Sunday, August 31, 2014

Is my Watermelon Ready?

golden midget heirloom watermelon

Watermelon selection is a bit of a mystery to most people. 

It's like when you bake a pie and give it as a gift.  You (at least I do) have all of these lingering questions?

Is it good? Is it too watery inside or did I get it right?  What if I just gave someone a horrible gift when all I wanted to do was something nice?

Kind of the same idea with a watermelon....

In the past years I have recieved pictures and been invited into backyard gardens to determine if the melon in question was ready.  I hope I helped those friends and left them feeling empowered and in the know.

So I'll now share that information to you....

1. Is the fun little curly vine that is at the exact spot where the watermelon stem connects to the bigger vine brown?



2. Is the melon slightly yellow on the bottom?


3. When you give it a tap with your pointer finger knuckle does it make a high sound?

If you answered yes to all of the above...it should be ready.

The final test is that the watermelon should slip easily from the vine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Husk Cherries



I usually set these little gems on the end of my table at the farmers' market to get the conversation going.

What are these adorable, delicate little canary yellow gems wrapped in a Chinese lantern-esk paper?

A husk cherry!  These also go by ground cherry, cape gooseberry and in French (which is my favorite), Amour en Cage, which means "caged love."


They are closely related to a tomatillo (as if you couldn't already guess that) and have their roots in South America.  In other parts of the world like Austraila and New Zealand they are often made into jams or pies.

They have a very unique taste...like a tomato but sweeter.

More citrus. More pineapple. More apricot. Kind of....butterscotch.

It's like unwrapping candy.

They grow on a low sprawling plant that produces a ton of little husk cherries. They start out green and then slowly dry as the fruit ripens. They get the name "ground cherry" because you know they're ripe when they fall off the vine. We grew ours on black plastic...I didn't really like the idea of picking up my food and the food of my customers off the ground.  The plastic seems to be working.  

Kitchen inspiration for Husk Cherries

  1. Just unwrap and snack
  2. Jams, the husk cherries contain a high level pectin which makes them a great choice for canning 
  3. Pies and cobblers
  4. Husk Cherry Upside Down Cake (ditch the pineapple and try these guys)
  5. A sweet salsa like peach or blueberries salsa
  6. Sliced and sauteed with shrimp (Thanks Michelle for this one!) The hint of citrus with the husk cherries pairs nicely with shrimp
  7. Make a compote, cook down unwrapped husk cherries with a little water and brown sugar...a little salt too and spread over pork before it goes in the oven 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Foods that You Can Find Genetically Modified



Are your peaches Genetically Modified?

That was the question that inspired this post. A question like that tells me that the asker (and I mean this in a loving way) doesn't really understand which products are effected.  He/she has heard about Genetically Modified food...maybe done a little research...a little article reading but didn't get into the details...like genetically modified peaches don't exist.

....a sigh of relief for the shopper who asked that question.

At the farmers' market there is usually a line and people on the move which can make it tough to get into a full blown conversation so I will direct friends to this post for moments like when I get the question, "Are your peaches Genetically Modified?"

The list of genetically modified food is actually quite short...it's just that some of the items that are genetically modified are so widely grown they are the majority in production....like corn and soybeans.

Now, I am not here to debate the wrongness or rightness of Genetically Modified food. I am simply going to empower you with facts.

Fact 1: We are a GMO free farm because I want to grow food for everyone...for people who don't give a second thought about GMO's and for the people who, I'd literally have to pay them to take a genetically modified product.

Fact 2: You actually run into Genetically Modified products less at fresh markets like your favorite tailgate market or local farm stand.  The grocery store is a hot bed for genetically modified food because a ton of processed foods contain corn, soy, and canola.

Fact 3: Genetic modification  is done to:
  • make a crop herbicide resistant...less weeds = less cultivating, less labor cost, less expensive product to produce and less expensive for consumers (things that are round-up-ready are genetically modified)
  • or make a crop resistant to pests...so less spraying. Corn is modified with Bt which is an organically occurring insecticide.
  • or make a crop virus resistant  
  • or attempt at extending storage life
  • .....or prevent browning?  While I was at the Mid Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Growers annual meeting in January there were the Arctic Apple people trying to create interest and excitement about a genetically modified apple that won't turn brown when cut. This is not on the market and not something I'd ever consider growing. Why bother.  The Rome variety of apple is a slow browning apple...just pick those up or instill in your children that an apple that has browned is not bad....it's just a fact of life. Quite simple. 
And now for the list....
High Possibility of Genetic Modification
Corn
Soy
Cotton
Papaya
Canola
Note: Some lists also cite Zucchini and Yellow Squash 
but it's a small amount of acreage grown

Common Ingredients Derived from GMO Crops
From the Non-GMO Project
"Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Ethanol, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products"

....And now you see why I said that you are more likely to encounter GMO's via processed items at the grocery store. 

Genetically Modified tomatoes were at one time on the market but are no longer. Potatoes may be something to worry about in the future.

So there you have it....the list to leave you able to ask questions about the right products so you can shop confidently. 
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