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The Case of the Yellow-Speckled Watermelon

The Case of the Yellow-Speckled Watermelon



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The most local of all food can be from your own yard, where you can grow treats you're unlikely to see even at a farmers' market—and help save rare, precious varieties of fruits and vegetables while you're at it. This Moon & Stars Watermelon was pulled from the Cooking Light garden this summer. The circa 19th-century melon was resurrected from the backyard patch of a Missouri farmer in 1980, thanks to Seed Savers Exchange. It's one of more than 12,000 heirloom fruits and vegetables that Seed Savers has brought back from the brink.

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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One in five backyard gardeners now raise heirlooms, according to the National Gardening Association. Seed Savers membership is up 60% in the last five years. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, a Missouri-based heirloom seed company started in 1998 by 17-year-old Jere Gettle, now mails more than 300,000 spring catalogs. There's even an heirloom trade show, now in its second year.

Moon & Stars sports constellations of yellow dots on its rind, plus, usually, one large "moon" spot. It's sweet, almost meaty inside. And it's just one of many heirloom water-melons: White Wonders. Royal Goldens. Sugar Babies ...

Variety, gardeners know, is the spice of a tastier life.


Turkeysong

THIS BLOG IS RETIRED, I’VE MOVED TO SKILLCULT.COM

ALL THE OLD TURKEYSONG POSTS ARE THERE AND MORE, CHECK IT OUT!

Our society has little of use to offer kids when they are coming of age. Whatever the reasons, our lack of any kind of real transition into adulthood is not consistent with traditional cultures. When I was about 18 and trying to figure myself out I couldn’t see that there was nothing in my human environment that I could use to move toward a life that made any sense to me. I had become increasingly interested in ancestral skills and learning about nature. The things I wanted to learn were very obscure and the life path offered to me by convention extremely distasteful. I had read about Native American youth doing multi-day fasts as part of coming of age trials, the so called vision quest, and decide to go on a four day fast in the woods to help me sort out my path.

The CRASS, as seen in this documentary, are sort of a group of freeloading bohemians, but they still had a focus on action and doing something, including having a physical place in the country where they grew food and shared stuff. That got my gears turning.

I had been very much a social discontent from a young age. I was raised to ask questions and I latched onto the rejection stance of punk rock. If there was one message to take home from punk it was that everything was not okay. This was at a time of false optimism in America. Ronald Reagan’s head was bobbling around on television telling us everything was great, except that there was an evil empire called Russia that wanted to wipe us out and we might all be blown to bits at any moment by them, or by ourselves, or more likely both. We walked around thinking any day could be the day the bombs started flying and the world ended. (BTW, For all we know, that’s still the case.) I wore inappropriate clothing and slogans, went to protests and was just generally making sure people knew things were not alright damnit! It didn’t take long for me to start realizing that whining was not a very useful tool for social change and that symbols such as clothing, music and language did not take the place of action. In fact, being whiny and contrary turned out to be less fun than one might imagine!

This is me with Ali and Pete on a rock climbing field trip in high school. It was GW’s birthday (now president’s day) and I just thought I should remind everyone that he was a slave owner. I figured that made him an asshole first and the first president second.

This live Discharge video is pretty awesome! I can’t resist putting a bunch of punk links in this post :D

Somewhat earlier when I was even younger, influenced by some of the punk bands I was listening to like Crass, Crucifix and especially the song They (lyrics) by Antisect, and also just because it was logical, I found myself more and more convinced that there was no solution to the worlds ills that made any sense other than changing the way that I actually lived. Switching my view of problems from a primarily external view to a more internal view gave me a chance at some kind of empowerment rather than wallowing in helplessness at the hands of the Ronald Reagans of the world, or whomever. In other words, change the things you can change and get your ducks in a row, which is more than enough to stay busy! This epiphany lead to an interest in self reliance. At about 16 I traveled across the country with some of my family. I remember looking in every book store that I could find in various cities for any books on homesteading and related topics. One store was an anarchist book store. I was not impressed. If anarchy was sitting in a stuffy bookstore wearing black clothes and reading philosophy and politics I’d pass. I came home empty handed. My sister and I also visited the punk scenes of D.C., Boston, Quebec, Atlanta and Austin that summer and while it was fun, they seemed to consist mostly of a bunch of drunkbag wheelchair butts on the fast track to burning out.

From dehumanization to arms production for the benefit of the nation or it’s destruction… One of my favorite punk bands, Crucifix, like the vast majority of punk bands, mostly piled responsibility for the worlds problems on others. Easy to do when you are a seemingly powerless kid. Although they were mostly right, it’s just better to concentrate on the stuff you can actually do something about. Otherwise, what credibility do we have to complain? Crucifix live at the On Broadway in San Francisco for the few of you who actually like punk rock this is a gem in the rough!

So that sets the stage for my vision quest.

I walked up a small redwood sheltered creek in a desolate State Park that I frequented. I had my sleeping bag and some supplies. I hung my pack in a tree, took out my contacts (which meant I couldn’t see shit unless it was right in front of my face, another level of isolation) and with my sleeping bag and a water bottle sat down in a circle of logs and such which I arranged so that I would have definite boundaries. I drank water from the creek as much as I wanted, but otherwise I stayed put and ate nothing. This was not a strenuous exercise like many traditional coming of age ordeals are, but for a relatively privileged kid to make a real effort to go through discomfort for personal growth is worth something anyway. I didn’t know what to expect. I have never been inclined to be religious, so I wasn’t expecting something mystical to happen, but I think I figured a profound epiphany of some kind would be convenient.

It is remarkable how being hungry and having no distractions can focus the mind. The key word there is HUNGRY, because what grew in my mind the most in those 4 days was a mini food empire. I thought of every food plant I could, making mental lists over and over so I would remember them. I thought about how and where I would plant them and how many. I visualized a farm or homestead dripping with fruit and nuts, crawling with animals and stocked with preserved foods (There was definitely some thought into where to put the skateboard ramp too). I’m sure I worked out some personal stuff as well, but I don’t recall because it was ultimately food self reliance which was the core of the vision that grew up in me. Dude, self reliance was where it was at! I wasn’t content to be livestock and that’s just what I felt like being dependent on an industrial food supply. Nothing could have been more clear. Food bearing trees played a major part in this mental edifice which was, I realize now, the early stirrings of a life long interest.

All around the country there are groups of fruit enthusiasts who get together periodically to trade fruitwood cuttings and rootstocks and such. Some people collect cars, guns, ceramic statues of cute animals… we collect fruit and nut varieties. Although my interest in this area was born largely out of practical goals and a desire to affect my life through action (and still is), I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t driven also by motives that might be considered less practical. That’s okay, we all need some passionate interest to get us through the day. Mine, lately anyway, (ok, one of them) is apples. We have lots of other fruits here at Turkeysong. I’ve planted well over 100 fruit and nut trees, vines and shrubs in 6 years and more are on the way. There are almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, pears, nectarines, peaches, plums, persimmons, cherries (yum), feijoa (A.K.A. pineapple guava pronounced fay jo ah with a soft J), figs loquats, grapes and I’m sure I’m forgetting some… but mostly apples. I have somewhere around 200 unique varieties of apples growing and more being grafted this year. Apples! No dude!, Apples! I want to grab you and shake you until it sinks in A…A….A….A…A…A…A…P…L…L…L…L…L…E…S….S…S…S DUDE!

This has basically been written before. Back when people took their fruit very seriously. Paragraphs and essays extolling the virtues of the apple bespeckle the literature of the last couple centuries and were, I feel sure, well received. Now I’m not a religious man to say the least, but it is apparent there is some comfort in the converted being preached to in order to affirm that yes belief X or god X, or whatever, is indeed righteous or to be feared, and so on. I personally love to read essays on the virtues of the apple and will now try to channel the inspired persons of the past who spoke of apples with the gratitude and reverence due them. Forgive me any errors or inconsistencies. The truth occasionally falls casualty to something more interesting. So without further delay, I present to you some unabashed apple propaganda…

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, cats, dogs, hogs, cattle and poultry of various descriptions. raccoons, opossums, bears, mice, deer, packrats, voles and birds of many kinds. I have not been asked here today at all, let alone to speak on a subject which others before me have eloquently and thoroughly addressed. Yet I find myself compelled to address our subject nonetheless, for if I plumb the depths of my motives I feel unsure that it is not necessary that there may not be some persons in the audience who yet remain lost and in need of a light to find the path that there may not have been something missed which I might point out or remind one of and more selfishly, I admit that I simply desire to add my humble voice to the throng in order that I shall not have to contain my own malignant enthusiasm.

Apples. What more virtuous fruit of temperate regions? I wager there is none! The apple: possessed of more flavor variations, a longer season, a greater variety of legitimate uses and broader form in shape and color than any other fruit outside of the tropic regions, and possibly including them. It can be cooked in savory and sweet dishes alike, dried for the winter, drained of it’s saccharine juice, fermented to cider, distilled into brandy, soured into vinegar, boiled into syrup, cooked down into apple butter, canned as sauce, and of course eaten out of hand. Other fruits can be treated the same, but not with the versatility of the apple. During our partnership with the Apple, we have developed its possibilities to a greater degree than any other temperate fruit. We could make perry from the luscious pear, squeeze the poor plum of its juices for wine, dry the berry and tuck the cherry into a crust of pie some may even exceed the apple in a sort of sensational deliciousness, but no other fruit matches the apple for its breadth of suitability for various uses, and it is an imminent suitability at that. Some Apples are tart, some are sweet, some hold their shape when cooked and others fluff into a delicate froth, all to be chosen from for conformation to our tastes and desires.

Just grind and squish. It seems too easy!

Nor is the apple so cloying as many fruits. Where the peach the pear the cherry and the grape, can cloy in their rich juicy sweetness, the apple invites eating over a longer season with less tendency to wear out its welcome on the palate. Large quantities can be consumed, especially if met with at the dining table as well as eaten bite by bite fresh from the hand. The apple is wholesome food.

Contributing yet more to the welcome which the apple finds with humanity is its breadth of variation in flavor. Hidden in the genes of Apples are a broader range of flavors than in any other temperate fruit. Flavors of banana, mango, fennel, almond, strawberry, raspberry, nuts, pineapple, citrus, cherry, rose, vanilla, spices, herbs, pear, wine, “apple”, melon and more can all be found in apples accented with more or less of acidity and sugar. These flavors, sugars and acids wait to be further mixed together, by breeding and by chance, into infinite combinations to both suit and broaden our tastes. From the easy edibility of the understated yet harmonious flavor of the Golden Delicious, to the epiphany of the balanced rubinette, to the sensational cherry bubblegum of Sweet 16, to the compelling symphony of flavor in a perfect Golden Russet or the fruit punch flavor of Grenadine, we have them not only in one species of fruit, but with grafting we can have them from just one tree! Can any other fruit boast this palate of flavors? I think not.

Newton Pippin can taste of watermelon candy and can be had in fine quality out of storage through the winter months.

And all of this over a longer season than any other temperate fruit. Beginning as early as June in some regions, apples can be plucked ready to eat from the tree from early summer through late winter and probably further on. While the fine flavored Kerry Pippin is a fond memory of August heat, the Granny smith still clings steadfastly to the tree in mid winter accumulating sugar and flavor. Granny’s fair daughter Lady Williams clings yet longer to the branch being unsuitable for eating until the end of January. These fruits and more like them show clearly the possibilities inherent in the apple for an increasingly extended season of fruit straight from the tree. Add to this already long season the outstanding keeping ability of many of our winter apples and we can, with a little planning and good storage, have quality apples for most, if not all, of the year. Many of our apples can keep through the winter safe in their protective skins. Some will keep into spring and even until the following harvest. The breeder is hard at work developing ever later keeping apples which will come out of long storage in the finest condition and who knows what the limit may be.

In our apples we also have an unprecedented range of form and color. Solid colors in red, yellow and green. variously striped with pinks, oranges and reds, washed with flushes and blushes, possessed of sublime translucency or impenetrable opacity, unblemished skins smooth and shining, hanging in un-presuming matte or covered in dusty bloom, overspread with russet and speckled with dots large or small. The King David demands attention in its redness, the Yarlington mill invites examination with it’s watercolor layers of translucency and cracked map of russet, while the intense red flesh of the Grenadine shines pink through a thin skin covered in speckles. Artists have time and again been moved to capture the beauty of the apple, It’s bending and refracting of light, its depth and its colors. Just google apple painting if you doubt me.

Ribbed, smooth, round, lopsided, oval, flat, green, red, yellow, speckled, striped and all manner of nifty…

In these varied colors we have apples which can weigh a pound or more, apples the size of large grapes, and everything in between. They droop from the twig variously in the shapes of cones, pears, ovals as if pulled by gravity, ovals as if to defy gravity, flattened like a doughnut, or merely round. They are symmetrical or lopsided, ribbed, or blocky. Long stems or short stems, clinging to branches or hanging at the ends of drooping twigs. The trees are willowy or stubby and short jointed, a few feet tall to tens of feet tall. The smallest ones give us dwarfing rootstocks on which to grow miniature trees. The bark varies nearly as much as the fruit in color and form as does the outline and growing habits of the tree, from a single spire 2 feet in diameter to spreading branches which may even grow downward, instead of horizontal, let alone upward. They provide us with pleasant shade and deep intriguing orchards that have lured and moved poets, lovers, scientists and children.

Yes, the Apple. It represents wholesomeness and good things in American culture, a symbolism which is not arbitrary, but which has grown naturally out of it’s virtues. One could go on cataloging the Apple’s traits and virtues but that could only suggest the possibility of the poetry of the apple, a poetry that we can feel, but which our attempts to express must be mostly inadequate. We may be better satisfied to hint at the romance of apples rather than to attempt outright description. Flowery and detailed renditions will likely fail to impress and we had better stick to tracing the subtle, sublime edges– delicately suggesting the outline of a feeling and leaving the imagination to fill in the rest or to just wonder. Still, spreading trees hanging with fruit or dressed in spring blossoms, dappled light, tantalizing memories of juicy crunching flesh, washes of vibrant flavor, juice flowing from presses and scents of all kinds stir the feelings and can move one to communicate with our limited symbols so that others might see the beauty and value we have witnessed.

The Apple, guided by man’s hand for millennia into ever more varied form and function is at once servant and king, a humble savant, dripping with abundant beauty, inspiration, pleasure and utility in return for so little! We chop it’s branches and it grows the more. We throw filth and waste on its roots and it bears forth a miracle of abundance each dropping fruit bursting with sugar and juice, a miracle in its own beautiful and practical package.

Apples survive in their variety only with our thoughts and our actions. We either live a culture of meaningful food, or lose it. Thousands upon thousands of varieties of apples are already lost forever and we lose more every week to the bulldozer, to neglect, to age, or with the passing away of the only person who remembered the name of that old tree by the woodshed, or even cared. But the bulldozer, the physical neglect, and the fact that we die are not the real enemies of the apple , it is more that we have stopped cohabiting with the apple. What was once like a spouse, a lover, a child, a sibling, a grandparent, a friend, with which we lived intimately and relied upon, is now reduced to a commodity. The apple will not thrive without our love and respect, but will instead be reduced to prostitution, it’s production banned to the industrial farm, painted in bright colors and put on the shelves where we can buy her in an attempt to find the love we’ve lost.

The apple has fed us and made our lives better for eons, and it is a tragedy that we have all met with so many poor specimens, and even more so that poor apples have simply become the norm. If apples do not improve, we are at risk of losing our faith in them, as some already have. But the truth is that when properly selected, grown and handled, the apple is awesome. If you think you don’t like apples so much, I don’t blame you given what is usually available for sale, but maybe you haven’t met the right one at the right time.

An apple renaissance is afoot and promises to make available to us more and much better apples. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Seek out new and interesting apples. Engage in the simple act of talking about them with friends and strangers. Support the farmer taking a chance on growing small lumpy apples that taste amazing. If the apples at the store are no good, don’t buy them, but demand better. Best of all, Improve your life, improve the lives of others, take care of those who come after you, plant an apple tree.

I borrowed this picture off the innernets somewhere… sorry, and thanks.

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Suki: My Go-To Casual Holiday Outfit

Suki So Chic shares an easy-breezy outfit for hectic holiday celebrations.

By Suki Bickett

Could anything be easier than a Christmas-crimson jean and a splash of flowers in the same color for the top?

Don’t overthink it. You have enough to think about during the holidays!

A Little Background Music

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Melon Time: Growing (and Eating!) Sweet Melons with Kaye & Roger Diefendorf

Put the growing needs of melons and the gardening conditions of much of the North State together, and what you get is an uncommonly happy marriage. This week on In a North State Garden (Northstate Public Radio 91.7 FM Chico/88.9 FM Redding, at 7:34 a.m. Saturday and 8:34 a.m. Sunday), I talk to Kaye and Roger Diefendorf of Morning Glory Organics about growing melons. Located in Butte Valley near Oroville, Morning Glory Organics grows a selection of specialty and heirloom melons.

The approximate average last frost dates for Chico/Redding are mid-late May and average first frost dates are mid-late October. That leaves over 150 days of fairly reliable frost-free growing, with upwards of 270 days in the standard growing season. In the foothills of the region – up to, say, 2,000 feet – there are perhaps closer to 130 frost free days and closer to 230 days in the growing season. The standard melon needs plenty of heat, which we have, and between 80 and 120 days, which we have, to spread its branching vines and bear sweet rounded fruits. This happy marriage results in all shapes and sizes of sweet, juicy fruits that are ready to enjoy right now in gardens, at market farms and farmers markets all across the North State region. Photo: A Sugar Baby watermelon and a Galia muskmelon ripe and ready to enjoy at Morning Glory Organics farm.

Before living in Northern California, I had never lived in a climate in which I could grow melons, and so to harvest a ripe melon in my own garden is still something of a minor miracle. The first year I grew melon, I tried a Blenheim Orange Muskmelon. Being new to this game, I was not at all sure when my fruit was ripe. I watched as the vine started to tendril its way across my garden space, as its little uplifted yellow and orange trumpet blossoms opened and called in the bees, as fruit set and began to swell, and swell, and swell. And then … I wasn’t sure. Photo: My first ripe muskmelon – the fragrance as I walked into the vegetable garden told me it was ready.


But I was very excited to try my new crop. I ultimately picked two of my three beautiful fruits on the vine too soon. With the third fruit, I finally understood what Kaye and Roger Diefendorf described to me recently as three of the keys to knowing a ripe fruit. The first key is “that hollow sound indicating ripeness when you thump them.” Roger actually walked through the melon vines in the Morning Glory fields thumping promising fruits, trying to find the perfect percussive response (wish I’d gotten that on recording for the radio portion of my program!). The second key is the aromatic scent emitted from a warm melon ready to be picked. And, with my third ripe fruit, I also understood the third key, which is what the Diefendorf’s mean by “full-slip”: that moment when you reach down for the sweet fruit of your labor and it slips away from its stem and right off of the main vine with hardly a tug, a good indicator of ripeness in most melon varieties. Photo: Firm orange flesh of a ripe Blenheim Orange muskmelon.

Roger and Kaye began their organic market garden focusing on heirloom and specialty varieties just a few short years ago in 2008. They had both been gardeners prior to their new endeavor, but their Butte Valley location outside of Oroville was their first opportunity to experiment with melons. They like to grow a few new (to them) varieties each year and to continue to grow market favorites from previous years. This season (due to a a slow damp spring), they began their plantings of melon seeds in late May, with additional succession plantings every few weeks through early July. While melons are easy to direct sow, if you want to extend your growing season, many people recommend starting your seeds indoors a few weeks before last frost and transplanting seedlings out when your soil has warmed. If you do this, be gentle with the succulent stems and try to avoid disturbing the roots too much. Homemade newspaper pots that can be directly planted into the soil are a good choice for melon seed starts. Photo: Roger looking for some good thumping candidates to illustrate the sound of a ripe melon.

Melons are members of the Curcubitaceae family, and are generally vining, tendril bearing frost-sensitive annuals. While many squashes and gourds are native to the Americas, cucumbers and melons are generally native to the warmer climates of India, Asia and Africa. The family includes so-called muskmelons (Cucumus melo), a group which in turn includes the standard aromatic sweet melons such as honeydew, crenshaws, and what many of us refer to as cantaloupes. The family also includes watermelons (Citrullus lanatus), cucumbers (Cucumis sativus), squashes (Cucurbita pepo) and gourds. Photo: A ripe round melon ready for picking, and melon flowers being pollinated by a helpful bee. Melons are predominantly pollinated by bees – honeybees as well as native bees.

Melons being annuals are heavy feeders and need rich, well-draining and warm soil. “We dig lots of composted manure into the melon and squash fields,” Roger says. They also need plenty of water, “up to four hours of slowly emitted water every day” while the vines are growing and fruit is setting,” Kaye indicates. “But pull back on the water when most of the fruits on the vines in one planting have reached full size but are not yet ripe. Too much water at that point flattens out their flavor.” Photo: A young fruit on the vine. From flower to fully formed fruit, melon vines need regular, deep watering.

Melons are fairly easy-care plants, and their needs are simple: sun, heat, space, medium rich soil, regular water, and more sun and more heat and more space. “Look at those runners!” Kaye exclaims, looking down the rows of melons. A few pests and diseases should be watched out for, though, “like the plague of grasshoppers that wiped out some of our plantings last year!” says Kaye.

Additionally, cucumber beetle, verticillium wilt and anthracnose can be issues. Vigilance in terms of hygiene will help reduce the risk of infection: clean out all dead or infected plants, especially from season to season, provide good air circulation and consistent water and food. Row covers prior to vine flowering will help to deter insect borne problems, but covers should be removed once flowering begins to facilitate pollination. Crop rotation will help to diminish pests or diseases that can winter-over in the soil. Finally, try to choose disease resistant varieties. Photo: A casaba and a crenshaw melon.

When it comes to harvesting and eating your melons, Kaye and Roger’s advice is to pick them when ripe and eat them at room temperature to get the full effect of their exquisite aromas and flavors. “Most of the ones we grow are pretty good keepers and if picked when ripe should hold for up to a week.” Photo: Kaye cuts open a perfectly ripe Sugar Baby watermelon: “Hmmm,” she is saying, “Do you hear that cracking of the rind, it’s perfect!”

But when their fragrance is calling to you on a hot afternoon and the flesh is the perfect texture and crispness, who can resist eating them for a whole week? Photo: Ripe red melon.

If you have not grown melons before, or have stuck to the most basic varieties and are interested in being a bit more adventurous next year, melon time is here in the North State. Now is the perfect time to explore your local farms and farmers markets to test varieties and take notes for sowing next spring.

Below are a handful of the melons that Morning Glory Organics grew in 2011:

Galia melon – developed in Israel, this is a cross between a regular muskmelon and a honeydew, the “galias are favorites at market,” says Kaye. Roger describes them as having a “finely netted, bright yellow exterior and a green flesh” as well as being “tasty and aromatic.” Photo: A perfectly delicious galia – its fragrance intense in the warming sun.

Athena melon – is a solidly disease resistant variety according to several sources and while more well known in the eastern US, it is a “good grower and keeper for us,” Roger reports.

Crane or Io River melon – has a lovely spotted, smooth exterior and was developed in the 1920s by Oliver Crane in Sonoma County, and Roger says that “Crane’s family is still growing it on the Crane Ranch there!” According to an article in Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste archives, the Crane melon was achieved by “crossing several varieties of melons, including a Japanese melon, a white melon, a Persian melon and an ambrosia melon among others.” Photo: The signature spotted exterior of a Crane melon on the vine at Morning Glory. When ripe, the rind will turn a lighter beige color.

Bidwell Casaba – is our region’s very own variety, named for Chico’s General John Bidwell who trialled the seed for the USDA in the late 1860s. An interesting striped and ridged melon, the fruit “can develop slowly and at maturity has a wide range of sizes” in Morning Glory’s fields, but the flavor is sublime. Photo: Bidwell Casaba on the vine.

Sugar Baby Watermelon – is a nicely sized watermelon for the home garden, for transporting to market and for keeping in the fridge. Photo: Sugar Baby watermelon.

Moon and Stars Watermelon – is a very pretty melon, the yellow speckled deep green, smooth exterior of which gives it the source of its name. “Did you know the yellow speckling is also a mark of its foliage?” Roger asked me. I did not. Photo, below: Speckled moon and stars watermelon foliage.

Morning Glory Organic’s produce – including melons and much more – can be found at the Oroville Saturday Farmers Market located at Montgomery & Myers Municipal Auditorium Parking Lot May 21st – October 29th 7:30am -12 noon. Morning Glory Organics will have a farm stand opening on-site in Butte Valley late this summer – with luck by the Labor Day weekend – check their website for more information.

For more information on growing melons, see Claire Hutkins Seda’s article “Growing Melons with Chico Area Farmers” in the Spring 2011 issue of Valley Oak Magazine Photo: The flesh and seeds of an immature melon. In part due to melons being such heavy feeders, their rinds make great additions to the compost pile – breaking down rapidly and according to the “Gardener’s A – Z Guide to Growing Organic Food” by Tanya Denckla, they are rich sources of phosphorous and potassium.

Amy Goldman’s beautifully photographed book “Melons for the Passionate Grower,” is a thorough reference on the subject.

For seed sources of good melon varieties try: Redwood Seeds out of Manton, Synergy Seeds out of Willow Creek, or Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Interested in heirloom edibles? The 1st National Heirloom Exposition is being held in Santa Rosa, California September 13, 14, and 15th, 2011. Heirloom melons, as well as every other edible crop you can think of will be on display, as will tools, seeds, art and educational workshops and demonstrations. The North State’s own Chris Kerston of Chaffin Family Farm will be among many featured speakers. For more information on the event: www.theheirloomexpo.com.


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In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.


Manna Bread — a little slice of heaven that's also healthful

Simply Living
(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel November 14, 2010)

Many of the foods my family eats are not your typical grocery store finds. One such food, Manna Bread, is a moist, cakelike loaf made from sprouted grains, fruits and nuts. My husband adores Manna Bread. It has been an essential part of his diet for the past 35 years, and when his supply runs low, as it did this past week, he enters a state slightly south of Panic.

"I'm almost out of Manna Bread!" he announced.

"Maybe I can get some in town," I said, hoping to alleviate his anxiety. Although it's not usually available in the grocery store, health-food stores sometimes carry it in their refrigerated cases. I figured I'd go to town and check it out.

We discovered Manna Bread 35 years ago, when we owned a small natural-food store on Cape Cod. For Ralph, it was love at first bite.

"It tastes like carrot cake, yet it has no sugar, no salt, no oil and is made from sprouted grains. What's not to like?" he said, referring to Carrot Raisin Manna Bread, his favorite among the nine varieties produced by Manna Organic.

This concoction is remarkably flavorful despite its minimal ingredient list. Sprouted organic whole-wheat kernels, filtered water, organic carrots and organic raisins are all that's in a 14-ounce loaf of Ralph's favorite bread.

"By fully germinating our grains, we convert the starches into easily digested natural complex sugars, similar to those found in fresh fruits, hence the sweetness," explains Manna Organic on its website, http://www.mannaorganicbakery.com. "The sprouts are ground and hand-shaped into loaves, baked at a low temperature, then packed and frozen to preserve shelf life, without any chemical additives."

The bread's sweetness — especially in the Carrot Raisin loaf — makes it a perfect dessert food, and that's how my husband usually uses it. Ralph ends most meals with a serving of Manna Bread.

"It's like having a piece of carrot cake without eating any sugar or oil or salt or preservatives," he explains. "It satisfies my sweet tooth."

With only 130 calories in a two-ounce serving, Manna Bread is kind to the waistline. Flavorful enough to eat plain, it is also tasty when toasted and served with a smear of nut butter, jam or cheese.

"I don't know what I'd do if they stopped making it," he lamented after we returned from a trip to town empty-handed. "I'd be devastated."

I'm hoping that won't happen. Although local stores may not normally carry this less-than-mainstream food, it has been a standard item at large, natural-food chains for more than a quarter-century. It is available in Orlando at Whole Foods Market, and smaller stores can order it if a customer requests it.

We all have special foods that make us happy. For me, it's a cup of stevia-sweetened jasmine green tea. For my husband, it's the naturally sweet taste of carrot-raisin manna bread. If I have to take a 45-minute trip to the city to satisfy my partner's food needs, I'll gladly rev up the motor.


Electric Orange Juice

For years I've been hearing about the big, bountiful, beautiful breakfasts at Norma's: the hotel dining room at the Parker-Meridien on West 57th Street in New York City. And while the experience was extremely pleasant and the food very good, the most outstanding part of the story was the orange juice! At first I thought it was a hustle. At $9 a glass, what was the deal? "Who wants juice?" our affable waiter sung out? (He looked a bit like Baryshnikov). With the grace of a dancer, he began pouring electric-looking orange liquid into three of our four extremely tall glasses. I declined, and chose instead to have juice for dessert -- more about that later. After 30 minutes, the glasses were filled again, and 10 minutes later. again. Quickly I calculated that I was now $54 into the check and we hadn't had anything yet to eat! Uh-oh, "here he comes again." I didn't want to seem ungracious (I was treating), but finally said, "Sir, uh, um, do you charge for each glass of juice?" "Oh no," he said. "Refills are free." Instant relief for me, then curiousity. Why would they do that? The juice was extraordinary tasting. It was though a crate of succulent Honeybells was squeezed into each glass. While it was the hospitality-equivalent of the unlimited "sweet tea" you encounter in the South, this orange elixir had to cost them a fortune. The food arrived. a PB&C Waffle 'Wich (a chocolate waffle with peanut butter and toffee crunch filling), Artychoked Benedict (with truffle porcini sauce), Super Cheesy French Toast (with caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon), and Normalita's Huevos Rancheros and. more juice. As I mentioned, I saved mine for dessert. One of my most memorable desserts in history was experienced in Barcelona. At a trendy neighborhood restaurant, chic customers order fresh orange juice for dessert, served in a wine glass and accompanied by a spoon. How simple, yet brilliant, to end a meal in such a vibrant, palate-cleansing way. It is especially memorable made with Honeybells (just coming up from Florida now) or with blood oranges. I call their flavor "nature's Kool-Aid." Either way, it's an inspired, one-ingredient dessert, that's hard to beat.

Although breakfast at Norma's is very expensive (there is even Foie Gras French Toast for $34 and The Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata for $100), if you do as I did, dessert is free. I drank the last glass of juice from one of my guests.

A Recipe for Electric Orange Juice

This recipe is one ingredient only. Each large orange yields about 1/2 cup juice so plan accordingly. Use navel oranges, Honeybells, or large blood oranges. (At this time of year, it's delicious to add the juice of two tangerines.)

8 large oranges

Cut oranges in half and juice. Pour into wine glasses and serve with a spoon. Serves 4


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