Wednesday, July 8, 2015

2015 Farm Share Week 7

Hello Everyone,

This week you will find in your shares:

Wed. July 8
Wed. Sat 11
*small share only

Recipe Ideas

Quick Pickles (for cucumbers, beans, onions and many other things too) - Vinegar, salt, sugar and various spices can create a really large variety of "fresh pack" pickles that are read to eat very soon.  Different vinegars can be experimented with too, I really like apple cider vinegar.   These are not fermented dishes.

Vegetable Spotlight - The Curcubitacea

Sometimes known as the "gourd family," the cucurbits contain over one hundred genera.  Some of the most important being:
  • Curcubita - squash, pumpkin, zucchini, some gourds
  • Lagenaria - mostly non edible gourds
  • Citrullus - watermelon
  • Cucumis - cucumber, some melons
  • Lufa - common name also luffa
The curcubitacea family ranks among the highest of plant families for number and percentage of species
used as human food.  Plants of this family were some of the earliest cultivated in both the old and new worlds.
Cucumber by Jean-Baptiste Chardin

The cucumber was once described as having been grown more than three thousand years ago in India, current research pushes that date back even further.  If the translations have been made correctly, then the Romans were fond of them too, and preferred to serve them with honey.  In fact one emperor in particular ordered them to be served at every meal.  They don't enjoy an extremely illustrious career though, perhaps because of their neutral nature.

 A Dr.Johnson (whoever he was?) said they "should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out."  Wow!, well I'll have to disagree strongly, because that sounds quite good, and in fact I believe my lunch today consisted of a similar dish!!

When the Spaniards carried the cucumber to America, it was adopted so enthusiastically by the Pueblo Indians that some authors assumed (erroneously) that it was a native food.

In 1540 or thereabouts, Hernando do Alvarado spending time as a scout in the American Southwest reported that the territory which he had explored grew melons.  This could not have been because melons were old world fruits which did not exist in America at that time.  What were they then?   For the next hundred years there was some confusion among Europeans as to what to call these new found things.  Melon and pumpkin were used interchangeably for a while.

Even Columbus in the account of his first voyage described fields in present day Cuba, "planted with several native plants and with calebazzas."  Callebazzas means basically gourd.

Cabeza de Vaca reported pumpkins growing near Florida's Tampa Bay in 1528, and de Soto in western Florida found pumpkins.

Interestingly we are told that squash was grown in the hanging gardens of Babylon, and that Pliny mentioned it, and that recipes were found in Roman cookbooks.  So why the confusion from the explorers?   Seems to be related to the separate genera found in the New World.

The history is much more nuanced than we have time here to discuss, but the general consensus is this: It appears that squashes and pumpkins are exclusively New World, but gourds belong to the Old World.  And while these gourds were utilitarian at times (carrying water, etc), some were also edible.  But evidently the Old World gourds were not quite a tasty as the New World varieties, de Soto found his Floridian pumpkins to be "better and more flavorful than those of Spain."

Now the squash you will find in your shares now until the end of summer is a subset of Cucurbita Pepo, deemed "summer squash."  There are some winter squashes in this sub set, but most are squashes that we eat while still having tender skin (unlike the winter squashes).  Enjoy the bounty!

No comments:

Post a Comment