Volume 7, Week 9, October 21-23, 2013
Ugly, Cracked Pomegranates: So the deal with pomegranates is everybody wants the arils (seeds) to be large and juicy and dark-red housed in a nice, perfectly smooth skin that you can display with your fall decorations along with the Indian corn and persimmons.
Well, all of us here—and now all of you there—know that pomegranates just aren’t ready until they start to crack; the arils inside swell up and start to literally split the skin. Since retailers sell off appearance, the race on the commercial side is to get ’em adequately red inside and out without them cracking. That’s an impossibility, they ALWAYS crack and the best cracked fruit goes to juice while the less mature, pretty fruit goes to market, unless of course I write about it in this newsletter.
This year, we were three fourths of the way through harvest before we had any kind of significant cracking.Whew! I’m glad for our farmers that we got most of their fruit in before they cracked, and now I’m glad for you all that you finally get to taste what a truly ripe (cracked) pomegranate tastes like. I should have done this for you years ago, but we get in this model of what is commercially acceptable instead of what will bring the most enjoyment if we could just get folks to try it.
The same thing happens to lots of fruit and melons—although not on the scale of pomegranates—and we call it checking, or sugar cracks. I’ll look for opportunities going forward to do more of this kind of stuff, and thanks for ALL the “I never knew pomegranates were so good” emails.
If you’re new to pomegranates, the slickest way to get a bowl full of arils is to put a colander in the sink, fill the sink with cool water, cut your fruit in half or quarter it and tear it apart over the colander. The skin and membranes will float, so you can skim ’em off when you’re done, while the arils will sink into the colander; voilá! (I spelled voilá right this time ☺) Martha Stewart says to cut ’em up, and hold it over a bowl while you hit the rind with a wooden spoon, but the Uncle Vern way’s way better.
We haven’t talked about organic farming for a long time, and there are lots of new folks so let’s spend a few weeks on the various aspects. First off, this is an important conversation because polls show Americans trust the totally meaningless word “natural” while distrusting the word “organic.” It just shows the power of marketing. The truth is I could market plastic bananas as natural, with no consequences, while if I use the word organic without following every dot exactly, I go to the federal pen.
The word organic has been owned by our federal government since the late 90s. In Europe, they use the term “Bio.” Last year, we got Canadian and US standards meshed so we’re all following the same protocol on this continent. There is promising work finishing-up merging European, Japanese, and US standards––important stuff if you’re a nut farmer for instance. Don’t get cute, that’s nut
like almond, not like crazy.
Okay, let’s get real basic. It all starts with the land. For anything to be certified organic, it has to be produced on land that has been farmed organically for three years, or thirty-six months and one day, to be exact. I think this is about right. On our farm, before we moved to organic, we had eradicated all but the herbicide-resistant weed species. An interesting thing happened by the third year into the conversion: the herbicide-resistant weeds were gone and the natives were back. More next week.