2019 CSA – Week 11: On Melons—the Queens of Cucurbitaceae

CSA Newsletter – Week 11


On Melons – the Queens of Cucurbitaceae

You’ve got a fully packed August box this week, complete with sweet corn, heirlooms, bell pepper, melons, and so much more. As always, I like to notice when we have multiple members of a plant family present in one box, and though Solanaceae may be the leading star of summer, including such gems in your box this week as heirlooms, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes, Cucurbitaceae, home to melons, cucumbers, and squash, comes in at a close second.

Winter squash is beyond amazing, so dense, creamy, and filling. Cucumbers are so refreshing, so crisp and full of sweet, summer water filtered through the vine. Summer squash are so tender and buttery, so versatile in muffins or on the grill. But, as much as I believe in vegetable equality, let’s be real— melons are the best. Melons mean summer! You don’t do anything to them except impatiently wait for your body to slice them up so that you can finally devour the sweet fruit waiting inside. No cooking. No prep. They’re just perfect. They woke up like that.

This is the side of melons that most people enjoy—the tasty part. Here at the farm, we’re lucky to get to enjoy an entirely different aspect of what it is to bring melons into existence—the fun part! Unlike any other item we grow, harvesting melons is like our farm’s version of a company baseball game.

For those of you who have driven past during melon season, you may have seen the joy that is melon tossing. First, our select melon whisperers go out and harvest all the melons that are perfectly ripe, gently picking each one up for the first time. We’re all used to having to try to tap out a tune on melons at the grocery store in fear of buying a bland one picked before it was ripe, but at our farm our melon whisperers weave through the fields and pick only what is perfectly ripe. They stack the ripe melons in piles to await the great toss.

Because our melons are picked ripe and full of sugar, they are quite fragile to transport. It is for this reason that we take as many as eight people out to a field, stand in a long line from the melon rows to the flatbed truck lined with bins, and we toss melons from one end to the other for hours. It’s super fun!

The melon gets touched for its second time when pulled from the ripe pile and tossed to the next person, and, depending on how far the row is from the truck, another seven people might gently catch and then toss each precious orb. We all talk and laugh as we toss melons in the sun, a task that feels much more like play than work. From harvest to consumption, melons are so precious, thus they receive the utmost care. Only the best for the Queen of Cucurbits. Enjoy!

As always, all my best
—LB

Table of Box Contents

  • Watermelon Surprise!—You’ll have to cut open your melon to see what’s inside, whether it be red, yellow, or orange fruit. All our melons proudly bear seeds, as the development of seeds is what triggers the plant to produce more sugars in the fruit. And don’t worry, if you’ve never had an orange or a yellow watermelon and it seems unnatural to you, be assured these melons are as normal as can be! There has long existed a vast diversity of melon colors, shapes & sizes. It’s just the reds that have dominated mainstream grocers.
  • 1 bulb FennelBe sure to use the bulb as well as the fronds if you can! Thinly slice the bulb raw alongside pork chops, or in a slaw. For those of you who are into brewing kombucha, I highly recommend using fennel fronds in your secondary fermentation process—it’s amazing.
  • 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
  • 2 Heirloom Tomatoes—Harvesting our heirloom tomatoes is such a treat. To walk up to a plant and find this giant warped tie-die piece of art, to try to approach it from the right angle with your scissors like a game of Operation so as not to damage the fruit—it’s a joy. We are so lucky!
  • 4 ears Serendipity Sweet Corn
  • 1 bu. Purple Carrots
  • 1 Sweet Colored Bell Pepper
  • 1 Eggplant
  • 2 Willamette Sweet Onions
  • 1 head Red or Green Leaf Lettuce
  • 1.5 lb. Nicola Yellow Potatoes

Recipes

Heirloom Tomato & Fennel Panzanella

Ingredients

  • 2 large Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced or chunked as you prefer
  • 2-3 inch chunk of a nice creamy Feta (I prefer the kind kept in water)
  • large handful of Basil leaves, chopped
  • 4-inch chunk of Sourdough (or other loaf bread, fresh or day-old, doesn't matter)
  • 1/2 large Fennel Bulb, sliced
  • a few Fennel fronds
  • Olive Oil
  • Fennel Seeds, crushed using a mortar and pestle, or simply broken between your fingers
  • Sea Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Tear the bread into crouton-like chunks and toast in a toaster oven until gently browned.

  2. Mix tomatoes, basil, fennel bulb, fronds, and seeds with a good drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt, to taste.

  3. When the bread is done toasting, add it into the mix, with more olive oil if
    needed. Plate and top with feta and black pepper as desired. [optional: add raw
    sweet corn]

 

Baba Ghanoush with Purple Carrots & Bell Pepper

Ingredients

  • 2 roasted Eggplants, or 1 large
  • 1-2 heads Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 2 tbsp Tahini
  • splash of Lemon Juice
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.

  2. Cut the eggplants in half and score them diagonally. In a bowl mix together whatever herbs you have on hand, such as thyme, rosemary, cumin, salt, pepper and half of the olive oil.

  3. Cut the head of garlic in half and place on baking sheet with eggplants. Roast for about 50-60
    minutes. Halfway through check the eggplants and pour the rest of the olive oil over them. 

  4. When slightly cooled, scoop the eggplant meat out of the skins and add into the rest of the
    ingredients for the Baba Ghanoush in a blender: garlic, paprika, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, & pepper. Blend until smooth, adjust seasoning if needed. 

  5. Serve with roasted or raw multi-colored carrots.  [The purple carrots you have are GORGEOUS sliced in half-lengthwise with bright orange centers. Also serve with raw slices of sweet bell pepper.] Enjoy!