Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Watermelon Manifesto

Seedless watermelons. I can't stand them. Well, secretly, I too have been victim to their charms (so much easier for cooking!), but when it comes to my garden I flatly refuse to grow them. It's a philosophical stance for me, as well as an aesthetic one. Unquestionably, they look silly. What's the vivid pink and electric green of a watermelon without the unassuming black seeds holding it all together? But more than that, seedless watermelons represent all of the single-minded striving for ever greater convenience that defines the age of happy meals, disposable clothing, and climate control at the touch of a button.

This is not to say that I want to start washing my clothes on a wash board. No, Margaret has already commandeered the one we found in the barn for her band. Convenience is not the villain: in a sense, canning, freezing, and all of the other methods of food preservation that I champion are ways of creating future-convenience. But whereas putting up food for the winter requires forethought and planning, throwing out jeans at the first small hole in the knee or purchasing a happy meal in desperation is a sign of a lack of prudence or economy.

So how do watermelons relate to prudence and economy, you ask? Not directly, perhaps, but consider what you loose when you watermelons loose seeds. You loose watermelon seed spitting contests on the porch stoop. You lose the childish superstition of a swallowed seed lodging in your gullet and growing a watermelon-child. You loose the promise that you too could grow a watermelon, if you only had inclination and soil and sun. You opt out of the ancient tradition of saving seed and instead entrust the future of your food to the plant technologists who would patent life and profit from sterile seeds. You teach your children that they can have exactly what they want in the moment, unobstructed by bread crust, peach fuzz, or cherry pits.

And so that is why I spent the spring time digging rocks out of my garden. So that I might eat watermelons in September, after waiting all season, and spit out the seeds into a bowl. That is why I spend this evening in front of the stove, sipping wine, and finally darning the holes in my winter socks before frosty chill slips off of the mountains and into our valley for good.


Briana said...

thank you! I completely agree! I only discovered your blog a few days ago (as I am a newbie to the farming world) and i greatly enjoy it. I'm currently finishing up my Peace Corps service in rural Moroccco, where eating local isn't the alternative choice, its the norm we live by, and I'm absolutely in love with it. I've never seen a seedless freak of a watermelon here, and though trying, i do enjoy scrubbing my clothes to bits on the washboard:)

Andrew said...

you forgot the most important part! seeded watermelons taste way, way better than their freak cousins.

LP said...

I'm with you if they taste better, but don't you think you might be taking things too far? Apple trees don't generally grow from apples anymore. I mourn the loss of flavorful cultivars, but big juicy hybrids need not always bear fruitful seeds. P.S. When will you be back in Atlanta?

Kerstin Svendsen said...

i'm one of your blog readers and am wondering if you could email me your email address. i wanted to see if you'd be interested in contributing a piece of writing to a book project i'm embarking on. will tell you more about it via email.
shash (