Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Pick the Perfect Watermelon

At the end of a long summer day, I remember my Dad would say, "Come on. Let's go pick out a watermelon," and off we'd trek to the watermelon patch. I'd follow along, taking two steps to his one, on our search for the perfect watermelon. "Here's one," I'd say, pointing to a bright green melon, and he would walk over, squat to the ground, and thump it. "No, that one's not quite ready," he'd say, and we'd keep on looking.

Then, he'd spot one hiding underneath a vine, and again he'd squat down, sweep away the vine, and thump it. "No, not that one either." Again and again, melon after melon, he'd thump, thump, thump, only to get up and walk away.

"Why do you thump them?" I'd ask.

"That's how you can tell if it's ready," he'd reply.

I didn't fully understand, but I knew if I trusted him, and if he thumped enough melons, he would find the perfect one. Finally, at long last, I'd hear him say, "Here it is! This is the one!" He'd gently pull it from the vine, and we'd walk back to the house where he would slice it into wedges. Perfectly ripe, juicy, and filled with little black seeds, we'd enjoy the treat. Nothing quite compares.

He did pass on his secret about the thump...hmmm...should I tell?

Sugar Babies

This is one of my favorite pictures of Emily and Audrey (ages 3 and 5) sitting in the bin of watermelons at the market. This is the prime time to buy watermelons. Make sure you have one for your 4th of July cookout!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Keeping It in the Family

This is 8-year-old Jennifer taking a seat on Grandpa's tractor. She represents the next generation, and I can't help but wonder about the future of small family farms. It's common knowledge that the number of small family-owned farms has been shrinking over the past few decades. Is there a way to reverse this trend?

I made a decision years ago to support local businesses. Our family doctor, dentist, eye doctor, grocery store, pharmacy, and school are all in our community, many within walking distance of our home. By supporting local businesses I contribute to their profitability; their profitability leads to success; their success leads to staying power; and staying power provides jobs. As a result the economy of our community thrives, which keeps much-needed goods and services conveniently located to our home.

The same holds true for our local farmers. When the farms are profitable, they remain productive and provide jobs. As a result our marketplaces are filled with fresh bounties of yummy-licious fruits and vegetables. And we all know that home-grown beats the rest. Why not support a local farmer at the NC Farmer's Market this weekend...and the next time you're at your local grocer, ask if they'll support our local farmers, too. Many small-time farmers provide wholesale services as well.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Seedless watermelons at Wise Farms growing in the summertime heat.

Scarecrows keeping the birds away.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Plastic-Covered Beds

These are the beds where the first corn crop for this summer has come and gone. A fall crop of cucumbers or squash will be planted here as soon as the days cool off a bit.

The benefits of growing produce on plastic-covered beds are many, including moisture retention, weed control, and no need to plow. The crops are irrigated and fertilized with water lines that run under the plastic. The beds are used for 2 years through 3-4 seasons of crops. Then, the plastic is removed to rotate the land by planting grain, soybeans, or corn. This method of farming can be costly, but it yields an increase in productivity and a better quality of produce.

Grandpa's Tractor

A proud day for my grandfather was back in 1972 when he purchased this tractor brand new. It is still being used on the farm today. June is his birthday month and we miss him terribly, but I'm excited that his passion for living off the land was gifted to my brother. I remember seeing him as a small boy riding on the tractor with Grandpa, and I'd bet anything that Grandpa was teaching him all his farming secrets. Time well spent, I must say.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Berries, and Veges, and Corn - Oh My!

The summer harvest has just begun and with it comes sensory overload! Do I get peaches or plums? Yellow squash or zucchini? Watermelon or cantaloupe? Butterbeans or string beans? Green tomatoes or red? Blueberries or raspberries? Red potatoes or sweet potatoes? Cabbage or collards? Oh My! Why not let your trip to the market yield a little bit of everything. It's good and good for you, fat-free, fiberlicious, and picked to ripe perfection...I hope you're hungry. I am...must go and eat blueberry cobbler.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Homemade Pepper Relish

The second most requested recipe from customers at Wise Farms is for homemade pepper relish. My mom uses this recipe and serves it with greens and on hot dogs.

12 red bell peppers
12 green bell peppers
6 onions
2 small hot peppers
3 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons celery salt

Run peppers and onions in food chopper. Cover with boiling water and let stand 5 minutes. Drain off all water. Mix with all other ingredients and boil for 30 minutes. Place in sterile glass jars and seal. Yields approximately 10 pints.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Food Preservation

Now is the season for canning, preserving, pickling, and freezing the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available to us now in NC. This week I'm dedicating my blog to food preservation tips.

First, you need the right equipment.  For fruits and tomatoes you'll need a water-bath canner with a rack. A pressure canner and rack should work well with other vegetables. Other necessities include a jar lifter, funnel, narrow rubber spatula, and timer.

Remember to use only standard canning jars and lids. Even though it's cool to recycle, it's not safe to use leftover glass jars from store-bought items like mayonnaise, nacho cheese, etc. Jar lids cannot be reused either because they only seal once. You can, however, reuse metal bands as long as they aren't rusted or dented. Inspect jars carefully and discard those with scratches, cracks, or chips.

Tomorrow, my mom's recipe for pickle relish, a favorite with her customers.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Memory Lane

This is my dad, William Wise, enjoying another day at the market. As far back as I can remember he has been an outdoorsy man. His main job for 33 years was that of welder and crew supervisor for a natural gas company. He worked 40 hours in four days, which allowed him a three-day weekend. He spent this time gardening and farming with his father growing corn, soybeans, wheat, and tobacoo. They also grew squash and cucumbers, and every day from late May to early July we harvested and loaded their trucks with baskets of freshly-picked produce. The afternoons were spent at the market in Faison, which at one time was a hub of activity, where the buyers would place their bids, and the baskets were literally unloaded from our trucks straight into the refrigerated transfer trailers and driven cross country.

Through the years my father and brother have continued to increase the acreage of the farm that my grandfather started. Each day they bring fresh produce to the NC Farmer's Market just for you. Why not pay them a visit and enjoy the fruit of their labor.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Subtle Change 5 - Meal Planning

Instead of planning meals around the main course, which is usually a meat, try planning your meals around whatever vegetables and fruits are in season.