There is nothing like growing your own watermelon.
Most years we try a new watermelon variety to compare the taste , size and growing requirments. This year we grew a Nancy watermelon, a heritage variety known for its white seeds, thin rind and sweet flesh.
With the rain during the past few weeks, we were able to pick a melon that weighed about 25 lbs. Many more are growing and hopefully with the rain won't be more water than melon.
How did we know it was ready? Watermelons don't ripen after harvest so if your melon isn't sweet it's due to the variety , too much water from rainfall or irrigation, or an early harvest. We looked for a dry tendril and the telltale dull thump on percussion to determine readiness.
The brown curly tendril wrapped around the leaf stem is the first clue. The yellow underbelly of the melon is another, and the dull sound when thumped is pretty reliable. You can gently thump you chest to see the best pitch your melon should have. Thump your forehead to hear what an unripe melon sounds like- higher pitch.
Ice cold with a pinch of salt and this melon is a keeper. Saving the seeds to plant more next year.
This is definitely a nourish well fruit with Vitamins C, A, B6, lycopene, and citrulline . The Nancy watermelon is not commonly found in stores due to its size ( about 25 lbs), thin rind ( easily damaged with shipping) and hard white seeds.
Their loss is our gain.
If only there were a heart shaped herb for the shining light that briefly graced the Earth.
The shock and devastating loss of actor Chadwick Boseman at the age of 43 from colon cancer is still unbelievable. His journey began in South Carolina with a pivotal stop at Howard University and then on to Hollywood where his leading roles in 42, Get On Up, Marshall, Civil War, Black Panther , 21 Bridges and Da 5 Bloods will live forever in our collective memories and on screens big and small. His portrayal of the Marvel superhero Black Panther,King T'Challa of Wakanda, along with a cast of exceptional actors, delivered a self reflective, dignified, historic performance from a man described by many as humble, courageous, disciplined ,multitalented and regal .
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the US, the second leading cause of cancer deaths, and for an unknown reason, rates are increasing in younger adults with a disproportionate burden on African -Americans. African Americans continue to have the highest incidence and mortality rates from colon cancer with ongoing research to understand the predisposing factors. Age >50, genetics, inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis, family history of colon polyps and cancer, and specific lifestyle factors all increase the risk for precancerous colon polyps and colon cancer.
Lifestyle risk factors - tobacco , alcohol use, obesity , lack of physical activity, low fiber, high fat and processed meats -are also contributing risk factors for colon cancer. After colon cancer is diagnosed, an increased fiber intake may increase survival rates. Fiber rich foods- vegetables, food and whole grains- can all help maintain an ideal weight and lower your risk of colon cancer. The benefits of fiber along with adequate water intake are well known. Soluble fiber helps maintain a sense of fullness and satiety while insoluble fiber aids in food transit through the gastrointestinal track.
The diagnosis of colon cancer has evolved over the years with a new home screening option to detect blood and abnormal DNA in a stool specimen- a sign of precancerous colon polyps and cancerous colon tumors. Cologuard is a home screening test that detects blood and DNA from precancerous and cancerous polyps and tumors. A virtual colonoscopy is a radiographic study that uses a CT scan and X-ray images to recreate 3D images of the colon for review by a radiologist. The gold standard screening and diagnostic test for colon cancer is a full colonoscopy which offers a direct view of the colon and the possibility for colon polyp removal and biopsy. A colonoscopy is typically performed by a gastroenterologist in an outpatient center under intravenous sedation; in 99% of cases you will not remember any of the procedure.
What age should you undergo a screening colonoscopy or home screening? Symptoms such as change in bowel habits, noticeable blood in the stool, on toilet paper or in the toilet, family history of colon cancer and the presence of inflammatory bowel disease all warrant a discussion with your primary care physician and possible referral to a gastroenterologist. Self-advocacy with your physician and, in some cases, your insurance company is a necessary skill to navigate the current US healthcare maze. Colonoscopy screening is recommended at age 45 by the American Cancer Society for those without symptoms or increased risk factors. A screening colonoscopy is then recommended every 3 years if there are no increased risk factors.
If there is a family history of colon cancer, screening colonoscopy is recommended at age 40 or 10 years younger than the age of diagnosis of your family member according to the American Cancer Society.. A colonoscopy is may also be recommended based on symptoms, physical exam findings, physician recommendation, and other individual risk factors.
Recommendations for colon cancer screening can change based on risk factors and symptoms and physical exam findings. Once a diagnosis is made, the cancer is staged based on whether it is localized to the colon , Stage 1, spread to the colon wall, Stage 2, spread outside the colon wall , Stage 3 spread to the lymph nodes and Stage 4, spread to distant organs and tissue.
Colon cancer treatment varies with each patient and each stage of the cancer. In the 21st century, specific tumor markers can help oncologists determine the best course of chemotherapy if needed. Life after a diagnosis of colon cancer varies depending on the stage but a survivorship care plan can help outline recommended tests, appointment, lifestyle changes, and understand possible treatment side effects.
Nourish Well. Eat more veggies, fruit, whole grains like barley, oatmeal, brown rice, nuts and seeds. Move more. Learn about the health of other family members and share information that may be helpful.Develop a plan to quit smoking. Limit alcohol usage.
Below, Dr. Rachel Issaka, a gastroenterologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center at the University of Washington, discusses the increasing incidence of colon cancer in Black Americans and the importance of colon cancer screening.
A basket and a bowl.
Every year at my grandmother's house in Teague, Texas, we ate freshly shelled peas- white acre, purple hull and crowder. Some were delivered by Miss Minnie who loved to forage for peas in the many gardens in town, and some we shelled on my grandmother's porch.
Cowpeas, first cultivated in Africa, are one of the oldest farmed crops and are still a staple food in parts of Africa where the immature pods, leaves and seeds are a rich nutritional source of protein, folate, fiber and resistant starch. These legumes thrive in sandy soil and fixate atmospheric nitrogen which is converted to ammonium nitrite and nitrate by bacteria and fungi in the root nodules and soil.
Baskets filled to the rim with freshly picked White Acre, Crowder or Purple Hull peas are a personal food memory of summers spent in Teague. Adults and children would sit down, shell peas and the children, would listen only, to adult conversations; this was a time when children were meant to be seen and not heard, especially when it came to "grown folks business'.Once we finished the peas were either saved for Sunday dinner or frozen for a later date.
And on Sunday, there would be a big bowl of peas cooked with a ham hock and a few pods of okra ,perfectly seasoned, along with cornbread, green beans and new potatoes, baked chicken or quail, mixed greens( depending on the season) and for dessert , a pound cake or blackberry cobbler.
Before the invention of protein powders, whole foods supplied all the protein and in most cases, nutrients needed for children and adults. Commonly used to enhance weight loss or build lean muscle mass, protein powders manufactured from dairy or plant sources( soy, pea, rice) remain a unregulated nutritional supplement best used under the guidance of a registered dietitian. Unless you are a professional athlete, or require a medically prescribed diet, protein powders are an unnecessary expense and source of calories for most children and adults.
Shelling peas is a tradition throughout the South especially ,and an opportunity to connect to ancestors that lived on the very land where they grew and harvested their own food. Now, it is an opportunity to slow down, connect and teach the adults/children in your pod about the different varieties and cooking methods for peas and green beans and share your own food memories.
The White Acre pea has a creamier taste than the commonly known Black-Eyed Pea, the pod is purple when dried and the pea has a slight purple eye. Along with our sweet onions and a few pods of red okra, our CSA members will enjoy a quick and simple dish that delivers on flavor and nutrients. And if you've never heard of Texas Caviar, prepare to taste a dip , side dish , or summer salad over a bed of hibiscus leaves, that brings summer on the farm to your table. Load it up with jalapeño or Serrano peppers or your favorite hot sauce for a nutritious snack that is filling and fresh. And for crab lovers, top it off with some lump crabmeat from Maryland blue crabs.
Storage onions, Haricot Vert (French green beans), Italian romano beans, malabar spinach, carrots,sweet potato leaves, yellow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, green bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, Serrano peppers, rosemary, mint, hibiscus leaves, and small sugar pumpkin
sweet corn, red okra, Nancy watermelon, white acre peas, butternut squash, spaghetti squash
This came early and in a patch of yellow summer squash-surprise! Sweet and not just limited to holidays, sugar pumpkins are a early ripening, winter squash with a flavor described as smooth, rich, sweet and nutty. Roast and season with cinnamon and sugar or savory herbs like rosemary and thyme. The rich flavor adds fiber and rich flavor to soups, chilli and as a pie filling. And don't forget the seeds, boil then oven roast for a nutty snack rich in Omega fatty acids and magnesium.
The heat and humidity continues which means that the early leafy greens are resting comfortably in the compost pile. Swiss chard and bok choy thrive in cooler weather but both the record temperatures this summer and the relentless humidity have taken its toll on humans and plants.
Luckily, the malabar spinach, and sweet potato leaves , so far, are stand up plants that thrive in this weather. Hopefully you have been able to enjoy all of these in stir fries, soups and maybe an evening meal of deep dish lasagna.
For the past 3 weeks, we have cured the white and red onions in the barn so that you can use them now or later. We planted the onions in the spring and by July, they were ready to harvest. Keep in a cool , dark and dry location so the curing will continue.
Recently, the USDA has issued a massive recall of onions due to Salmonella contamination on Thompson Farm in Bakersfield, California.
This does not affect our onions which you have enjoyed as spring onions earlier in the season.
Italian Romano Beans
Flat, green and tender, I was introduced to Romano beans by Ms. Betty, an ER clerk at PGHC and an avid gardener. She shared her dinner which included Italian Romano beans which were well seasoned, tender and cooked slowly with tomatoes.and olive oil. I am quite familiar with green beans, but this variety was new to me and one that I decided early on to grow along with tomatoes and onions. Stewed, grilled , in creole sauce or steamed, Romano Beans are flat ,meaty and add Vit C, Vit K, silicon ( bones, hair, cartilage) and fiber to your diet.
More cucumbers? Yes, the Suyo Long cucumbers are still growing like gangbusters! My 19 year old son loves cucumbers with the house vinaigrette, but after a recent visit to my favorite restaurant, I quickly realized that I can also use them in a pickle relish for hot dogs, slaw dogs, subs, or coleslaw. Add the large squash pieces, and the cucumber and squash are solid ingredients for a southern favorite, chow chow.
Roselle, Red Roselle, Hibiscus sabdariffa, Flor de Jamaica, Jamaica Sorrel, this plant has many names and as a native of W. Africa, the leaves and the flower are integral to a variety of recipes. The flower is well known as the basis for Agua Fresca, ,Agua de Jamaica or Zobo. The brilliant red color is the basis for the traditional drink for Juneteenth or a Black family reunion celebrations-red soda water. The leaves are also edible with a slight lemony flavor in new growth and a tart and tangy in the older leaves. This week we have some young leaves that can be used raw in a salad along with the spearmint,cucumbers and tomatoes for a simple summer salad.
Our goal is to grow and show our members how easy it is to eat at least 5 servings of organically grown vegetables/fruit per day and help you create your own family recipes that will become family favorites. 5 A DAY to help keep Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia and obesity away.
"Do you have any sweet potato greens?"
A phrase I had never heard until one day at the Mount Rainier Farmers Market. At that time, the farmers did not have any sweet potato greens and even though we are in the DC area, none of the farmers had ever heard of the benefits , history or culinary use of sweet potato greens .
During the summer, sweet potato greens thrive as the fall root vegetable continues to grow underground. The tender leaves add a tender and delicate flavor without the bitterness common with spinach, kale or any other mustard greens. The greens cook quickly with any dish you can imagine and are great for a quick stir fry .
Along with carrots, andouille sausage and red onions, this is an easy 30 minute meal that brings color, spices, Vitamin A, fiber, quercetin, and protein. Smoked fish or turkey can add another layer of flavor. After all, recipes are just waiting for you to add your own creative flare.