Wednesday, August 25, 2021

August 26, 2021 - This Week's Box Contents, Featuring Watermelons!

Cooking With This Week's Box

Red Seedless or Red Microseeded Watermelon:
Watermelon, Mint & Feta Salad (See Below)
Watermelon with Lime Salt (See Below)

Sweet Sarah, Amy or Sugar Cube Melons:

Italian Garlic:

Red & Yellow Onions:


Green Beans:


Sweet Corn:

Sun Orange, Red Grape or Chocolate Sprinkles Tomatoes:

Orange Italian Frying Peppers or Green Bell Pepper:

Jalapeño Pepper:

Variety of Tomatoes:


Poblano Peppers:

Red Prairie Potatoes:

Hello All—

This has been a heck of a watermelon harvest week, so it’s very fitting that watermelons are the featured item in this week’s box!  I have never received so many watermelons from the field as I have in the past week!  It’s crazy to think that there are literally thousands of watermelons in the cooler right now and more in the field that will be picked later this week or early next week!  Our watermelons are small, but hopefully we’ve done a good job picking them and you’ll find they are tasty, sweet and delicious!  This week I’ve included two very simple recipes using watermelons.  The first is a Watermelon, Mint & Feta Salad (See Below) and the second is Watermelon with Lime Salt (See Below).  I have to admit, the first time I saw watermelon and feta paired together I wasn't so sure about the combo.  However, after I tried it I had to admit it’s a pretty good match!  As for salt and watermelon—that's another one I was not so sure about .  My grandpa used to salt big wedges of watermelon and I never understood why he would do that when the watermelon was supposed to be sweet!  Now I can appreciate how salt can actually help to bring out the sweetness and the addition of lime is an added bonus!

Summer Succotash Salad with Orzo
Simplicity is the key to all meals in our household this time of the year.  Thankfully, summer food is very accommodating to simplicity.  Recipes like Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic or Amaranth and Corn Saute are very basic preparations that come together quickly and give all the credit to good ingredients.  This week I included links to some of the recipes we’ve featured in our newsletters in the past that have been well-received and are ones I like to repeat each year.  Hopefully you’ll find a few in this week’s list of recommendations that resonate with your likes as well!

I’m going to keep it short this week and let the recipes speak for themselves.  Just remember to keep it simple so you can enjoy the fresh flavors of summer produce.  You may not even need a recipe to put a tasty, nourishing dinner on the table in short order.  We’ve been known to make a dinner out of boiled corn on the cob, steamed green beans, roasted potatoes and slices of watermelon or melon.

Enjoy the final week of August and I’ll see you in September.  If you are curious what’s coming up next in the boxes, I can tell you we’ll be enjoying more tomatoes, another crop of corn, more sweet peppers and when there's room in the box we'll start sending purple and yellow  cauliflower!
Have a good week!—

Chef Andrea

Vegetable Feature (I mean Fruit): Watermelons!

By:  Chef Andrea Yoder

Preparation & Use:
  Watermelon is one of summer’s most glorious treats.  From a culinary perspective, it’s best to keep it simple.  Chill it, cut it, eat it.  That may be the simplest recipe I give you all season!  That being said, watermelon does make a nice pairing with some other summer foods including melons, tomatoes, sweet peppers, mint, basil, limes, salty cheese and chili peppers.  We most often think of watermelon in terms of a great item to snack on in the heat of the afternoon sun or maybe it serves as “dessert” at the end of a cookout.  Watermelon can also be turned into savory creations such as the Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad featured this week, but also things like a chilled Watermelon Gazpacho or Watermelon Salsa!  You can also blend the flesh and turn it into refreshing beverages and summer cocktails.  Don’t forget, the rind is edible too!  Most often watermelon rind is pickled, but it can also be stir-fried or candied!

Watermelon growing on reflective plastic mulch.
Growing Information:  Growing and harvesting seedless watermelons is one part science and one part artistry and skill.  You see, growing watermelons without seeds takes a bit of skill and investment.   Of course, Richard is always up to a good challenge and figured out how to grow them many years ago!  For starters, seedless watermelon seeds are quite expensive—go figure!  Thus, we do everything we can to ensure we get a high germination rate when we plant them in the greenhouse.  Once the transplants are ready to go to the field, we plant them on reflective plastic mulch for both heat gain, but also to help deter cucumber beetles and other pests that may introduce disease to the plant.  Speaking of pests, we aren’t the only ones who enjoy a sweet, tasty watermelon.  If word gets out that the watermelons are ready, the critters may start to move in.  Raccoons are the most common, but we’ve also seen turkeys, and crows.  We watch carefully and some years we put up an electrical fence around the field to deter the critters.

One of the tricky things about seedless watermelons is pollinating the blossoms as the plants are sterile.  The way we deal with this is to plant a different variety amongst the seedless plants that will provide pollen.  We actually use a ratio of one pollinator plant for every three seedless plants.  The pollinator variety may be a seeded melon, or there are specific “pollinator” varieties that do a very good job of providing pollen to the seedless plants.  Since we only grow small watermelon varieties, we are limited on the seeded varieties available to us for use as a pollinator.  We’ve also found that many of these varieties are very brittle and split easily.  Historically we’ve used the varieties whose specific purpose is pollination.  The downside of these varieties is they produce inedible melons.  This year one of our seed companies offered a new pollinator variety that was described as having edible, small melons.  We gave it a try and have found they are some of the best tasting watermelons!  They do have seeds in them, but they are micro seeds.  Watermelon seeds are actually edible and these micro seeds are small enough that we’ve found they are just fine to eat.  You can pick them out if you wish, but it really isn’t necessary.  Now that we’re harvesting both the seedless and pollinator watermelons, our harvests are significantly higher than in past years!

Watermelons on the harvest belt.
When it’s time to pick, we face another challenge and this is where a lot of the skill and expertise comes into play.  Richard is in the field nearly every time the crew picks watermelons, working with them to continue to hone their picking skills.  There are several signs the pickers look for to guide them in making the decision to pick or leave the watermelon to further ripen.  The first thing they look for is three dry tendrils on the vine where the stem is attached.  As long as the vine is healthy and free of disease, this is a good indication of ripeness.  When the vines start to die back or if there’s any disease on the vines, this can cause the tendrils to dry down prematurely making this a difficult indicator of ripeness. The second thing they do is pick up the watermelon and look for a yellow bottom.  If the watermelon has remained in the same place since it’s birth, it will develop a yellow bottom in the area where it rests on the ground.  If the watermelon has been moved for any reason (such as when weeding), it may not develop that color change and we can’t use that as an indication of ripeness.  The third indicator they look for is the sound of “The Thump.”  As the melon matures the thump goes from a high pitched “Ping” to the lower note of “Dohm.”  It takes a trained ear, and a quiet field, to listen for these subtle changes in sound.  As you can see, picking watermelons is no easy task!  Our pickers do the best they can to make quick decisions in the field and we think they do a pretty good job! Of course it would be much easier if we could look inside each one, but that’s not an option.  

Storage:  Store your watermelon in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days of receiving it.  While we wash the watermelons after harvest, we always recommend you give it a quick rinse before you cut into it. 

Watermelon Wedges with Lime Salt

Yield:  Makes enough salt for 24 wedges

2 Tbsp Maldon sea salt or other coarse sea salt
Zest of 3 limes, removed with a Microplane or fine zester
1 watermelon
  1. In a small bowl, combine the salt and lime zest.  Using your fingers, pinch it roughly to combine and slightly crush.  The idea is to “bruise” the zest to release the flavor, but also preserve the nice flaky texture of the salt.  
  2. Slice the watermelon into rind-on wedges.  Chill the wedges thoroughly because warm watermelon is a letdown.  
  3. Just before serving, remove them from the fridge and sprinkle one side with the salt.  Serve immediately.
Recipe borrowed from Deep Run Roots by Chef Vivian Howard.

Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad

“There are few food partnerships so simple yet so successful as that of sweet watermelon with salty feta and fresh mint……make sure you chill your fruit in the fridge for a good couple of hours before you put this together.  It makes all the difference.  And please treat the measurements as a guide only;  you should add as little or as much mint and feta as you fancy.”

Yield:  4 as a starter

1 ½ pounds watermelon
¾ cup feta
A large handful of mint leaves
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Black pepper, to taste
  1. Slice the watermelon flesh into large triangular chunks and arrange them on a serving plate or in a bowl.
  2. Roughly chop the feta into cubes and sprinkle them over the fruit. 
  3. Add a large handful of mint, drizzle over the olive oil, and season with some freshly ground black pepper.  Serve immediately.
Recipe borrowed from Yasmin Khan’s book The Saffron Tales.  

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