We’re several weeks into our farm-to-market internship and about to finalize our crop plans. I think we’re all especially excited about the heirloom tomatoes that Kirsten and Liz are planning and the flowers Kathryn has in mind. I am particularly looking forward to some of the herbs, as fresh herbs are always better to cook with. One of the other crops I am excited about is the okra, whether it’s pickled, grilled, sauteed, thrown into a spicey cajun gumbo, or breaded and fried, okra is one vegetable I have a difficult time getting enough of.
My team is working on the cucurbit plan, which includes melons, cucumbers, summer/winter squash and pumpkins. We stuck with the same watermelon varieties that the interns grew in 2010 as they did really well at market. I’ve never tried a Moon & Stars watermelon before. As always I am looking forward to trying something new.
As for the Crimson Sweet variety, growing these will bring back wonderful memories of eating watermelon and fresh cucumber in my grandparents’ south side San Antonio backyard, where we enjoyed our cucurbits (watermelon and cucumbers) sprinkled with chili powder, salt and lime, spitting the watermelon seeds out as we went along.
We’re also growing cantaloupe again, although last year it did not perform so well. I personally enjoy fresh, sweet and juicy cantaloupe on a hot day, with a scoop of cottage cheese for breakfast, or as an agua fresca – a beverage that brings back memories of my time in Mexico and Bolivia, as well as San Antonio where you can find street vendors selling this wonderful beverage during the annual Fiesta. We chose a new variety this year, the Edisto, it is supposed to be more heat/humid tolerant.
Recipe for Agua fresco de melón cantalupo:
1 cantaloupe (about 4 cups)
¼ cup of sugar
For an optional burst of tangy citrus add 3-4 limes to taste
- Peel, seed and chop melon
- Place 2 cups of melon in blender, add enough water to cover melon and blend well
- Strain and reserve liquid.
- Place liquid in a 2-qt pitcher (discard or eat the solids)
- Repeat steps 1-4 with remaining cantaloupe
- Add sugar (and lime juice if you choose), stir well and serve over ice
Something I have come to admire about East Tennessee is the rich culture in food preservation, most notably the canning of tomatoes and pickling of cucumbers. Ann and I chose several cucumber varieties, including one northern variety particularly good for pickling. Before relocating back to my native Texas I hope to improve my canning and pickling techniques, which have yet to produce an edible product!