THERE’S NOTHING LIKE like the red, white and blue on a patriotic holiday. It’s the stars and stripes, and in this case, the colors of a July Fourth Florida feast al fresco.
Watermelon is the red, and we grow lots of it in Florida and send lots of it across the country. The famous Italian tenor Enrico Caruso liked watermelon because, for him, it did triple duty. He said, “Watermelon – It’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”
There are more than 300 varieties of watermelon grown in North America, but the best one is the kind that’s in your cooler – icy cold – waiting to be the end of the Fourth feast.
There’s an old saying among musicians: “Everybody wants to be a drummer,” and you should be a drummer when picking out a perfect watermelon. Turn it over. The underside should be smooth and almost yellow-white. Thump on it and avoid melons with a high-pitched tone or a dead, thudding sound. You should wash melons before cutting them so anything bad for you on the outside doesn’t get inside.
That’s some of the red. But it can be some of the white because there is a white-fleshed watermelon. That just doesn’t sound right, though.
White is potatoes. We grow plenty of those in Florida, too – red and white. If we had blue (as they do in South America) we could have the whole meal of spuds. And as versatile as they are, that might not be a bad idea.
Pick red potatoes for salad. They don’t have to be peeled; just dig the eyes out. And don’t boil them to long. It’s better to have a little bite left than to have the potatoes self-destruct in hot water.
You can make potato salad with hot or cold potatoes. A German dressing featuring bacon fat and vinegar is traditional with hot potatoes. Mayo works better with cold. And plenty of chopped eggs.
Florida hens pump out eggs all year. Ever wonder, “Why can’t I get the shells off hard boiled eggs?” They’re too fresh. Buy a dozen eggs a week or so before you are going to cook them. Put the eggs in cold water. Bring it to a rolling boil. Cover and let the eggs sit 19 minutes. Transfer to ice water and let them rest 10 minutes. Drain and shake the eggs in the pot to shatter the shells. Peel under running water.
Local corn on the cob will be scarce by July 4. If you can find some you have to freeze it. Husk it and boil a minute or two. Then chill in ice water. Wrap securely and freeze.
For the blue, look to your freezer for some of the blueberries you put there in season. No berries? How about a glass or two of Florida blueberry wine? There are a number of wineries using Florida fruit. Check your local supermarket or wine store.
And because Florida produces so many good things to eat, you don’t have to stop at three colors.
article by TRENT ROWE, Food Editor
blueberry wine photo by TYLER JONES, UF/IFAS
Trent Rowe is the food editor for Central Florida Ag News.