Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Melons in the garden

On the 12th, we had a Tasting in the Garden featuring different preparation methods for some of the volunteer melons we have in the garden.  When you're harvesting five or six pound mystery melons every few days, you reach a point where melons for breakfast just doesn't sound fun any more.

The volunteers come from a variety of sources:  seeds dropped in the garden either from fruit rotting on the vine, or from previous year tastings, or from garden-grown or bought melon that composted incompletely.  Too many volunteers of anything is a sign that your compost didn't get hot enough...

Many of the volunteers are bland-tasting.  And many experienced gardeners will shake their heads solemnly and tell you that it's the result of cross-pollination, generally with a cucumber.  The plants, you see, all belong to the cucurbit family, which includes squash, gourds, melons, and cucumbers.

While it is completely true that squash bugs, in a pinch, will migrate among the vines quite nicely, cross-pollination is a different matter.  As it happens, cross-pollination will only occur within a species of the family.  Bottom line for melon growers:  cross-pollination will only occur between other melons and Armenian cucumbers.  And the fruit will only be affected if the cross-pollinated melon seed is planted the next year.

Two succinct descriptions may be found at the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Program
(click HERE)
and at Walter Reeve's website (click HERE).
And, if you believe Google, there are another 26,000 possible articles on the topic of melon cross-pollination so you certainly don't have to take my word for it!

So, if it isn't cross-pollination, what is it that makes a melon bland?  According to the Iowa State article, it's usually unfavorable weather or soil conditions.

And, if you're now looking at 20 pounds or so of bland melons (or even five pounds), what can you do with them?

The Huffington Post had already done much of the legwork for finding non-sliced-melon-for-breakfast recipes.  If you want to see the full range of recipes to which they provided links, click HERE.

Melon bruschetta

Melon and peach salad
Melon agua fresca

Melon ice cream

Among other delights we sampled at our tasting were a melon bruschetta with pancetta and mozzarella.  And of course, lots of that garden staple - basil.  Because the melon would make the bread soggy, we served it in a bowl with the toasted bread on the side.  The melon and peach salad also featured peaches from our orchard mixed with mozzarella and basil.  Both recipes used balsamic vinegar.  Although I do think it's cheating, I reduced my balsamic vinegar to a rich, thick syrup rather than buying a $200 bottle.  Just saying.

We also sampled a melon lassi and an agua fresca, both of which were taste treats.

And finally, the piece de resistance, ice cream.  Made on the spot in one of those little hand cranked machines.  All you have to do is remember to freeze the bowl overnight and you can have fresh, home-made ice cream whenever you want.

Links checked 17 September 2014.

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