Fish Was Once Currency in Newfoundland

Image Credit: Jcmurphy via Wikipedia // Public Domain

Bartering has been around far longer than paper money or coins. For hundreds of years in Newfoundland, Canada, economic activity relied on a very specific kind of bartering: the cod trade. Cod was so important to Newfoundland’s culture and economy that the fish was called “Newfoundland currency.” 

Cash on the island was virtually nonexistent during the first decades of English settlement in the mid-1600s. Instead, people would trade dried cod for goods. Merchants would sell fishermen supplies on credit during the spring, and in return, the fishermen would pay them back with their catch of cod in the fall (after a delicate and labor-intensive process of preparing and drying the fish).

In the 1800s, Newfoundland began trading more internationally, and British and Spanish coins became more common on the island, supplanting fish as the currency of choice. The Newfoundland Savings Bank was established in 1834, and the government authorized the Treasury to print currency for the first time. No longer would fishermen need to trade salted fish for their food and supplies. 

And that’s probably for the better. In more modern times, cod populations have suffered from extreme overfishing [PDF], especially during the 1980s and ‘90s, and are still recovering

[h/t: Hakai]

This State Was Just Ranked the Best in the U.S.

Every year, U.S. News and World Report assembles its list of the Best States across a variety of metrics. Categories like health care, education, economy, and quality of life are measured statistically—education, for example, looks at the graduation rate in high schools, while the unemployment rate correlates with job opportunities—and assessed against areas where states may be lacking, like disparities in income between genders or unfavorable crime statistics.

After considerable crunching of numbers, the U.S. News data analysis has crowned a new "best" state: Iowa.

The Hawkeye state finished in the top 10 or top five in key areas like health care, job opportunities, and overall infrastructure. Farming, a longtime identifying trait, has taken second place to manufacturing plants. And while plenty of Iowa is rural, its technological innovations are advanced: the state actually leads the nation in building high-speed internet access into the fabric of its communities.

There are other factors that paved the way for Iowa's placement—affordable housing, for example, where it ranks second overall in the country, and health care affordability. U.S. News points to a sluggish population growth for younger residents and less-hospitable resources for entrepreneurs as drawbacks.

In the full list, Minnesota grabbed the second-place spot; New York, the 25th. Louisiana appears at the bottom. 

[h/t U.S. News]

Big Questions
Why Do Honeycrisp Apples Cost So Much?

Apples to apples is no longer a valid comparison. As gastronomic writer Sarah Jampel at Food52 has observed, shoppers who prefer a premium fruit experience by opting for Honeycrisp apples can pay up to four times as much as they would for other varieties. When did Granny Smiths become the RC Cola to Honeycrisp’s Coke?

According to Jampel, the answer invokes the old law of supply and demand. There’s plenty of demand for the apple, but prices get engorged when there isn't enough to go around.

The scarcity is a result of the Honeycrisp’s eccentric nature. Introduced commercially in 1991 after being invented by University of Minnesota scientist David Bedford, who cross-pollinated seeds to create a more durable and winter-resistant apple, the Honeycrisp tree demands very specific soil and maintenance requirements. The fruit can ripen at various times, necessitating more frequent harvests; the skin is thin and delicate, so they must be trimmed off by hand. Many of the trees are so delicate they require a trellis [PDF] to support their branches.

All the extra labor means more time and money—the latter of which is passed along to the consumer.

Growers who didn’t anticipate the surging popularity of Honeycrisps were also caught off-guard. As trees can take up to six years to bear enough fruit for commercial purposes, the number of trees currently producing isn’t really proportionate to the level of demand.

That will change as more are planted, although it might be a little while before the Honeycrisp proves to be on the same economic footing as its Red Delicious counterpart. Before you celebrate a cheaper version, remember that growers looking to feed the market might opt to grow the apple in less-than-perfect conditions that could affect its famously crunchy taste. Enjoy it while you can.

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