Mexico Avocado Ban Continues in US Due to Cartel Threats

The U.S. government suspended all imports of Mexican avocados “until further notice” after a U.S. plant safety inspector–who works for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services in Mexico– received a threatening message according to Mexico’s Agriculture Department.

“US health authorities…made the decision after one of their officials, who was carrying out inspections in Uruapan, Michoacan, received a threatening message on his official cellphone,” the department wrote.

🔹Mexico is the largest avocado producer in the world.

🔹80 percent of their supplies are imported by the United States.

🔹The country produces three varieties of avocado, the most traded tropical fruit in the world, with Hass accounting for 97 percent of total production.

🔹While avocados are grown in many Mexican states, only those grown in Michoacán have phytosanitary approvals to export to the US.

🔹Fresh Mexican Hass avocados from Michoacán cross the border duty-free.

🔹The industry is worth almost $3 billion in annual exports.

The U.S. Embassy wrote that “facilitating the export of Mexican avocados to the U.S. and guaranteeing the safety of our agricultural inspection personnel go hand in hand.”

“We are working with the Mexican government to guarantee security conditions that would allow our personnel in Michoacan to resume operations.”

Because the United States also grows avocados, U.S. inspectors work in Mexico to ensure exported avocados don’t carry diseases that could harm U.S. crops.

It was only in 1997 that the U.S. lifted a ban on Mexican avocados that had been in place since 1914 to prevent a range of weevils, scabs and pests from entering U.S. orchards.

There has been repeated violence in Michoacan — where the Jalisco cartel is fighting turf wars against a collection of local gangs known as the United Cartels — that threatens avocados, the state’s most lucrative crop.

After a prior incident in 2019, the USDA had warned about the possible consequences of attacking or threatening U.S. inspectors.

In August 2019, a U.S. Department of Agriculture team of inspectors was “directly threatened” in Ziracuaretiro, a town just west of Uruapan. While the agency didn’t specify what happened, local authorities say a gang robbed the truck the inspectors were traveling in at gunpoint.

The USDA wrote in a letter at the time that, “For future situations that result in a security breach, or demonstrate an imminent physical threat to the well-being of APHIS personnel, we will immediately suspend program activities.”

Many avocado growers in Michoacan say drug gangs threaten them or their family members with kidnapping or death unless they pay protection money, sometimes amounting to thousands of dollars per acre.

On September 30, 2020, a Mexican employee of APHIS was killed near the northern border city of Tijuana.

Mexican prosecutors said Edgar Flores Santos was killed by drug traffickers who may have mistaken him for a policeman and a suspect was arrested. The U.S. State Department said investigations “concluded this unfortunate incident was a case of Mr. Flores being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

My Favorite Guacamole Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 2 tablespoons of pico de gallo
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 chopped Jalapeño OR 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper OR 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 minced jalapeño OR 2 minced serrano chiles OR 2 tablespoon minced of any chile pepper you like (adjust for spiciness)

Procedure

  1. Pit the avocados.
  2. Score avocado without cutting through the skin.
  3. Scoop out one avocado with a large spoon and place in mixing bowl.
  4. Add the lime juice and stir to evenly coat the avocados.
  5. Stir in the Pico de Gallo, garlic, oil, jalapeño, salt, red pepper, and black pepper, mashing and tossing the avocado pieces until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Then scoop out the other avocados and gently mix and toss in the larger pieces.
  7. The guacamole is the right consistency when more large pieces than mashed parts remain.
  8. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.

Just Out: Scientific Study Finds a ‘New’ Super Antioxidant in Red Grapes

I weigh over 60 lbs less than I did in 2002 and one of the reasons is grapes.

My doctor and nutritionist recommended fruits like grapes as part of a weight management program. The water and fiber content of grapes make them a filling food.

“To get the maximum value from fruits, eat the whole fruit instead of just drinking the juice,” the nutritionist said.  

Grapes contain powerful antioxidants that provide substantial defense against specific kinds of cancer, heart problem, rheumatoid arthritis, cataracts, and many other persistent and degenerative diseases.

A new study, released April 9 by researchers at Creighton University in Omaha, indicate that a compound extracted from the seeds of red grapes called Activin is the substance that is “extremely” antioxidant.

Activin appears to reduce the effects of and inhibiting the damage triggered by free radicals in the brains and livers of mice.

”Our research studies show that Activin is a more powerful antioxidant than vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene– approximately 7 times more potent,” Dr. Debasis Bagchi, chief scientist said.

He reported the findings of their research study at the Speculative Biology conference in New Orleans.

“Activin is a powerful inhibitor of complimentary radical-caused lipid peroxidation and DNA fragmentation,” Bagchi explained. “This is considerable because complimentary radicals can destroy cell membranes and damage DNA, and might be a root cause of specific types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even the aging process itself.”


Health Benefits

The ingredient in red wine that generates the most excitement is resveratrol, an antioxidant.

Researchers first recommended drinking red wine for its resveratrol content, but now believe that table grapes and grape juice are good sources, too. Red wine contains more resveratrol than white wine, due to a longer fermentation process.

Resveratrol isn’t the only reason to eat red grapes, though. The list of benefits is impressive: 

Cardiovascular Health

Grapes, grape juice, and wine contain antioxidants that help the cardiovascular system. These antioxidants, sometimes called flavonoids or polyphenols, can relax blood vessels and reduce inflammation. They also reduce the clotting function of platelets much as aspirin does. These antioxidants reside mainly in the skin and seeds of grapes. 

Diabetes Control 

Some people with diabetes believe that they should not eat fruit because of its sugar content. Fruits with a low glycemic index, however, are fine for those with diabetes. A low glycemic index means that the sugar in the fruit will not immediately raise blood sugar. Another number helpful to people with diabetes is glycemic load. This number takes into account how much sugar is in an average serving. 

The glycemic index and a glycemic load of grapes is moderately low. The many antioxidants in grapes mean that they are valuable foods, even for people with diabetes. 

Anti-aging antioxidants

Grapes contain several different antioxidants, including types known to decrease inflammation and support healthy blood flow.

Grape antioxidants are also linked to better brain function (including memory and leaning), anti-aging, and overall longevity. The quercetin in black and red grapes has been shown to protect against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Quercetin has also been linked to apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to kill off worn out or dysfunctional cells.

Healthy vision

The lutein and zeaxanthin in grapes protect the retina and eye lens. They’ve been shown to increase visual range; lessen discomfort from glare; enhance visual contrast; and reduce the time it takes the eyes to recover from the stress of bright lights. The dynamic duo also helps lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two common eye disorders.

Nutrition

Once cup of grapes provides about a quarter of your daily vitamin C needs, nearly 20% for vitamin K, and at least 10% for copper. In addition to supporting immunity, vitamin C is needed for DNA repair, and the production of both collagen and serotonin. (The latter promotes happiness and sleep.)

Grapes also contain small amounts of these nutrients: 

Vitamin A

Vitamin C

Calcium

Iron


Nutrients per Serving

A half-cup serving of grapes contains:

Calories: 52

Protein: 1 gram

Fat: 0 grams

Carbohydrates 14 grams

Fiber: 1 gram

Sugar: 12 grams

How to Use Red Grapes

I enjoy eating grapes plain, but over the years have found that they add flavor and nutrition to many dishes, and red grapes provide a pop of color, too. 

Liven up a chicken salad with red grapes, walnuts, and celery

Use red grapes in almost any fruit salad

Top a green salad with red grapes, and add almonds for crunch and mint for flavor

Add red grapes and other fruit to yogurt

Pair red grapes with a mild cheese like Edam or gouda

Add red grapes to your breakfast smoothie.

Powerful Rituals for Happiness and Health

Research shows that people who work under a lot of stress are two times as likely to develop coronary heart disease.

Chronic stress also leads to insomnia, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, arthritis, respiratory disorders and even cancer.

While many people thrive and revel in working under a certain amount of pressure, no one is immune to the ramifications of too much constant pressure. It eventually reaches a plateau.

Despite both physical and mental exhaustion, the danger begins when we drive ourselves beyond our limits. 

Instead of being able to relax during non-working hours when we should be spending our free time relaxing, many engage in continuous internal chatter in our minds about work problems and issues.  This can lead to serious burnout, mental or physical breakdowns or more.

In many cases, we are so wrapped up in the day-to-day issues of work that stress just creeps up on us and we may not even be aware of how harsh it is.

Irritability, impatience, and edginess are early warning signs. If you find yourself being easily offended, lacking concentration, or obsessing over details, do everything in your will to take a time out.

Stress will always win the battle if you want to stay in the ring and fight it. The real solution is to get your life in balance. When the balance is right, you will come out the victor.

Here are some powerful rituals to help disconnect from work and tend to a happier life during free time.

  • Start eating well again. Take your time. Relax. Enjoy your food by chewing it, not almost shoveling it whole. Get off the sugar, salt and processed foods. Eat natural. Plan your menu with the vegetables and fruits (over 50% of your small plate full) first, grains and entrees second.
  • Walk or run it off. This gives you time to yourself to begin debriefing work related matters for the necessary transition into the life you are actually meant to enjoy. By walking in ten minute slots for three times a day, it cuts your risk of heart disease by 40 percent. 
  • Incorporate some other type of movement. Stretch, dance, t’ai chi, yoga, or something else that suits you. Combine both aerobic and weight-bearing activities in your rituals.
  • Soak in a warm bath. During this alone time, include breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation. 
  • Read a book chapter or two to give your mind some escape.
  • Listen to music.
  • Create a restful environment in your bedroom, with a comfortable bed allowing no room for distractions or clutter.

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Top 10 Foods for Feeling, Looking and Doing Better

Are you interested in feeling better, looking better and having more energy?

Here are the top ten foods identified by most nutritionists to reach those goals:

1.         Avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fats that keep you full and are great for lifting your mood while helping you burn belly fat.

2.         Coconut oil is a better alternative to butter or margarine. The benefits include an increased metabolism, resistance to bacteria (that causes illness), and lower cholesterol. Many people use it as a very effective moisturizer for skin and hair.

3.         Blueberries are only 80 calories a cup and are loaded with four grams of fiber. The bonus: blueberries are considered one of the best anti-aging foods in existence.

4.         Beans fill you up with protein without all the saturated fat of eating meat. About 15-25% of your plate should include protein.

5.         Brown rice has ample amounts of fiber also and is far better for you than white or fried rice. You fill up faster which helps you eat a smaller portion.

6.         Almonds are bursting with healthy fats giving bountiful age, energy and beauty benefits.

7.         Grapefruit has been a definitive diet food for ages because of its citrus packed weight-reducing powers.

8.         Wine has the favored antioxidant called Resveratrol to foil fat stowage. Thanks to the skins of the grapes of course.

9.         Almond milk that is unsweetened has about half of the calories, with twice the calcium as non-fat milk. It’s great for cereal in the morning.

10.       Green tea also has the magical powered antioxidants that are excellent for reducing the belly size.

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The Definitive Secret to Selecting the Best Watermelons

Do you know what the definition of a “truck” was before automobiles and vehicles were ever invented?

Thanks to our Grandpa Jack Dennis, I know a thing or two about that…and watermelons. (I’ll reveal the truck definition below).

Some of my favorite childhood memories are the summer time get togethers at Grandpa and Grandma’s Petaluma Street house on the southside of San Antonio back in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

All the Dennis family, including cousins (and sometimes the Grimmett’s from across the street), would spend the afternoon and evening into the night feasting on perfectly sweet and juicy slices carefully hand sliced by Grandpa and delved out by Grandma.

The melons had rested in a large metal washtub smothered in ice all morning. Grandpa took pride in selecting the biggest, superbly ripened melons that south Texas had to offer.

We’d play hide ‘n seek, tag and other games after lunch and until we were called for the traditional watermelon serving.

Oh my word, most of us were so sloppy and our bellies would get so full that we’d have to go dry off in the sun and then rest under a shade tree after the required water hose sprayoffs.

Night time brought out fireflies and gathering on hay bales or lawn chairs around a campfire. Uncle Sherman Sanders usually brought his guitar. Aunts, uncles and occasionally some of us cousins would take turns singing. Hits from Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Patsy Cline, Ray Price and Kitty Wells were special highlights.

Grandpa knew his fruits and vegetables. Since the 1920s, he worked along side his brothers in potato fields, corn patches and farms in various areas from around Kelly Air Force Base, southwest of the Alamo City, to near Floresville further southeast.

As the Dennis brothers (Jack, Burt and Bill) became more entrepreneurial, they’d hitch up a couple of horses (Dennis’s always had horses) to a large wagon each May for their annual trip to Fredericksburg.

The four or five day clever journey  allowed stopovers along the Old Spanish Trail until they reached the Boerne Stage Road at Leon Springs. There, they’d take the time for swimming and fishing.

“We ate whatever we caught at our campsite each evening,” Grandpa would retell the story many times. “For some reason, Burt could always outfish us, but we didn’t mind. and he helped keep our bellies full. We usually slept in the wagon and looked up at the millions of stars.”

“One year it rained and we had to sleep under the wagon, that night” he laughed.

After their watermelons and peaches were picked and loaded, they’d bring them back to San Antonio for selling to merchants at the Farmer’s Market near downtown and some at the Stock Yards.

They would return in August for strawberries and then southward for watermelons and other seasonal offerings.

When I was 12, Grandpa began picking me up before sunrise and taking me to his “secret watermelon farm,” the place he’d been buying from for many years. About the time the sun appeared, he’d back his pickup into a friend’s property near Dilley, Texas. The watermelons were waiting for us, stacked high on platforms so I could receive them easily within arms reach from the farmer’s workers and place them in the truck bed.

We’d bring them back to my little produce stand on Commercial Avenue in south San Antonio. The profits were split 50/50 between him and me on the melons. I manned that stand until I was 15.

Over the years I saw and heard people’s various tips about how to pick the best watermelon. Some looked for a large amount of brown webbing as a good indicator of a sweet melon, or that elongated “male” watermelons are more watery and bland than rounder “female” fruits. Others insisted on looking for a green, curly tendril or a dry, brown stem. Good luck with that!

Here’s some secrets I learned about watermelons from Grandpa:

Unlike many other types of fruit, watermelon will not ripen any further once it’s harvested. It also doesn’t readily announce its ripeness; the outside doesn’t turn soft like a peach does, and it doesn’t emit a sweet scent like a cantaloupe.

The truth is, according to Grandpa, there are really only two or three things you need to look for to find the best watermelon in the bunch, whether you’re at the grocery store or a farm stand.

1. Looking for darker green watermelons that aren’t too shiny. Be alert to notice the color between the stripes and check for a yellow belly. The creamy yellow patch is the “field spot” where the watermelon rested on the ground. The whiter this ground spot is, the less time the melon had to ripen on the vine before being picked, so a deeper, more buttery shade has a better, sweeter flavor.

2. It should feel heavy for its size. This can be hard to judge if you’re not used to hefting watermelons, but pick up a few of a similar size and see if you can tell that one seems heavier. That’s your best bet. When you’re weighing the merits of your melons, also check the rind; you shouldn’t feel much give since the outside of the fruit stays firm even when ripe. The stem end should have a little bit of flex, but if there are any other soft spots, pick another one, no matter how heavy it feels.

3. Make sure it sounds hollow when you thump it. Always thump it. It takes a bit of practice, but you’ll learn that if you tap or flick the underside of the melon, it should produce a deep, low-pitched, hollow sound, rather than a dull ping. It’s not totally foolproof, but considered with the first tips, improves the chances. 

A special treat was when we had “yellow meat” watermelons. These
yellow-fleshed melons are a natural mutation that look the same as your standard red or pink watermelon from outside, so just pick them the same way. They tender to taste a bit sweeter, almost floral-honey like. 

Now for the term “truck:”

In the 1800s, farms or family gardens that  produced vegetables and fruit, would call the offerings or portions setaside for sale (rather than for the owner’s own personal use).

“What’s in your truck today?” meant “what do you have in your garden, field, box, bag, table, etc. that is available to purchase?”

Prior to the 1800s, it was a term meaning to barter or sell, as in a commodity.

The Shrewd 11-year-old Who Wouldn’t Negotiate With Elvis Presley

Eleven-year-old Sterling Smith was keen at being idle and solemn about his watermelon business. Those two qualities worked together for the young boy during the hot Mississippi summer of 1973 when he noticed four cars parading toward his watermelon stand on Highway 51 going northbound one scalding afternoon.

“I would play a game with myself to pass the time away,” Smith told me in Pearl, Mississippi, twenty years later. “I would count the cars that were coming by. Every time the tenth car passed, I pretended that was my car.”

“When I saw a line of cars coming, I was getting ready to count but noticed they were slowing down and I thought maybe I was going to sell another one (melon),” Smith recalled. He mentioned his mode of operation was to “stay put so they would be more likely to buy one if they got out of the car because they walked all the way over to inspect them.”

“Sure enough, all of four cars pulled over and I thought, ‘yes’, I might sell four watermelons,” Smith laughed, with four fingers pointed upward. “Quickly, a man with sunglasses on got out of the first black car and it was Elvis Presley.”

“Can you imagine that? Elvis Presley was walking up to ME to see MY watermelons and I just sat there because I was being cool, while they were hot,” grinned Smith. “Some other men and women walked up to look them over too and give them a good thump. It was scorching, but I knew my melons were tasty.”

Smith believed he’d stay calm under the shade tree that canopied over his watermelons. Presley asked him if there was a discount available if he bought four. Smith didn’t budge from the price.

“No sir’, the boy replied. “They is three for a dollar but you can pick the ones you want?”

Sam Thompson, who later became to be a member of the ‘Memphis Mafia’, working security detail at concerts and Graceland, collaborated Smith’s story some years after Presley’s death in August 1977. Presley generally had his group of inner circle friends on the payroll to take care of business and personal affairs.

“One time my sister Linda, my wife Louise, and I had been down with Elvis to see the old Circle G Ranch in Mississippi and were on our way back to Memphis in Elvis’ Stutz Bearcat,” Thompson explained. “We passed a little black boy, maybe ten or eleven years old, by the side of Highway 51.”

“It was summer; it was hot – dust in the air,” Thompson confirmed. “The kid was caked in dust, sitting at a little watermelon stand. We had this entourage, about four or five vehicles, and Elvis was in the lead. As we go by Elvis pulls over. Of course, everybody pulls over after him.”

“Everybody jumps out – Red West and everybody,” described Thompson. “They’re looking around. This is in the middle of nowhere. This little kid – I’ll never forget his face. I know he knew who Elvis was, but he wasn’t gonna let Elvis know that he knew. He was a businessman, this kid. He sat there and waited for Elvis to walk up.”

Thompson remembered “Elvis had to initiate the conversation, ‘How much are the watermelons?’ A price was established. The kid was real tough and he wouldn’t come off the price.”

“If I would have sold any of those watermelons for less than a quarter a piece, my Pappa and Daddy would have blistered my butt,” Smith chuckled again. “There was no way the money was not going to match the right amount it was supposed to because they (his father and grandfather) knew how many watermelons were there that morning when they dropped me of off.”

“So finally Elvis just turned around and said, ‘We’ll take the whole stand. Pay him’,” Thompson revealed. “That’s the only time the kid’s visage cracked!”

“Elvis took one watermelon, the choice one, and put it in the back of the car,” continued Thompson. “Off we drove and left the entourage down there to settle up. Elvis bought the whole watermelon stand, bought all those watermelons, and took them back to Memphis.”

“Daddy wanted to know what the hell happened to all the watermelons,” Smith mused. “He thought somebody must have robbed me or something. But I showed him the money. He wanted to know who bought that many watermelons.”

“Elvis Presley bought those watermelons, Daddy,” answered Smith. “It was Elvis Presley.”

Smith winked and couldn’t remember if he told his father about the five dollar tip he received that day, but when he recounted the story in 1992, the then 31-year-old claimed, “every time I hear that song ‘Polk Salad Annie’, I smile.”

Then, with a smile of remembrance, Smith began to sing:

Down in Louisiana where the alligators grow so mean, lived a girl that I swear to the world made the alligators look tame … stealing watermelons out of my tow truck … Polk Salad Annie …’.