Painted Serpent cucumber — this one’s a whopper

Singing Gardener: Plus, more on carrot and sugar cough syrup

Celebrating Thanksgiving Day now past, is an annual noble event that we Canadians enjoy each October with family and friends. For many folks it encompasses the entire weekend.

Next, a lot of households anticipate preparing for Halloween, especially where young children are involved. Europeans of earlier times observed an autumn festival that included feasting on all kinds of food that had been grown during summer. It later sprang into Halloween; using leaves, pumpkins and cornstalks as decorations. A black cat crossing one’s path convinced some superstitious folks to reverse and go in the opposite direction, whether they were walking, running, riding in a horse-drawn wagon, travelling by vehicle or other means.

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You’ve probably heard slang words such as: so and so is a cheapskate, a cheapjack or cheapjohn. It means tightwad or miserly, especially when it comes to opening the purse strings. Such old expressions are supposedly attributed to long-ago street salespeople who sold all sorts of home elixirs for whatever the ailment. Prices began high and then supposedly fell to near rock bottom; suggesting a real bargain was had.

I’ll expand on a made-at-home brown sugar and carrot recipe for “cheap Ted cough and cold syrup” (hey that’s me) that appeared in one of my earlier Grainews columns with input from a reader. We’ll also meet Kelowna Dan who grew the longest cucumber I’m aware of.

My preamble is longer than intended, so next may I suggest we all get comfortable while I, Ted, let loose with words that hopefully grab your attention like honking geese in flight. I’m waving hello to all of you out there with a tip of my hat. Imagination is a great thing, so I anticipate readers are waving back to me.

Speaking of geese

It’s that time of year when we’re more aware of their movement, although locally where I am geese won’t abandon Crescent Lake for a trip south until the tiniest pool of water is finally frozen over and remains covered in ice.

I’m certain most everyone has watched migrating geese in flight. It’s especially thrilling to view those streams and streams of airborne wild and free honkers during evening and nighttime against a backdrop of moonlight. Mother Nature enchants us to look skyward between now and next full moon on October 27. That visible full moon then moves into the third quarter as light begins receding more and more until finally reaching the fourth quarter on November 3. That period is commonly referred to as dark of the moon. The cycle of waxing light returns again with the next new moon during the evening of Remembrance Day, on November 11, 2015.

Most everyone knows that geese usually fly in an uneven V formation. It’s my understanding (call it a given) that the leader is almost always a wise and prudent senior female goose. She doesn’t necessarily lead the formation continuously, but drops back when she requires a break and another female goose is always prepared to assume the lead position. With all that goose talk via honking, who’s to know what communication they exchange? Share your knowledge if you have something to express in this connection.

Raw carrot and brown sugar cough syrup

There was a time not that far back in our history when there were no pharmacies or drugstores. The closest thing might have been a local-area herbalist or perhaps mom’s or grandmother’s home apothecary; a place where ingredients were stored to make home medicines for common ailments. Remedy formulas were mostly passed on from neighbour to neighbour and between friends and families for generations. Much of this knowledge has been sidestepped in favour of prescriptions. The good news is a lot of these traditional remedies are still effective with few side-effects or none at all. Here’s a made-at-home cough and cold remedy. Keep in mind it’s not meant to displace a visit to the doctor when necessary.

With a vegetable brush, gently scrub a good-size raw carrot and then slice it as thinly as possible. (No need to peel it.) Place carrot slices in a bowl and generously sprinkle dark-brown sugar on top and let sit overnight. (Do not refrigerate.)

By morning, brown syrup will have formed. Take a tablespoonful of the liquid as often as required to diffuse tickling in the throat and ease a cough. Make a fresh batch daily until symptoms subside. It won’t create drowsiness and you cannot overdose on it. Note: Not recommended for those on a sugar-restricted diet without medical supervision.

Almost a year ago Clarence Worona from Beausejour, Man., wrote to say:

“Hi Ted: I enjoy reading your articles every time. I tried the cough cure for sore throat with carrots and brown sugar. I added honey, cayenne pepper and a strong cough candy to dissolve in it. It works better than Buckley’s. P.S. I eat the carrot slices. I’m 66 years young and plant an acre of garden for myself and everyone who comes over. Only one problem — they only come during harvest when it’s ready.”

Note from Ted: Clarence turned 67 August 17, 2015. During our phone discussion he further explained his method for preparing the syrup from carrot slices and brown sugar. Clarence adds no more than 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (it’s strong stuff) and some honey to taste for each batch, then slowly sips 1/2 to a teaspoonful of the mixture at a time whenever required. Don’t forget the strong cough drop.

Clarence also passed along this remedy learned from his parents to treat a tickling, raw or sore throat. “Place a small amount such as 1/4 teaspoonful of dry Epsom salts into the mouth (not too much now, it has laxative properties) then slowly dissolve it in your salvia and let it seep down into the throat area before swallowing. It sure has healing properties.” I, Ted, then thought this: For a really sore throat you might also consider gargling with Epsom salts in warm water for a minute or two then spit it out.

Also according to Clarence: “Epsom salts can be sprinkled in the garden trench before planting onion seeds or setting out onion transplants to prevent maggots.” He also sprinkles dry Epsom salts on soil surface and waters it in around plants. “The onions just kept on growing so nice and no maggots.”

Painted serpent cucumber

We’ve all heard of whopper tomatoes, humongous cabbage heads, giant pumpkins and world-heavyweight squash. Dan Tomelin from Kelowna, B.C. can now lay claim to fame for growing the longest cuke in Canada in 2015, perhaps internationally. His Painted Serpent cucumber eventually reached a whopping 112 cm (44-1/2 inches) in length.

Dan’s submission for growing the world’s longest cucumber to Guinness World Records is still in process at time of this writing. What’s become of said cuke now? It’s been fermented whole (that is, uncut) in a fashion Dan devised. He claims it “as the longest pickled cuke in the world in a category that doesn’t yet exist.” Dan now calls it “Big Larry, the swimming submerged pickle inside a specially made glass container that contains an eight per cent salt brine. The process is known as lacto fermentation.”

In Dan’s email to me, you may detect touches of humour. “Hi Ted: I bought seeds from a booth at our spring seed swap. Can’t remember the fellow’s name. He’s a hippie grower dude from the Oliver area about 60 miles south down the Okanagan Valley. Had a taste from another Painted Serpent cuke. Skin was softish, definitely sweet and falling into the melon flavour a bit, rather than the tartness of some overripe cukes. I collected around 100 very viable seeds and will probably sell most in lots of three. Not sure about price. Already got paid unlimited dances with a girlfriend for one batch. A second batch of three seeds is going to a nice girl in Vancouver to grow with her gramma. They are paying me two handfuls of joy. The rest I may break down to highest bidders for that yucky money stuff. I still use it for things I cannot trade. Funny your name. Our Okanagan Symphony Orchestra choir just started up last week. We are singing ‘Carmina Burano’ in spring. I love German Latin. Easy peasy! Something to do when not dancing or gardening. If someone wants to contact me they can find my landline 1-250-860-3693 works great. Happy Harvesting!”

Rosemary hand sanitizer preparation

You see the other kind of sanitizers everywhere… in hospitals, at schools, food-service venues and near washrooms in malls to name a few places. The following easy made-at-home antibacterial infusion can be sprayed on kitchen and bathroom counters, tables, chairs, on doorknobs, telephone surface, TV remote, computer mouse and of course the hands, plus dozens of other surfaces you want to sanitize. Just spray on a light coating and wipe clean.

Put 1/4 cup fresh or dried rosemary short needle-like leaves in a fireproof glass or stainless steel pot. Pour 2 cups of filtered or steam distilled water over them. Gradually bring the heat up until the water is just shy of boiling point but not there yet. Remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and let the leaves steep for 20 minutes to a half-hour. If desired you can add 2 drops of rosemary essential oil to the cooled infusion, but that’s optional. Next, pour rosemary water into a reusable spray misting bottle for household use and into a smaller reusable spray bottle to place in the car or carry with you whenever a sanitizer is needed.

About the author

Columnist

Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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