The tradition of Groundhog Day

The tradition of Groundhog Day

Despite a cold and cloudy day in a small town just northeast of Pittsburgh, the  plump marmot affectionately known as Punxsutawney Phil peeked his head out from the warm quarters where he hibernates during the winter months, saw his shadow, turned around, and went back to sleep…presumably signaling another six weeks of winter. Exactly how does this particular groundhog’s aversion to heading out into the cold equate to a longer-than-usual winter?  Who among us doesn’t react to a bleak and cloudy day by pulling the covers up over our heads and returning to our restful slumber for “just five more minutes?”

While many may argue the scientific accuracy of Phil’s prediction, others consider his forecast to be as accurate and reliable as the Farmer’s Almanac. Ignore the fact that, according to the calendar, Spring does not officially arrive until the vernal equinox on March 21st which is approximately six weeks from February 2. If Phil hadn’t seen his shadow (which may or may not have been caused by the lights from the many television cameras that were pointed in his direction), he would have ventured out of his warm sleeping quarters,  indicating that spring would arrive sooner than its mid-March due date.

Whether you trust Phil’s calculation or the weatherman’s prediction, it begs the question,  “how did we come to rely on a groundhog to determine whether the next season would arrive earlier than expected?” Just what are the origins of Groundhog Day?

After some not-so-extensive research that brought me no further than Wikipedia, here are some interesting “facts” that I have gathered about Groundhog Day and its tradition. Turning to a groundhog to predict the length of our winters is a German custom and the celebration in Pennsylvania dates back to the 18th century. It’s origins are rooted in ancient European lore in which a badger was used to predict the length of the winter. The practice is also very similar to the pagan festival of Imbolc, which is celebrated on February 2 and involves weather forecasting. The first documented American reference to Groundhog Day was found in a diary entry dated February 4, 1841, written by storekeeper James Moorris of Morgantown, Pennsylvania.

Whether we have an early Spring or cold winter days remain with us until the end of March, there are a few things we can be sure of. Spring will officially arrive on March 21; warmer days are headed our way; and the crew at Colchester Neighborhood Farm will soon be filling the greenhouses with small seedlings of organically grown fruits and vegetables in preparation for a stellar crop this summer.

Mouthwatering Watermelon

Mouthwatering Watermelon

Watermelon is as integral a part of the summer experience as building sandcastles at the beach or catching fireflies on a warm evening. Easily filling the role of dessert, it is as tasty as it is fun to eat. Even as adults, we love the flavor of this melon, whether it is paired with a cheese in a salad or used as the foundation for an adult beverage. Though August is now in the rear view mirror and the apple picking season is just around the corner, Colchester Neighborhood Farm continues to harvest this sweet summer vegetable…yes, I said vegetable, because technically, it is considered both a fruit and veggie. And here are few more fun facts to consider about this sweet summer staple.

According to the website, betweenusparents.com, Americans consume more watermelon than any other melon. Cantaloupe comes in second place and honeydew in third place.

A cousin to the cucumber, pumpkin, and squash family, watermelon is considered both fruit and vegetable. However, according to the website, livability.com, in 2007, the state of Oklahoma removed any ambivalence about how to categorize the gourd when it passed a bill declaring it a vegetable, and the official state vegetable, at that.

According to the website, thetowndish, early explorers used watermelons as canteens.

In China and Japan, watermelon is given as a hostess gift similar to our tradition of bringing flowers.

In Israel and Egypt, the sweet taste of watermelon is often paired with the salty taste of feta cheese.

Egyptian hieroglyphics indicate that the first-ever watermelon harvest took place roughly 5,000 years ago. The sweet fruit (vegetable) often was sealed into the tombs of kings because, really, who couldn’t use a snack in the afterlife.

An estimated 40,000 visitors check out the soaring 154-foot watermelon-shaped water tower each year in Lulling, Texas, home of the annual Watermelon Thump event, named for the sworn-by method of “rind-thumping” for checking a melon’s ripeness.

The seedless variety of watermelons was invented 50 years ago.

According to Guinness World Records, the world’s heaviest watermelon, weighing 268.8 lbs. (121.93 kg) was grown by Lloyd Bright of Arkadelphia, Arkansas in 2005.

It takes approximately 90 days to grow a watermelon….from planting to harvesting.

The United States ranks 5th in worldwide production of watermelon. Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona consistently are the leading producers.

Every part of the watermelon is edible, including the seeds and the rind. In fact, the first cookbook published in the U.S. in 1776 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.

Though the summer season and its harvest is winding down, the workers at Colchester Neighborhood Farm are still picking plenty of organically grown vegetables and fruits, including watermelon, which lets the taste of summer linger just a little longer.

The Beauty of the Cantaloupe

The Beauty of the Cantaloupe

Can something this sweet, juicy, and tasty actually be good for your body and help promote younger looking skin? Some nutritionists are saying, “yes, it can.” If cantaloupe is not a staple item on your weekly grocery list, it just might become one after learning all of the health benefits of this fruit.  A relative of squash and cucumber, the cantaloupe is a member of the gourd family and is packed with an arsenal of artillery to battle everything from lung cancer and diabetes to macular degeneration. Now being harvested at Colchester Neighborhood Farm, there’s no better fruit to add to your grocery list than this muskmelon.  Read on for some more interesting and valuable information about the cantaloupe.

  • According to our friends at thehumblegardner.com, cantaloupe gets its name from the town of Cantalupo, Italy where seeds from Armenia were planted in the Papal Gardens in the 16th century.
  • An average sized cantaloupe packs an abundance of flavor and natural sweetness but contains just 100 calories.
  • Loaded with vitamin A and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, lutein, and other nutrients, cantaloupe may be your best defense against colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.
  • According to the website, greatist, cantaloupe could be called the beauty fruit. The beta-carotene in its orange pulp converts to vitamin A, which helps promote healthy skin and may help protect against damaging and harmful UV rays. This dynamic melon may halso help to prevent wrinkles and premature aging of the skin.
  • And cantaloupe isn’t just for eating—it doubles as the perfect hair conditioner during the summer months. Use a fork to mash half a cup of cantaloupe, then massage into hair and leave for ten minutes after shampooing. http://greatist.com/health/superfood-cantaloupe
  • The best way to tell when a cantaloupe is ready for harvesting is when it has naturally slipped off of its vine.
  • To find the sweetest tasting melon, use your nose. The fruit should have a sweet, slightly musky scent. A good cantaloupe will feel heavy for its size, has a rind that resembles raised netting and a stem end will feel slight soft when you press your thumb into it.
  • When storing a cantaloupe, the melon can be left at room temperature for a few days, which helps in the ripening process. Once ripened, the melon will last for a week if kept cold. Cut melons, wrapped in plastic with the seeds left in, should be refrigerated but should be eaten in a few days.
  • According to the website, softschools.com, always wash cantaloupe before cutting into it. The surface of the melon is often covered with bacteria that can induce serious diseases in humans and that bacteria can be carried into the edible pulp when a knife slices through the melon.
  • Melons can be cut into halves, quarters, wedges, cubes, or scooped into balls with a melon baller. According to the website,bellybites, most melons will benefit from a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to enhance the flavor and served at room temperature.

Now at the height of  harvest season, there is no better time to head to Colchester Neighborhood Farm to pick up some organically grown cantaloupe. It’s as good on the taste buds as it is for the body.