Sunday, 20 May 2012

Jack Benny, Bunting, Spices Parks & Ginger Witbier

The Los Angeles Daily News reported on an unusual anniversary two weeks ago. It was on May 2nd, 1932 that Jack Benny took to the airwaves with his first radio programme. In those days, and for quite a while afterwards, radio programmes were sponsored and actually took the name of the sponsor. In Jack Benny's case, his show was called "The Canada Dry Ginger Ale Program". It was broadcast twice a week for five months until Canada Dry stopped the show for what The Digital Deli referred to as Benny's 'persistent needling of his sponsor'. You may think that this was a case of don't bite the hand that feeds you. But, as we now know, Jack Benny went on to bigger and better things.

Here in the UK, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is nearly upon us. If you want to participate and you're finding it difficult to purchase your bunting, you are in luck. Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer has very kindly created some downloadable bunting in PDF format. As George and Camilla might say, what a tickety boo idea.

Two neighbouring states in the north east of India could see the creation of spices parks, according to The Economic Times. The Indian government's Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry is keen to develop these parks in Meghalaya and Assam as centres where farmers can deliver their crops, such as ginger and turmeric, and have them graded, processed and packeged for export. It is hoped that by cutting out the middleman, farmers will receive a better price.

Later this month the New York Historical Society will open a fascinating exhibition called Beer Here: Brewing New York's History which will run until early September. A stalwart of the New York brewing scene, according to the society's website, is the Matt Brewing Company which has been around for 150 years. During the prohibition era, the company produced a range of soft drinks, including the popular Utica Club Ginger Ale, in order to stay in existence. What took my eye was a reference to another soft drink, a non-alcoholic malt tonic, which contained the following advice on the bottle label, “Caution: Do not ferment, do not add yeast, or you will create beer”.

If you live in Hawaii you may be interested in a very important project being undertaken by the Kohala Watershed Partnership (KWP). The role of the KWP is to maintain the 50,000 acres of Kohala tropical rain forest. Unfortunately the forest has been infested with one of the world's most invasive weeds, Kahili Ginger. This plant is native to the Himalayan region of India but has now taken root in countries as far apart as Jamaica and Australia. Its spread has been inadvertently caused by its popularity as an ornamental garden plant. The project aims to raise enough money to fund a specialist team of 'ginger ninjas' who will concentrate on the total eradication of this plant before it is too late. I'm sure the authorities in Queensland, where the plant has been officially designated as a weed and therefore a risk to biosecurity, will be interested in the progress of this project.

I've been reading about ginger produced in the Philippines and its export to Japan, Germany, Hong Kong and the UK. I only ever see Chinese ginger in the produce section of my local supermarkets so I have no idea when I have consumed Filipino ginger. Local farmers grow a mixture of lower yielding but more disease resistant native varieties and higher yielding but less disesase resistant foreign varieties such as Hawaiian and Jamaican. Apparently, if you slice open a piece of ginger and its colour is yellowish-brown with pinkish lines, you have a Hawaiian variety. And if you encounter a small, red and very pungent rhizome, it's a Red Native.

NTD Television carried the news from Chinese state-owned media reports that farmers in Qingzhou City, Shandong Province, have been preserving their ginger and cabbage in a cocktail of harmful chemicals. Farmers have been harvesting these crops, applying pesticides and an insecticide called dichlorvos (sold under trade names such as DDVP and Vapona), and also applying a poisonous chemical known as 'six-six powder' or 'sixty-six powder'. The crops are then stored until the price rises. According to the state-owned media reports, farmers have been using 20 bottles of DDVP and 150kg of 'six-six powder' for every 25,000kg of ginger.

The Deccan Herald has reported again on the continuing plight of ginger farmers in the Malnad region of the Indian state of Karnataka. The farmers switched to ginger last year following the failure of their non-ginger crops. But even though they have avoided disease this season, they haven't been able to do anything about the fall in the price of ginger. They will be lucky to recoup their investment.

A former athlete celebrated his 80th birthday whilst descending from a solo 17,000ft climb in the Annapurna mountain range in Nepal. According to the Croydon Guardian, he celebrated at the top with a ginger tea.

North Carolina's Highland Brewing Company launched a ginger Belgian-style witbier this month which will be available until August. No sooner had it been released than Esquire magazine named it as one of the Best Beers of 2012, according to Mountain Xpress. This must really be worth trying.

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