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Try A Tiny Watermelon

A little bit of tomato humour to get things rolling. It comes from Teddy, age 10. (It could o’ been me when I was a kid learning to be an entrepreneur.) I sometimes tell this at my personal appearances:

A lad was eagerly looking at some red tomatoes growing in the market farmer’s garden. “I’ll give you my only two cents for that tomato,” said the boy while pointing to a beautiful large, ripe fruit hanging on the vine.

“Oh no you don’t,” said the farmer, “I get a dime for a tomato like that one.” The kid then pointed to a smaller green one. “Will you take my two pennies for that one?” The farmer replied, “Yes, I’ll give you that one for two cents. A deal’s a deal.” They shook hands. To the farmer’s astonishment the kid then said, “Okay, but leave it on the plant. I’ll return in about 10 days and pick it up.”

BANANA PEELS ARE USEFUL

…as a plant food fertilizer and treatment for headaches, even a migraine, so save those banana skins. I’ll have details to follow, but first, savour the wisdom of another 10 year old while addressing some of his peers. He asked, “What did the banana say when the judge asked him what he was doing?” Then he brought the classroom down with laughter when he said, “I’m appealing my case!”

Back to the topic of banana peels as fertilizer: Rose bushes and garden veggies will love a banana peel slurry after you’ve eaten the banana. Merely cut up the skins into small pieces, or whiz them in a food blender with a bit of liquid first. Dump the mush into a large container then dilute down with a generous amount of warm water and stir.

Let this mixture steep in the sun (outdoors in season) for a few hours or overnight. Loosen the soil around your ornamentals, roses, tomatoes and other veggies, then pour on a good measure of the banana peel liquefaction. Of course, there’s nothing that says you can’t add carrot scrapings, apple peels and cores to the blend.

THE HEADACHE REMEDY

Most of us know that bananas are an excellent dietary source of potassium and other trace minerals. And if you ever get a headache, lie down for half an hour and try this: Take a whole strip of banana peel and place it across the forehead with the inside mushy part next to the skin. Secure it gently with a headband or strip of cloth. Apply another strip of banana peel in a similar fashion secured to the back of the neck.

An 1867 graduate of a medical school recommended the banana peel treatment to many of his patients in the 1890s. The good news is that 85 per cent of the people who have tried this say they get relief within 30 minutes. Thousands have written to the doctor’s great-great grandson to express their appreciation and say: It works.

MOUSE MELONS

They’re actually miniature watermelons. Not a lot of North Americans have heard of them, yet mouse melon has been a staple of aboriginal Americans in Central and South American countries since pre-Columbus times. These cultures used the melon as a medicine and in other non-culinary ways. As a result, it is known by a great array of names in many indigenous languages. Few if any Mexican cookbooks include recipes on how to use them. Now’s the time for adventurous Canadian cooks, chefs and home picklers to catch up on this exciting melon.

Heirloom mouse melon seeds are available in Canada from William Dam Seeds, 279 Highway 8, RR 1, Dundas, ON L9H 5E1. Phone 905628-6641,e-mail [email protected]or see their web site www.damseeds.com.They’ve been providing Canadians with highest quality untreated vegetable, flower and herb seeds plus gardening supplies for six decades.

SALADS AND PICKLES

Mouse melons have a sour cucumber flavour and can be eaten raw in salads, used in stir-fries and pickled just like cucumber gherkins and dills. They can also be chopped up and added to salsas for extra texture and a new flavour twist. The best mouse melons for salads are the young tender ones less than one inch in length that have not developed many seeds. You can tell whether they are tender by simply squeezing them. If they are an inch long and feel hard, they are best used for pickling.

Like tomatoes, they’re called fruits of the vine and botanically are known as Melothria scabra. Here are some new names that have been coined to help popularize the fruit: cuka-nut, cucamelon, Mexican sour gherkin and in France, concombre confire (literally, “preserving cucumber.”) The one name that really seems to capture local col-our is “sandia de raton,” meaning mouse melon in Spanish.

GROW YOUR OWN

Start mouse melon seedlings indoors about three to four weeks before the last anticipated frost. Germinate seeds between several sheets of moistened paper towel placed inside a plastic bag and kept in a warm spot, such as on top of the fridge or on a hot water bottle. Not too hot now. You don’t want to cook the seeds either. Once sprouted, transfer into individual pots.

Outdoors, they can be grown in an open field in full sun, or try trellising them for ease of picking. Dark green leaves form a dense covering and can climb three metres (10 feet) high. Mouse melons are a little more cool-weather tolerant and drought resistant than most cucumbers. Harvest your own seeds from ripest fruits then cut open and scoop them out.

I RECOMMEND HEARTLAND TOMATOES

I’ve seen some phenomenal specimens of this high-yielding midseason tomato with fruits in the range of 225 grams (half a pound) each. Not many catalogues list Heartland and few greenhouses that I visited have started Heartland plants available.

Heartland hybrid got its name and outstanding reputation in a Family Circle (magazine) “Name That Tomato Contest.” First introduced back in 1985, Heartland trials were conducted by hundreds of home gardeners throughout North America, who reported excellent performance and flavour. Now you can grow this winner at home.

You can get packets of Heartland tomato seeds from Early’s Farm & Garden Centre, 2615 Lorne Ave., Saskatoon, SK S7J 0S5. Phone 1-800-667-1159. Heartland would also be a good one to try in an upside down tomato planter.

Besides flowers and many other vegetable seeds, Early’s is a leader in prairie and range native grasses and cool season turf grass seed mixtures for Western Canada. They also specialize in custom seed blends for golf courses, parks and sports field use.

GOT YOUR ENTRY IN YET?

Draw time in March is inching closer and I know how gardeners love to win something by merely putting their name and address on a slip of paper and spending the cost of a postage stamp. You’ll find a complete list of prizes in recent previous Grainews columns. Address your envelope to:

Ted the Singing Gardener DRAW, c/o Grainews, 1666 Dublin Ave.,

Winnipeg, MB R3H 0H1

AND WHAT DOES…

…the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8. Gotta go!

Ted Meseyton is the Singing Gardener & Grow-it Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. He talks and sings gardening at his personal appearances. Ted also teaches yodeling and musical grow-your-own-garden classes to children and adults. His e-mail address is: [email protected]

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