Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Thursday September 16, 2010

Heirloom Breeds & Seeds:
Farm Girl Farm Thursdays

Melons and Farm to Table thoughts by Laura Meister. This is by far one of Laura' best newsletters in my humble opinion.  Thank you Laura!!

September 14, 2010

Hi all—

I was a city girl. More accurately, I was a suburb girl, and in terms of understanding food, I’d say this is actually much more of a handicap. My food came from the grocery store by and large, although to give my parents some credit and not to paint the situation in completely black and white terms, we did have some great tomatoes in our backyard garden. Still and all, the aggregate effect of the location and time of my upbringing caused me to miss out on some spectacular eating experiences and even a couple years into growing food, I still didn’t know what good was.

During my second season at Farm Girl Farm, I brought an experienced farmer friend to my melon patch to show him the disappointing results. “See?” I sighed, “I blinked and I missed them. They are all too ripe now, they’re rotting.” My friend laughed and grabbed the nearest muskmelon, with a rotten spot and a dent in the skin where ants were beginning to enter. He deftly removed the bad spot with his knife, cut the melon open, held it first to his nose and began muttering to himself, “Extraordinary”—then devoured the entire fruit in what seemed like one long slurp-bite. “My god its been years since I’ve had a melon this good,” he said. “There’s just nothing like it. You can’t get melons like this anywhere. You’ve got a gold mine here.” Lesson learned. Each summer since then I’ve proudly delivered him one muskmelon, preferably with at least one opening in the skin, the late-summer prize for patience and connoisseurship.

What I still wasn’t entirely getting about the “farm to table” concept was the beauty of skipping the step where a vegetable or fruit spends a few days in between the field and one’s plate, whether that be the grocery store or the farmstand. Coming to the farm to get one’s veggies, literally right out of the field, means access to the melon that would never have made it to the store, the melon that is so ripe it is about to burst through its skin to spread its seeds and start the cycle all over again, the show-stopping tomato with a kaleidoscope of colors and one tear in the skin or small bruise—vegetables that are at their peak of taste but that wouldn’t survive the one-week or even three-day transportation and holding period involved in the retail process. This is the good life!

So fear not the melon bursting out of its skin or the 1-pound tomato with a dime-sized soft spot. It’s not everyday you get to experience such a fruit. And winter, and California vegetables, are nipping at our heels. So enjoy.
Laura's melon, my tomatoes from Laura's seedlings.

For those of you interested in learning more about how to tell if a melon is ripe in your own garden or to see the process we go through to bring the melons to the CSA table, here is a good webpage:

--Laura Meister, Farm Girl Farm Farmer