‘Tis the season for cookies, candy, and other sweet treats. Like virtually everything else we eat, we can thank agriculture for these goodies. Have a little fun as you learn how some of our holiday treats connect to farms!
Mmmm, beets. Don’t you just love them? You don’t? Well, chances are you will eat a beet product during holiday celebrations. That product is sugar! Let these facts take root and crystallize in your mind:
• Sugar beets are grown in several states, including Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho, Michigan, and Nebraska.
• A mature sugar beet root is about a foot long, weighs 3-5 pounds, and contains 18% sugar in the form of sucrose.
• The refined sugar we eat is the same at the molecular level whether produced from conventional, organic, or genetically modified crops.
• Beet sugar makes up over half of U.S. domestic sugar production.
Watch sugar beet harvest in Michigan! Go to https://youtu.be/3meRJ4TaIrw.
The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without chocolate fudge and hot chocolate. Let’s melt down some facts to get the flavor of how we obtain this tasty ingredient.
• Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree, which is native to the rainforests of Central and South America.
• Cacao seeds, or cocoa beans, form in pods shaped like small footballs. The pods grow from the tree branches as well as its trunk.
• Cocoa beans are fermented and dried before being shipped to chocolate factories.
• Ivory Coast, Ecuador, and Ghana are three of the top countries from which the U.S. imports its cocoa.
Conduct a chocolate taste test! See National Ag in the Classroom activity at https://agclassroom.org/matrix/resource/754/.
Before you meet that special someone under the mistletoe, you might pop a mint or take few licks from a candy cane to freshen your breath. We’ve distilled a few cool facts about mint farming:
• Mint is a perennial crop that is replanted every 3-5 years.
• To harvest mint for oil, the crop is cut similarly to hay. The leaves are allowed to dry for a few days in the field before being picked up, chopped, and blown into tubs.
• A process called steam distillation is used to extract mint oil from the leaves.
• The top peppermint growing states are Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Indiana, California and Wisconsin.
See how mint is harvested! Go to https://youtu.be/docSHTCasvQ.