A New Lens

Ann Roggenbuck

Do You Know How to Pick
the Perfect Watermelon?
    Yup, there’s a right way to pick the best watermelon. First off, buy in season, preferably close to where they were grown. Next, the field spot (area with no green stripes where the melon ripened on the ground) should be buttery yellow/orange, then look for one with lots of webbing (brown looking scars) which means the bees have done their job to enhance sweetness.  
    Pick a short round girl watermelon instead of a long lean boy watermelon because, of course, the girls are always sweeter. Size and sound matter; a heavy medium one is best and when you pick it up and give it a thump it should have a deep hollow sound. Finally, always choose one with a dry stem which is also an indication of ripeness.
    This got me wondering how to pick a ripe cantaloupe where I found most of the same rules apply but add a two thumb firmness test on the blossom end where there should be a little give and smell the stem for a sweet musky aroma indicating ripeness. I was never clear on these criteria for ripeness so hope this helps you pick the perfect melon every time.
    This week Paul and I collaborated on a stuffed pork loin; I made a spicy paste to rub inside which we stuffed with finely chopped celery, walnuts and raisins. It’s best if the loin is large enough to cut open so you can roll it up like a jelly roll for baking. Ours was a little small so we just cut it open lengthwise and layered the paste and stuffing in the middle. My spice paste was a little exotic (Middle Eastern), but the key is to heat your spices/herbs of choice in a little oil/butter to bring out the aromatics and add a little tomato paste/sauce, wine, lemon juice, etc. to make a paste to spread on the meat before baking.  
    Stuffing choices can vary and I like to add something fruity to the savory mix. It turned out delicious and we served it with roasted potatoes and cherry tomatoes.  
    Paul made stuffed peppers one night which we served with fresh sweet corn. The stuffing included the typical browned ground beef, seasonal veggies and spices. Seared tuna steaks along with fresh green beans and cucumbers in vinegar also hit the spot one evening. I make my own tartar sauce using a combo of mayo/sour cream/yogurt, lemon juice and pickle relish/chopped pickles and dill.   
    We made and canned ginger pickled carrots and froze fresh sweet corn this week. This left behind a nutritious pile of carrot peels and corn cobs which Paul boiled along with some sliced onions in water and chicken broth. To the strained broth he added the remaining corn kernels from a second cutting, kale, chard, diced potatoes and some sliced chicken. Needless to say this made a delicious nutritious soup we have been eating all week. I bet it would freeze well and taste great on a stormy winter’s night.    
    This week’s eggplant harvest from another picking in the neighbor’s garden yielded 13 bright purple spheres and a second gardener delivered another half dozen so it was on to this week’s eggplant experimentations.
    First, Paul made Baba Ghanoush, which is a middle-eastern spread/ dip that includes blenderized baked eggplant along with tahini (sesame paste), garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and salt. It is similar to hummus, topped with olive oil and a little fresh parsley and served with toasted pita bread and raw veggies (cukes/carrots/celery). It’s delicious!  
    After lots of searching I finally found a recipe for an Indian eggplant chutney that we made and canned. It required a lot of chopping but tasted great and canned nicely. It is a savory pickled product which will pair nicely with cheese and crackers or alongside baked pork or chicken. I bet it would also be great on those perfect baked potatoes you learned how to make last week.              Happy garden harvesting!   
    Ann Roggenbuck is a Milbank High School graduate who splits her time between her home on Big Stone Lake and Arizona, where she lived and worked for many years.

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Grant County Review

Grant County Review
P.O. Box 390
Milbank, SD 57252
(605) 432-4516

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