Important: Please note that your CSA box is larger this week. We moved all the boxes up a size to accomodate the first watermelons of the year. Check the label before taking a box!
We have grown and packed you a true Independence Day box this week, complete with our first Watermelons and plenty of Sweet Corn.
The corn in your boxes today was planted back in mid-April, and the watermelon just a couple of weeks later. Which gets me to thinking once again about traditional holiday foods and their authenticity.
There aren’t that many places in the U.S. where you can plant warm weather crops in April, and even fewer where they will be ready by July 4th. Florida and California would be the main ones. In many other states, the ground is still partially frozen in early April and frost — which kills both corn and watermelons — is common into May. So it’s a pretty safe bet that 4th of July picnics and barbeques prior to the advent of refrigerated transportation did not include either corn on the cob or slices of juicy watermelon.
I’m betting that the vegetable selection at most Independence Day celebrations in the 17, 18 and early 1900s was likely limited to coleslaw and potato salad. Maybe some green beans.
So, was there a concerted marketing campaign by sweet corn and watermelon growers in California and the Deep South? Slogans like “No July 4th picnic is complete without a juicy red watermelon” and organized marketing activities like seed spitting contests or greased watermelon relay-races. Or was it just truckloads of them showing up at grocery stores just in time for holiday promotional sales?
Nowadays the U.S. Department of Agriculture actually funds efforts like these by taxing growers of certain products to pay for marketing and advertising ala “Got Milk?”, or studies of healthy benefits of eating nuts.
But in the 1940s and 50s, there wasn’t that much exciting local produce in the markets in the Midwest or Northeast in early summer. There certainly weren’t any mangoes from the Phillipines or tomatoes from Mexico. So when the first watermelons and sweet corn showed up just before July 4th, everyone around the country was probably excited. Even if all that produce was coming from far away California or Florida, it was still American produce for America’s birthday celebration. And both are perfect foods for eating outdoors.
Whatever you are doing this holiday week and whereever you are doing it, we wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July. And if you are here and getting your box, enjoy the watermelon, sweet corn and other summer goodies.