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WatermelonA recent study by the US Department of Agriculture found that the temperature you store watermelons has an effect on how much lycopene and beta-carotene they have. They found that storing watermelons at room temperature (70 degrees F) increased the lycopene the melon produced by 40 percent and beta-carotene up to 139 percent. The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A.

Also, they found that if you put that succulent melon in the fridge at 41 degrees F, it will start to decay within a week. But you can store them between 50 and 70 degrees for up to three weeks, letting these green packages continue to make nutrients that are good for your body.

It is suggested that you store the melon at these temperatures. Then chill your melon a few hours before your picnic or backyard barbecue. You’ll see enjoy that refreshing cold watermelon that has come to mean summer for a lot of folks, and you’ll get more nutrition with each juicy bite.


PepperPepper was used to pay taxes in ancient times and even rents in England in the Middle Ages. One of it’s first internal uses was as a medicinal remedy for intestinal problems and to treat the fevers of malaria and cholera over 4,000 years ago. Considered an appetite stimulant by many healers, pepper soon found its way into culinary uses, adding its fiery, pungent flavor to many dishes.

Pepper was first grown in India, and today that country produces half of the world’s supply. It traveled to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia 2,000 years ago. Today, pepper is also grown in Sri Lanka, China, Madagascar, and Brazil.

Salt productsAdd a bit of salt to baked goods. It will balance the flavors of the sweets.

A pinch of salt to egg whites will increase their volume when you whip them for meringue.

Salting eggplant will make them sweat out their bitterness.

Don’t salt steaks before grilling. They will brown but be drier because the salt will draw out the moistness from the center. Salt afterwards.

Always add a bit of salt to any bread recipe. It will have a finer texture and more flavor. But, add it after you have proven the yeast (after the yeast froths) or mix it in with the flour.

CorksOpening a bottle of good wine with a corkscrew may soon be a thing of the past. Because of the shrinkage of acreage that grows cork trees, corks have become scarce and wine makers have sought alternative ways to seal wine. 

First came the plastic corks that don’t crumble like the natural corks do when a corkscrew is applied to them. A number of American wineries that changed to plastic discovered a side benefit. They didn’t have to worry about “corking,” a contamination that sometimes occurs in wine when it is exposed to a bad cork. Sometimes, corks can contain bacteria that can spoil a wine. At other times, the cork just gets musty smelling or bits break off into the wine. These are two conditions that can make the wine not as pleasant to drink.

Recently, more wineries are actually sealing their bottles with screw tops. Though many wine aficionados turned their noses up at the thought, equating it with skid-row wines or fruity college beverages of the past, they soon found that screw tops actually kept even the finest wines at their peak. And, screw tops preserve leftover wine better in the fridge, without it going flat.

Buy LocalInstead of reaching for that package in your supermarket, which often comes from corporate farms or factory animal farms thousands of miles away, make friends with your local farmer at your city’s farmer’s market this summer.

Organizations like Slow Food, Field to Plate, Chiefs Collaborative, Local Harvest, and Fair Food America are trying to educate consumers about where the food they eat comes from and how it’s being grown and harvested. These organizations advocate making connection with the people who grow your food. They suggest that people should buy locally grown foods from farmers markets or directly from growers and ranchers. They suggest reading labels at your supermarket and looking for certified organic, grass-fed, sustainably caught, and fair trade foods.

More importantly, these organizations suggest eating foods in season when their flavors are at their peak. This also means that in order to enjoy strawberries in December, you will need to freeze them in June or make preserves.

Amanda Archibald, founder of Field to Plate, says, “If you are eating off the land, there are no decisions you have to make about vitamins and nutrition, or getting too much of something.” What she says makes sense. It’s sound nutrition. And, local food in season tastes so much better than something picked green and shipped halfway across the world.

Meritage WinesDubbed eighteen years ago in a naming contest sponsored by three Napa Valley wine makers, these wines combined the best qualities of the French varietals Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (the “merit”) grown here in the US with the blending tradition of Old World Bordeaux (the “heritage”). The result was a line of red and white table wines that was uniquely American. The White Meritage, in particular, is hearty enough to satisfy the hardened Chardonnay enthusiast but is much softer on the palate and tends to age better. It also is less expensive. Though there are more than 150 American wineries producing Meritage wines, they have caught on in Mexico, Canada, and even in Israel and Australia. You can pick up White Meritage wines from California growers like Murrieta’s Well, Lyeth, and St. Supery.

Organic SealHere’s a quick guide to all of those food labels you find in your supermarket:

Certified Organic: Produce grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. 

Fair Trade: Foods grown and harvested by companies that offer a living wage and acceptable working and living conditions.

Free-range: Chickens allowed to graze in a large open lot and not housed in cages. Some beef and bison are free-range and may be given some grain during the last few weeks to fatten them up. This doesn’t harm the animal nor expose it to antibiotics.

Grass-fed or Pasture-fed: Animals that have grazed on pasture land and fed only grass and may be raised without antibiotics and growth hormones. 

Locally Grown:  Food raised locally, usually within a few miles from where you buy it.  This does not mean that the food is organically grown or grown using any sustainable agricultural methods.

No Antibiotics: No Growth Hormones: Meat from animals raised without antibiotics and growth hormones.

Shade Grown: Chocolate or coffee grown in the understory of the rainforest, usually at higher elevations.

Sustainably Caught Seafood: Usually caught with a hook and line, with limited by-catch, and includes dolphin-safe tuna.

Yes-sir, you can get organic in the cookie aisle. Once the boon of people with food allergies, organic cookies and other snacks are becoming more readily available outside of health food stores and in your regular supermarket. One manufacturer, Country Choice Organic, has a line of cookies that would be the envy of Grandma and stand tall along side of other cookie choices in your grocery store. They have six different flavors of sandwich cookies, including chocolate–not carob.  They also have a line of soft-baked cookies that are familiar home baked ones: peanut butter, chocolate chip, and brownie, and several varieties of oatmeal. All are organic and Kosher, and many are wheat-free, egg-free, milk-free, and nut-free. Their newest versions are bite-sized snacking cookies in ginger snaps, vanilla wafers, chocolate chip, and iced oatmeal.

Sales-wise, organic cookies have increased 29 percent this year alone, while regular store cookies have declined by 3 percent.  Obviously, consumers are seeking out organic products wherever they can, even in their sweet treats.

Edible Salad GardenRosalind Creasy’s Edible Salad Garden was the first in the Edible Garden Series that began in 1999. In a little over 100 pages, Creasy lays out everything you need to know about putting in a salad garden by your kitchen door. It’s a handy little book, divided into three sections: The Edible Art of Salad Gardens, The Encyclopedia of Salad Greens, and Favorite Salad Recipes. She also includes two appendices: Planting & Maintenance and Pests & Disease Control.  Through it all are stunning photographs of her own garden, close ups of various salad greens, and pictures of salad at the table.

An organic gardener, Creasy shows you how to raise these succulent greens without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Since most lettuces and other salad edibles have few pests and are easy to grow, going organic won’t be hard. However, if you are a novice gardener, you might want to get some additional advice from your local country extension office or a gardening friend, since some of Creasy’s instructions assume you know your way around the dirt.

Still, Edible SaladGarden is a great handbook for the home gardener.

Pepper MillAdd some extra zing in your recipes by adding a different kind of pepper to your favorite dishes. There are four different pepper varieties, though they are really from the same plant.

Green peppercorns are treated with sulphur dioxide to preserve their green color. They are not usually dried, but preserved in salt, brine, or vinegar.  They can also be frozen, dehydrated, and freeze-dried. They have a mild flavor and can be eaten whole, without grinding.

The mainstay of the pepper family is black pepper and has a strong flavor. Green peppercorns are picked, boiled briefly, then spread to dry. As they dry, the peppercorns turn black. They are sold whole for grinding in a pepper mill or commercially ground and put in tins. 

Click to continue reading Types of Ground Pepper