits and suffer
the stumbling consequences). The eminent anthropologist Claude
Lévi-Strauss regarded the invention of alcohol — though perhaps
discovery is the better word — as a marker of the passage of peoples
from “nature to culture.” Fermented alcoholic drinks have been
documented from settlements more than 7,000 years old in China, 5,000
years ago in Mesopotamia and only slightly later in Egypt. In each
place where alcohol has been made, it has been regarded in one way or
another as special food both for the Pharaohs or kings and the
afterlife. Even Noah, who had space for just two of each animal on the
ark, made sure to leave some room for beer.
In the last three years, scientists have begun to revisit the links
between civilization and beer, and between civilization and wine,
sake, other fermented drinks and foods more generally. Before I tell
you the conclusion to the new story, it is useful to know the
characters. Fortunately, there’s really only one.
A single species, Saccharomyces cerevisiaea, sometimes called brewer’s
yeast, is responsible for nearly all fermented drinks, everywhere.
This yeast-of-all-trades is found in the wild on tree trunks and
fruits, though unpredictably and only here and there. Yet, from its
rare germ grows a great feast. While the cow may give us milk and dogs
give us protection and companionship, it is Saccharomyces cerevisiaea
alone that gives us beer, wine, rice wine, fermented milk (not my
favorite, either), sake, bread and much more.
In doing so, it might reasonably be in the running for the real title
of “man’s best friend.” Yeast has the near miraculous ability to turn
raw foods into delicacies. It does so by growing until, in each bite
of bread or sip of wine, we savor the flavor of its body on our lips
and feel it in our blood and head.
Brewer’s yeast is easy enough to cultivate. It grows on sugar,
although “grows” is not really quite the right word. More accurately,
it divides. One shimmering, blue-brown cell becomes two, two become
four, and four — eventually — become billions. Brewer’s yeast prefers
to live where it has oxygen, but it can also grow when and where there
is little or even no oxygen. When humans make beer or wine, yeast is
usually allowed to divide for hours or days until it is abundant. Then
the conditions of the fermentation are changed to make it begin to
live without oxygen, and as a consequence to produce ethanol — aka
alcohol — and carbon dioxide as waste. For such waste we are grateful.
But how did a single species of yeast come to be used to produce so
much in so many cultures? And, to return to Katz, did these events
precipitate the need for agriculture?
In one version of the story, we might imagine that yeast is simply in
the air, a kind of living ether that, when necessary, appears. The
other version, equally if not more improbable, is that yeast has
evolved with us, as a crop, much like wheat, corn or cows. If yeast
has evolved with agriculture and our spread, its genes might also be
able to tell part of our story as a kind of “bioglyph” rewritten with
each act of yeast sex, division or mutational change.
The answer, or at least a big clue, was revealed when scientists
decided to construct an evolutionary tree for yeast based on the genes
of yeasts found in different foods. When they did, they were in for a
surprise. The yeasts in beer, wine, sake and other fermented drinks
and foods were different, very different, from each other. Those
differences were ancient. Yeast does not just colonize any old food
out of the hovering ether. It evolved and diversified as civilization
and agriculture have evolved and diversified. Out of a few or even
just one ancestral yeast strain, many new varieties have emerged. Just
as from wolves came big dogs, small dogs, furry dogs and bald dogs,
from one or a few yeast strains came all of the alcoholic flavors that
we hold so dear.
Functionally, many of the differences among varieties of yeasts
reflect their different lifestyles and roles. The yeast in ale beers
is specially suited for the ways in which such beers are gardened.
Because brewers tended to scoop yeast off of the top of beer (to later
put in their next batch of beer), yeasts that ale brewers use tend to
rise up out of the liquid they are in. They do this by clumping onto
the carbon dioxide they produce, in order to catch a ride. In the
wild, floating up and out of your food would be bad, but in beer it is
vital to having your genes passed on. Malt beer yeasts also float, but
they have extra copies of the genes associated with breaking down
maltose, the main source of carbon in malt.
Similar (but different) stories emerge for wine. Many wine strains
have evolved the ability to cope with high levels of sulfite, which
has been used to clean wine containers since the Middle Ages. These
sulfite-resistant yeasts have succeeded because they can pass from one
batch of wine to the next without depending on a human to introduce
Bread yeasts, on the other hand, tend to be aggressive. They divide
quickly, because we have tended to favor those bread yeasts that
carbonate dough in the shortest amount of time possible. This fast
action produces more odd flavors and so they have been (unconsciously)
avoided in wines and beers. Bread yeasts have also lost the ability
present in beer yeasts, and especially present in wine yeasts, to
tolerate high alcohol concentrations. Put bread yeasts in with your
grapes and they will die before they have produced much alcohol.
The new evolutionary tree tells us more than what the changes have
been. It also begins to provide hints as to where and when those
changes happened. Nearly all lineages of wine yeasts are related. They
appear to have diverged early and, for example, all champagne yeasts
appear most closely related to other champagne yeasts. Show me yeast,
and I could probably tell you its region and wine variety. Sake yeasts
share another old lineage, as are the yeasts associated with rice wine
in China, fermented milk in Morocco, palm wine in West Africa or rum.
Each of these lineages is the story of a drink, but also of a people
and the accumulation of moments around campfires or on back porches
sipping and discussing life.
Not all stories revealed by yeast genes are so simple. Bread yeasts
appear to be different in different regions and have had different
histories, a finding in line with the relatively late appearance of
bread in archaeological sites. Sicilian bread yeast descended from
wine yeasts. Other bread yeasts have other ancestors. These
differences yield differences in tastes. Perhaps part of that
un-capturable essence of Sicilian bread, for example, is a hint of
Then there is the story of lager beers and their yeasts, which evolved
when Bavarians outlawed the summer brewing of beer. Winter brewing
favored new hybrid yeasts able to live in the cold. These yeasts
continue to give lager beers some of their unique flavors and are what
made lagers possible in the first place.
Lagers exist because yeast was, relatively quickly, able to evolve,
and evolution did not stop. Since that Bavarian law was originally
passed, lager yeasts have diverged. The lineage associated with the
Carlsberg breweries in Denmark and that in the Czech Republic differ
from each other and from a third lineage found in the Netherlands.
In the end, yeast is ancient and telling. Its genes reveal the story
not just of brewing but also of domestication. Yeast evolved as our
tastes evolved. We had less control of the process of yeast
domestication than that of, say, pigeons, and yet the resulting
diversity of yeasts, a kind of evolutionary Galapagos from which we
sip, is the product both of natural selection and civilization.
But we still need to return to the original question: Did beer lead to
agriculture, as Katz suggested? Possibly. Beer yeasts evolved early.
The evidence of beer gardening based on the yeast evolutionary tree is
roughly as early as the evidence of wheat farming.
And so … maybe. What has become clear is that whether or not beer led
to farming, yeast evolved hand in hand with agriculture nearly
everywhere. Yeasts were there, holding, if not our hand, our cup. So
it is that we have been drinking since the very beginning, from its
prosperity. It is a prosperity that continues, a living cup that
runneth over and will continue to do so as long as we are tempted by
alcohol and bread.
And so remember the yeasts the next time you savor a cold one on the
front porch with friends. Remember them when you break bread. Remember
them, too, when you toast to, well … the evolution that flavors every
sip and may have given rise to both bread and civilization, healthy
food and beer.
For more about the stories of the wild species with which we interact,
be they yeasts or tigers, read Rob Dunn’s new book, The Wild Life of
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