by Marcia Fein
If you shopped at the Farmers’ Market last summer, you may have enjoyed some lovely potatoes with fairyland names and novel shapes and colors. I remember fondly a steaming bowl of Russian Banana and Red Thumb, dressed in olive oil and garden-fresh snipped parsley. I vowed once again to grow my own. Fresh from the earth, your own potatoes can be superior to most grocery store spuds in the same way home grown tomatoes are better than the red baseballs they sell in winter. You can store potatoes for weeks or months without canning, drying or freezing, too. What a deal!
The variety of potatoes available to the home gardener today is amazing. One mail order catalogue lists over 80 named varieties. They come with skins of purple splashed in violet, pale pink to brilliant red, white with pink-red swirls, golden yellow to red-brown, buckskin with splotches of pink or purple around the eyes, and the ever popular white. Spud contours include round, flattened, pear, oval, bumpy, smooth, oblong and fingerling.
"Enough about looks!" you say. "What do they taste like?" Well grown and harvested at the right time most are sweet and nutty. In general taste is related to texture is related to color. Potatoes come in three basic textures.
by Tina Lee
There’s nothing like the sweet smell of a ripe melon that you’ve just pulled from the vine. Melons thrive on warm weather and full sun. However, if you live in an area where the summer temperatures tend to be on the cool side, you’ve probably been disappointed trying to grow the heat-loving melons at home. Many people who live in Cupertino and other cities on the northern end of the peninsula, do not try to grow melons because summer nighttime temperatures can drop into the 50s and result in small 2-3 inch melons that are not very sweet. For the 2000 McClellan Ranch vegetable research trial in Cupertino, the Master Gardeners took on the challenge and proved that using a combination of special varieties and growing techniques can indeed result in a successful melon harvest for cool weather climates.
We specifically chose early ripening melon varieties so most of the melons could be harvested after 70-85 days. We also picked varieties that were developed to grow well in difficult cool weather areas such as northern, coastal, or mountain climates. We grew 20 different varieties of melons that belonged to the following categories: