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Friday, September 20, 2013

Sweet and deadly

Kushi oysters, Uchi Houston
Another descriptor to be added to the list of words vague and virtuous - "single source". Or sometimes "single origin". You'll see it on things like chocolate or coffee or wine - items that are often the product of blends from various sources to maintain a consistent product. That's the case, for example, of milk - industrial milk is sourced from a number of farms and blended together. People who trumpet the superiority of "single source" items tend to ignore the fact that production quality and volume can vary dramatically over time and geography. True that blending mutes particularly outstanding specimens, but in the long run, it also dampens the volatility of the products, making them more predictable.

And sometimes, this can be lifesaving. Honey produced from some rhododendron flowers contain significant levels of gryanotoxin - a fact used in ancient Greek warfare (perhaps an early bioweapon?). Contrasting the "health halo", in fact, some single source honeys are downright poisonous, and we will be hard pressed to police which flowers the bees harvest from. In places like Turkey where rhododendrons grow, the potential for widespread gryanotoxin poisoning is stopped by blending, since the toxin becomes diluted by other honey sources.

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