Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen... Meet George!

Ladies and Gentlemen... meet George!
[With apologies to JFK, Jr. and the now defunct "George" magazine] 

The Tulsa Cake Club meets every second Tuesday of the month at All Things Cake, the best cake supply shop in Tulsa.  It is a gathering of people (all women and girls right now) who like to bake and decorate cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc. Some are professionals, some, like me, aren't. We have demonstrations, club news updates, suggestions for charitable giving of cakes or cupcakes, door prizes, snacks, etc.  

This month's demonstration was on modeling fondant.  Club member Diane Bewley was our demonstrator.  She makes the most amazing fondant pieces to decorate her cakes and she is completely self-taught!  Each person received a small lump of fondant, a piece of dried spaghetti, a toothpick, and a cotton swab.  Diane showed us how to make a baby out of the fondant.  I defied convention and made a bunny, complete with buck teeth and a bow tie.  I thought George turned out pretty well for my first time modeling a figure, considering I only spent about 15 minutes on him.  (By the way, those are not polka dots on his head.  It's a reflection of the overhead lights.)  
George is named in honor of the Looney Tunes cartoon, in which the abominable snowman (à la Lon Chaney's characterization of Lennie from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck) refers to Bugs Bunny, and says, "I will name him George, and I will hug him and pet him and squeeze him."  Thanks to Jennifer Schooley Bengel for reminding me about that cartoon classic!  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Watermelon! (And a Short Lesson on Seed Saving) :D

I stopped at a local roadside stand the other day.  Really, it was just a couple of tables with tarp canopies over them to keep off the hot Summer sun.  Initially, I drove past the stand, but I turned around after spying several different types of watermelons on the tables.  I saw what I knew to be Jubilees, Juliettes, Black Diamonds, and Sugar Babies.  I was hoping for a yellow-meated watermelon, but the gentleman manning the stand didn't have any.  However, he did have four beautiful OrangeGlo melons, which have a gorgeous golden yellow-orange flesh.  He stated that he purchased the OrangeGlos from someone who was unable to purchase the seeds anymore and had to save them every year so that he had enough to replant a good crop.  

That statement got me thinking about my father, who, up until the year of his death, had always planted a very large garden with several different types of watermelons.  He always dried some of the seeds and planted them the next year.  My mother moved out of the house I grew up in a year or so after my father died.  I have no idea if she took the seeds with her or threw them away.  It was a long time ago (1989), so she may not even remember (and they probably aren't viable at this point, anyway).  I will have to ask her, though.

I stood at the sink and ate the heart of one-half of the melon first.  I prefer watermelon at room temperature and this one was delicious!  The watermelon was refreshingly tasty, with a crispness and sweetness that bespoke Summer days gone by.  The rind was fairly thin.  Since I don't care for the slight bitter taste, I cut around the rind by about 1/2".  

I sorted the seeds onto a paper towel with a piece of wax paper underneath to prevent the seeds from soaking through and sticking to the counter.  I turned the seeds frequently to ensure even drying.  After they were completely dry (about 3 days), I rubbed the seeds to remove any dried watermelon flesh and stored the seeds in an envelope.  [If you must use a plastic bag to store the seeds - even temporarily - be sure to leave a large opening for air circulation.  If you seal the bag, the moisture inside will most likely kill the seeds.]

The weird part about all of this is that I don't have a garden.  Oh, I want one, but my husband doesn't want me to "tear up the yard", even though it would be in the back and no one would see it.  Personally, I think the fresh, organic fruits and vegetables would be worth it, but he doesn't.  So sadly, no garden for me... for now.  I'll keep working on him, though. 

My nephew, Garrett, said he would like some seeds because, in his words, "I'd love to take those seeds.  If I could grow my own watermelon, I'd be ridiculously happy."  Far be it from me to stand between him and true happiness.  (Obviously, he doesn't visit any home improvement stores, co-ops, or farm implement stores or he would know that they all carry tons of seed packets each Spring.)

I will also offer seeds to anyone who asks, for as long as I have them to share.  If you are interested, leave me a comment.  If you like watermelon, you will most likely love the OrangeGlo!

Below is a short tutorial on saving and drying seeds for future planting.  I found the information via

Seed saving has been practiced for years, and is a form of evolution. Plants that don’t survive well, or are sickly are discarded, while strong, healthy plants are preserved and grown against the next year. Presently, this is mostly done by seed companies, but any gardener can save their own seeds and dry them for the next year.

Plants are grown from one of two sources. The first are typical seeds, which are plant embryos contained in a hard shell, similar to eggs. The second source is known as transplants. Transplants are portions of living plants that are able to grow out of the soil independently.

Saving and drying seeds to use later is about maintaining the same genetic make-up and variety of plant. For the plant to be the same as its parent, it can only be pollinated with pollen from plants of the same variety. For airborne pollinated crops, no other varieties can be within a mile of the plant. Insect pollinated plants must be at least a quarter of a mile away from other varieties. Self-pollinated plants have no risk of cross pollination.

Hybrid plant seeds can produce a number of different plant types, because only the person who owns the original parent plants can produce more hybrid seeds. Be sure to check the package on the first seeds purchased before attempting to harvest and dry future seeds. F1 Hybrid indicates the plant is a hybrid and seed saving will not be possible. F2 means the plant can be involved in seed saving.

Different seeds are harvested at different times. Most fruit seeds can be extracted after ripening, but before rotting. Squash, cucumber, and pumpkin should be left on vine until after the first frost. The seeds can then be separated from the pulp and dried at room temperature. Pod plants and seed heads should be left to dry on the vine, and the seeds should be gathered before dispersion.

Biennial crops, primarily made up of root plants, do not produce seed at the end of the growing season. Instead, the roots should be dug up during the fall and stored at a temperature between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 7 degrees Celsius) through the winter.
Once the seeds are properly harvested, gently rub them between your fingers to remove any excess chaff. Store them in an envelope in a cool, dry room, and label the envelope so there is no confusion later. For best results, plant them the following year. Continue to choose seeds from the best plants to replant every year.