Skip to main content
Tech + Life

Feast on these words

A glossary of the new terms and technologies you’ll encounter reading Experience’s ‘Food + Agriculture’ stories

By Schuyler Velasco

In many ways, we eat just as we have for centuries: We get our milk and cheese from cows, drink beer to unwind, and have big, crowded feasts to mark special occasions. But as this month’s “Food + Agriculture” stories show, technological innovation has changed some of the particulars. Thanks to cutting-edge brewing methods, non-alcoholic beer more closely mimics the real thing. The cows can live out on the water, reducing their carbon footprint. Feasts take place on Zoom. All of those advancements require a new lexicon to describe them. Click on a word below to read the article in which it appears.

ABV
Alcohol by volume. The standard measurement of a beverage’s alcohol content, calculated by the number of milliliters of pure ethanol per 100 mL of liquid. Most beers have between 4 and 7 percent ABV; non-alcoholic beer can have no more than 0.5 percent.

Bayh-Dole Act
A 1980 trademark law change that allowed universities to profit off intellectual property created using federal funds. Sponsored by Senators Birch Bayh of Indiana and Bob Dole of Kansas, the amendment effectively de-centralized control over new inventions that were federally funded.

Biofortification
Breeding plants to increase their nutritional value, either through traditional growing methods or via genetic engineering. Arguably the most famous example is Golden Rice, a genetically modified variety of rice fortified with beta carotene. Other examples include zinc rice and iron beans.

Blaarkop cow
A medium-sized, Dutch cow breed with a square white face and black or red patches around its eyes, whose name loosely translates to “blister head.” The blaarkop dates back to the 14th century and was specifically bred for the high quality of its milk fat.

Casein
A milk byproduct used as a common food additive. As a type of food packaging, it has benefits beyond typical plastic wrappers, including biodegradability and antimicrobial properties.

Charoseth
A sweet, dark-colored paste made of fruits and nuts and traditionally eaten at Passover Seder. Originally from Israel, its ingredients can include apples, pears, raisins, figs, orange juice, wine, pine nuts, and cinnamon.

Conflict Kitchen
A Pittsburgh restaurant that operated until 2017 and only served food from nations “with which the United States was in conflict,” including Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. The restaurant was an early experimenter with dinner parties held via Skype.

Cyborg
A being with both organic and mechanical body parts that rely on interplay with the organism to function; someone with an artificial pacemaker qualifies. The term was coined in 1960 by scientists Manfred Clynes and Nathan S. Kline.

EmbediVet
An electronic device the size of a pack of gum that veterinary experts at Utah State University inserted under the skin of a cow in 2018. It allows farmers to track the cow’s heart rate, temperature, and activity level — and could be a precursor to embedding such devices in humans.

Fermentation
The process by which yeast converts sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Grinders
A subculture of amateur scientists who experiment with using tech to augment their own bodies — things like implanted chips that can unlock doors, or prosthetic legs that double as wifi hotspots.

Hairy vetch 
A small, cold-tolerant legume that provides ground cover for crop fields, adds nutrients to soil, and absorbs nitrogen from the air. It’s one of a number of plants that farmers can plant to absorb more carbon in their crop fields.

Hidden hunger
Dietary deficiency of key vitamins and nutrients, including iron, zinc, vitamin A, and iodine. It’s an affliction that affects more than two billion people globally, particularly people in low-income countries who can’t afford micronutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and animal products. “Hidden hunger” can cause a range of health problems, including blindness, stunted growth, and anemia.

HI-SEAS
Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation; NASA’s Martian base simulation habitat on the Mauna Loa side of Hawaii’s Big Island. Located near a volcano, the area has Mars-like features, including rocky terrain and high elevation. Crews have been running months-long mock missions to Mars at the site since 2013.

Horticulture
The formal term for plant agriculture.

Leidse kaas
A semi-hard, Dutch cheese flavored with cumin and caraway seeds, made in the Leiden region of the Netherlands.

Malt
A dried grain that commonly comes from barley, and a fundamental ingredient in beer.

Megacity
A city with a population of more than 10 million people and high population density — 2,000 people per square kilometer, according to some definitions. There are about three dozen megacities around the world, mostly in India and Asia, but the list also includes Los Angeles, New York, Lagos, and several South American cities.

Meuse-Rhine-Issels
MRI for short; a docile, disease-resistant cattle bred native to the region of The Netherlands where the Meuse, Rhine, and Issel rivers intersect. Popular for over a century, MRIs have decreased in population since the 1970s, when the Holstein breed of cattle began to overtake the global dairy industry.

Miracle berry
A West-African fruit with a chemical, miraculin, that causes sour foods like limes and lemons to taste sweet.

Oohos
Edible capsules derived from seaweed, made by Notpla, a U.K.-based sustainable packaging startup. Oohos made a splash at the 2019 London Marathon, where they were filled with energy drink and given to runners near the end of the route.

Open-source
A term for computer software whose creator does not restrict or copyright its use. The concept is now being applied by certain seed growers in the agricultural world.

OSSI
Open Source Seed Initiative; a movement to make new seed varieties available for free use. The initiative grew out of a frustration with major agribusiness’ tight restrictions on widely used crops.

Pontoon
A flat, wide boat that relies on buoys to stay afloat.

Regenerative agriculture
A planting method that puts carbon back in the soil and keeps it stored underground, by minimizing soil disturbance and increasing the volume of smaller plants grown in between the farmable crops. The carbon accumulation leads to higher crop yields for farmers and reduces the need for water and fertilizers.

Reinheitsgebot
The 1516 Purity Law, a 500-year-old German regulation governing what is allowed in beer. Introduced in 1516 by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, the decree only allows for hops, barley, water, and yeast. 

Reverse osmosis
A purification process that uses a partially permeable membrane to remove unwanted particles from liquids, including alcohol from certain brands of NA beer.

Terraton Initiative
A project that pays farmers to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — $15 per metric ton. Launched by the Boston-based company Indigo Ag, the project’s goal is to pull 1 trillion tons of CO2 from the air. 

Vacuum distillation
A process of brewing nonalcoholic beer in which brewers run fully made beer through a vacuum, lowering the boiling point and burning off the alcohol at a lower temperature. This keeps the flavor profile of the hops and other ingredients intact.

Published on

Schuyler Velasco is Experience's Senior Editor.

Tech + Life

Eat like a Martian

How to adapt astronaut diets for pandemic-era pantries

By Heather Kapplow