Friday, August 16, 2013

Melons and other Maalox moments

Within the past couple of months, a formerly-taboo subject has become the fodder of mainstream journalism:  the impact of gut bacterial profile on health, and the fecal transplants that are restoring balance to certain individuals whose systems lack crucial bacterial strains (there are even DIY fecal transplant versions - I shudder to think).  Prevention magazine had a story about The American Gut Project (surely for the sake of PR they could have come up with a more palatable title?) and one of the most hilarious medical puns of all time has to be the fecal-transplant-associated term "repoopulate", which Blogger desperately wants to autocorrect to its etymological precursor "repopulate". 

And now you're thinking, "What on earth does this have to do with melons?!"
They're one of the few crops which we eat raw and in large quantity.  Whatever bacteria is associated with that melon grown outdoors in Centerpointe goes straight down the hatch. 
I have not yet grown tired of teasing my husband, "Eat your fresh fruits and veggies so you can get the bacteria you need, or else you might have to repoopulate."   He never fails to blanche at the mention of that concept, but the idea behind (pun intended) it is valid: our gut bacteria is reflective of our surroundings, and researchers are starting to discover that people whose diets are overly sterile (think highly-processed foods) are having health problems.  Good intake cultivates good guts.  In its print edition this month, Prevention magazine claimed that researchers can now predict not only whether you are a gardener but how much gardening you do, just by looking at your cast of gut bacterial characters (they'd have a field day with mine!). 

And yes, there are natural bacteria on our melons.
"Anole on a melon I know, I know, it's serious..."
If it's not the anoles crapping on the melons, it's the birds.  And yes, I wash them prior to cutting them up to eat (the melons, not the anoles), but it's not a sterile process and it's not intended to be. 

Which is all well and fine for my family because our digestive systems are used to it, but sometimes I worry about other people who may be accustomed to grocery store fare.  I warn my neighbors that there are no chemicals applied to our garden products.  There are no sterilizing aerosols or acid washes or surfactant immersions or radioactive disinfecting regimes.  That's the whole point. 

So far, we haven't had any problems.  The other day, a roving swarm of neighborhood children demolished the four-pound sister melon to the one pictured above, and they all lived to tell the tale.  (And yes, I do seek parental permission where feeding them is concerned). 

Incidentally, I've had better luck with this, which I believe is a type of honeydew cultivar, than I had last year with cantaloupe.  I grew over 20 pounds of cantaloupe, but the taste was a bit boring.  Melons are water-pigs.  Their function is to suck up as much water as possible.  It's very tricky to under-water a melon so that the sweetness remains concentrated, without killing every other fruit and vegetable growing in proximity.  My cantaloupes got over-watered and turned out bland.  Such was not the case with these. 
The other thing that's tricky is to know when to harvest this type.  The skin will start splitting on cantaloupes, which is a sure-fire sign that they are ready to harvest (and which also lets a whole crap-load of additional unwashable bacteria into them).  But this one neither splits nor separates from the vine when ripe.  This five-pounder was past its prime, as suggested by the color differentiation.  But it still tasted great - almost too sweet. 
I prefer the melon-baller method rather than slicing. 
Ready for the next roving band of small children or the neighbors, whichever gets here first. 
And with that, I whisper my last blogging goodbyes, but only for this afternoon. 

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