Thursday, July 26, 2012

People & Planet CSA July 26, 2012

What's in the box 

Early Italian Garlic,  Dark Red Norland Potatoes,  Mara Des Bois strawberries, flowers with Korean Mint and Rosemary, Onions from the Onion Trial this week it's Firenze Torpedo , Zucchini - Romanesco is ribbed, Genovese is light green, Nano Verde di Milano is dark green, and the round one is Tondo.  Pearl White Sweet Corn,  cucumbers - Delicatesse, White Wonder and Poona Kheera, lettuce, and finally French filet green beans.

From a Distance
Gee, I hope next week brings on tomatoes.   More tomorrow, I'm still in the field irrigating and feeding chickens!  Okay it's tomorrow and I'm in for lunch and I thought I'd tell you about the melon trials.

Melon Trials
Melons have always been a big deal to us.  Melons are tricky.  They need a long season, fertile soil and they have to be picked at just the right time.  Then there's the problem of size.  Some of you may remember melons from the past that weighed 27 pounds and took your whole fridge.  Well we're trying to get away from that.  Times have changed and we need to find melons to fit our needs.

Watermelon in the foreground
We are looking for melons that have a long storage season.  When I visited Spain, I ate these melons that had been harvested 3 months before.  No one thought this was a big deal, but I was thunderstruck.  What if I could give you melons for Thanksgiving?  And so began the quest.  And what a quest it was.  While I was in Spain, everyone I asked what kind of melon it was.  They just shrugged their shoulders.  "Melon it's melon," they would tell me.  So I finally came up with some names, Santa Claus Melon, Christmas Melon, Piel de Sapo (Toad skin melon).  Then of course I could only find seed of one type.  Enter the USDA GRIN germplasm.  They kindly sent me many melons from Spain to trial.  So sometime in September, we will begin to get these.
C41 is Iroquois & W32 is Baby Tsubaba
And then there was the watermelons.  Working off a complaint from one of you that the boxes are getting too heavy to lift, we began to give this some serious thought.  Okay guys you only have to lift one, I have to lift 20 of them, but I get it.  I see your point.  One watermelon takes up your whole fridge.  My poor farm fridge has to make sleeping quarters for all of them.  Clearly we need some smaller watermelons.  It would also be great if we could get watermelons a few weeks in a row.  For years we have grown Sugar Baby and Crimson Sweet, because that's all we could find.  Which means first we get all the Sugar Babies and then a couple of weeks later the Crimson Sweet and boom it's over.  No more watermelons.

Ideally, I'd like to have 3 to 5 varieties that begin in August and continued till September.  I'd like them to weigh about 15 pounds.  That's a big enough melon for a family, except for Zack, who's a melon hog.  We'd like them to be sweet and juicy and not so thin fleshed as to not be able to get them to you.
One of the issues we've had trialing melons is that they are a vine and start growing together, and pretty soon, you don't know what you're looking at.  So this year we hit on a scheme.  First we planted a melon and then we planted a watermelon or squash.  In this way,  even though we could NOT prevent them from tangling up together (by the time we go to harvest the above bed, the melons will have covered the plastic and moved on to devouring all real estate in it's neighborhood, sort of like strip malls) we'll know when a watermelon is interwoven with a regular melon because the vines are different.  This is much easier than trying to untangle 2 kinds of watermelon!

Okay, I think I can tell the difference between a Baby Tsubaba and an Iroquois.  Just kidding, there are no square melons in the trial.  But suffice it to say, I can tell a watermelon from a regular melon.  I can't tell you what a Tsubaba looks like because I've never grown it.  The melons came to me in a package from a grower in Northern California named Castanea.  Along with these, he sent me some seeds for yellow skinned watermelon.  He gave me no more information than that.

Why yellow?  Well, when they're yellow, they're ripe.  No more guessing!  It's a funny thing, when I announce that I'm going to do a trial, other farmers send me seeds too.  And many thanks to everyone who sent seed.

Last year's melons
Here's some of the watermelons we'll be looking at:

Asahi Miyanko Ibrido
Winter King & Queen
Pure Gold
Grover Delaney (an old favorite!)
Sugar Baby
Dixie Queen
White Wonder
Cream of Saskatchewan
Golden Midget
Golden Honey Cream
New Hampshire Midget
Sugar Bush
Will's Sugar

It's quite a list.  So get your melon recipes ready.  I received one from a CSA member that I'll put up as soon as we see a ripe melon.

A few more melons from last year
Here's some of the regular melons we'll be trialing:
Eden Gem
Golden Honeymoon Honeydew
Bidwell Casaba (the huge one)
Rampicante Zuccherino
Tendral Valenciano
Verde Noel
Golden Jenny
Rugos de Cosenza
Melone Invernale
Farthest North Mix
Hales Best
Long Island Exotic
Sweet Freckles
Toto el Ano
Collective Farm Woman
Verde De Invierno
Long Island Late

Over the weekend Leo and I trialed all the Zukes.  Our favorite remains the Romanesco, the ribbed one.  I wanted to dislike the Tondo.  Wrong Shape!  Wrong Shape!  Not like the others.  But it was surprisingly good BBQ'ued.  I cut it in half and cooked first cut side down and then flipped it, gave it a light dusting of herbs and salt and let it Que skin side down.  When we ate it, we didn't eat the skin.  It was yummy.  It's such a puny bush.  The first 2 died!  So my prejudice aside, go ahead and eat them.

Have a nice week.  This weekend I will start seeds for fall.  Isn't that scary?

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