When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented.
~ Mark Twain, Pudd’nHead Wilson
I believe in eating locally grown food. I also believe in eating watermelon.
For a couple of months out of the year, I can do both.
For years, I did both, waited through long months of fall and winter and spring, until late June, when the Luling fields came in and brought the food the angels eat.
Waiting wasn’t easy, especially since I was at the same time waiting for roasting ears to get ripe. Field corn—horse corn—musty-flavored yellow dent: not the food of angels, perhaps, but only because they don’t know about it.
But this post is about watermelon. It’s high in fiber and potassium, low in calories, and available in grocery stories year-’round. A couple of months ago, I decided—I’ll wait for Stonewall peaches, but watermelon, wherever it comes from, I’m having now.
Except tonight, when David called from the kitchen, “This watermelon is bad. I just stuck the knife in, and look.”
I trotted in to see.
It was bad.
I’d never seen anything like it.
No matter. We always have a back-up.
Read about square watermelons at Wikipedia. Common in Japan, they’re “purely ornamental” and “tend to appeal to wealthy or fashionable consumers . . . in 2001 they cost anywhere from two to three times a normal watermelon (at about $83).”
Note: Eighty-three dollars is much more than two to three times what I pay for a watermelon.
Another note: The corn pictured above is getting on toward horse stage. Humans eat it as soon as it’s ripe. I haven’t seen yellow dent corn in years. They don’t sell horse corn in grocery stores.
On June 19th, I wrote about the official Juneteenth holiday. Today I’m sharing a memory that surfaces every year when June 19 comes around.
In my corner of the world, Juneteenth marks the time corn is ripe and ready to eat. Although most people prefer sweet corn, my family ate field corn–roasting ears, commonly pronounced ros’nears–the same kind cattle eat after it’s dried. Considering the amount we ate or froze to eat (usually sheared off the cob and served creamed) after the season ended, it’s a wonder there was any left for the cows.
My father’s uncles grew corn. When it was ready, we made a pilgrimage (or two or three . . . ) to the cornfield on Uncle Maurice’s place. Picking was an itchy job. The men usually took care of that. Shucking and removing silk was no picnic either, but everyone participated. I helped shuck (also an itchy job) and silk, but I wasn’t strong enough to chop the stem end off. More to the point, my chopping technique lacked accuracy, so I was best occupied elsewhere.
The variety was Yellow Dent–so-called because the kernels have “an indentation in the crown of each kernel.” Wikipedia helped me with crown; I didn’t know the word. (I use capital letters in the name because the it deserves them.)
Field corn has a heavy, musky taste; or maybe it’s musty. Neither word is correct, but they’re the best I can do. No matter–boiled, slathered with butter and covered with a sprinkling of salt, it’s delicious.
Several years ago, I mentioned Yellow Dent to some of the teacher-farmers I worked with; they’d never heard of it. I assumed that over the years it had been replaced by hybrids. A paragraph in Wikipedia corrected the assumption:
Most of the corn grown in the United States today is yellow dent corn or a closely related variety derived from it. Dent corn is the variety used in food manufacturing as the base ingredient for cornmeal flour(used in the baking of cornbread), cornchips, tortillasandtaco shells. Starch derived from this high-starch content variety is turned into plastics, as well as fructosewhich is used as a sweetener (high-fructose corn syrup) in many processed foods and soft drinks.
So Yellow Dent is still with us, serving a number of worthwhile purposes.
Its widespread use in the American diet has brought corn under scrutiny in recent years. Corn syrupis widely used as a sweetener and is an ingredient in many refined foods. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, in 2001, Americans consumed 62.6 poundsof high-fructose corn syrup. Corn is also used as cattle- and chicken feed, and is indirectlyresponsible for the high doses of antibiotic given to cattle. Scientific American, citing a 2008 study in which researchers analyzed meat from hamburgers and chicken sandwiches produced by three separate fast food companies in six cities across the United States, reportedthat “93 percent of the tissue that comprised the hamburger meat was derived from corn.” More recently, it’s been linked to the obesity epidemic.
Other sources claim that health problems arise from a diet rich in processed foods containing products derived from corn. One nutritionistsays,
When eaten in an unprocessed wayand properly prepared, non-GMO whole corn kernels actually have some impressive nutrients to offer . . . For example, organic corn is a vitamin C food, magnesium-rich food, and contains certain B vitamins and potassium. It also supplies a good dose of two antioxidants linked to eye and skin health called zeaxanthin and lutein. Eating fresh corn on the cob also gives you a good amount of the daily dietary fiber you need, along with some complex carbohydrates that are a good energy source.
A friend recently remarked that ours is the last generation to eat “real food.” The corn I remember wasn’t organic, but it was real food. And it makes for happy memories.