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News : Quaintness for Your Salad

August 10, 1995|CHARLES PERRY

So now there's a cucumber with orange flesh, developed by the USDA Vegetable Crops Research Laboratory from a variety discovered in China in the '80s. It's not in the markets, but it will be some day.

Big deal, you say--who needs another quaint-tinted vegetable for the salad bar? Ah, but there's more to the orange-fleshed cucumber than hue. It happens to contain a sixth to a third as much beta-carotene as a carrot.

That may not sound like much, but it's a major improvement over regular cucumbers, which have next to no nutritional value. Because cucumbers do much better than carrots in very warm climates, the orange-fleshed cucumber may end up being a reasonably big deal in improving the diet of Third World countries.

And hey, in a salad with yellow tomatoes and bronze lettuce, it should look pretty darn quaint.

Eternal Nomomania

What's the latest in Osaka, Japan, hometown of rookie L.A. Dodgers pitcher Hideo Nomo? Restaurants and bars are having specials on draft beer that play on the fact that in Japanese, nomo happens to mean "Drink up" or, more precisely, "Hoist one, mac."

In Dubious Kibble

Over the July 4 weekend, Nature's Recipe Co. started getting reports of dogs turning up their noses at some of the firm's hypoallergenic kibble. Then came complaints that dogs who ate the kibble got sick to their stomachs.

The obvious suspect was the July heat wave, but tests eventually revealed Deoxynivalenol (DON), for which pet foods had not been tested (food for human consumption has long been tested for it). Unsurprisingly, DON is also known as vomitixin and belongs to a class of chemicals called the refusal toxins.

This stomach irritant, which evidently also smells bad to dogs since most refuse to eat it, is caused by wheat scab, Fusarium graminearum , a cousin of the mold that causes yellow wilt in gardens. The ultimate culprit is this year's unusually cool, wet spring in the winter wheat areas of the Midwest.

"All the pet food companies are sweating this, because any of them might have it," says A.J. Plechner, a veterinarian who co-developed the Nature's Recipe formula. "So we're working with them, and now there's a test for it."

On July 20, Nature's Recipe recalled its whole production for the period beginning May 17. To tell whether a bag you have comes from the dubious batch, check the date on the package: The number will be between 170595 (May 17) and 200795 (July 20). Those who believe they have any of the kibble in question can return what they have for a full refund.

No Low Mania

Meanwhile, nonalcoholic beer seems to be going belly-up. In Europe sales are down 10% during the past three years, and in this country they're down 13% since 1994. In fact, sales of nearly all alcoholic beverages are down, and the dealcoholized versions (which typically have less flavor and, lacking the preservative qualities of alcohol, a shorter shelf life as well) are going down with them.

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