Hunting and Gathering II: “Forced Labor”

Accidental Locavore Sugar BabyAs part of the CSA the Accidental Locavore belongs to, the members are required to work for six hours during the season (and I guess writing blogs about them doesn’t count). Since the weather looked fairly benign this week, it seemed like a good time to get some hours in, so I signed up to work on Friday morning.

We were a team of about 8-10, with a few of the real farmers coaching us. Our group started out on leeks. Pull them, clean them up, cut off the roots and trim the greens. Other than the fact that I now have a craving for vichyssoise, it was fairly routine. When we had filled up about four big containers it was time to move on to melons. This is where it got interesting.Accidental Locavore Vichyssoise

Cantaloupes were first up. Pay attention as this will come in handy at farm stands and supermarkets. The ripe ones are yellow and, at the stem end, there’s a little cracking around the stem. When you pick them, the stem should separate easily from the melon — essentially giving it an innie where the stem was. Anything other than that, the melon needs to stay in the field.

Accidental Locavore Picking MelonsNext up, watermelons. Have you ever picked a watermelon? I didn’t think so. You’ll be surprised at how difficult it is. Not that the actual picking is hard, it’s figuring out which ones are ripe; that takes time.  Since watermelons are green, pretty much from the beginning, color isn’t going to help you on this one. What we were told to look for is a little tendril on the plant, a little ways down from the stem. This tendril should be brown and starting to dry out. That’s the sign of a ripe watermelon. Tracking the tendril down is pretty tricky. You have to trace it back from the stem, and if there are a few melons on a plant, it’s not always easy to figure out which tendril belongs to what melon. We thought we’d done a pretty good job, until the farmers went through and found a dozen or so that supposedly eluded us. The melons, especially the watermelons, are spectacularly good, so now that you know what to look for, go track some down at your local farm stand. The ones we were picking are called Sugar Baby, aptly named and delicious!


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