Monday, May 16, 2016

Harvest Monday 16 May 2016

First harvest comes from cleaning out the beds for the new growing season. These are some volunteer bunching onions scattered around the garden after I failed to deadhead one of their ancestors. These were timely because I had some meals planned, both Mexican and Chinese, that called for scallions.

Last September I showed the innovative trellising techniques used by Mr. Yin, our intrepid Chinese gardener. This picture shows the elaborate trellising method he used to get his winter melon vines to grow vertically. He also had to support the melons somehow, in this case with a large rock placed under the melon to support it and keep it off the ground.

Last week he gifted me this huge winter melon he grew in the gardens. It weighed in at over 7 pounds. What do you do with winter melon (also known as ash gourd or white gourd)? You make soup.

First step is to cut the melon (or gourd) in half with a very sturdy knife. The rind or skin is really a thick, rigid, plastic-like shell that is very hard to cut. In Chinese supermarkets, winter melon is often sold pre-cut into wedges

Next step is to remove the seeds and pulp with a scoop. The seeds are black and very large.

Next I cut the halves into wedges and removed the shell. The shell or rind is very thick and rigid and I was able to just pull the flesh out from the shell. Then the flesh is cut into small cubes for the soup. For the soup, prepare a rich chicken or pork broth flavored with some fresh ginger. The melon cubes are cooked in the broth 45-60 minutes until they are tender. Add some slivered Black Forest ham and shiitake mushrooms and a sliced scallion.

The result is a simple dish with a range of contrasts, visual and tactile. The winter melon does not add a lot of flavor. It is not entirely flavorless, having a subtle melon taste. What it offers in the soup is a velvety texture that is a contrast to the chewiness of the mushrooms and ham. The translucent whiteness of the melon also contrasts with the earthy brown mushrooms and the red of the ham. Just a simple, elegant dish that is very easy to make.

That is all my nascent garden produced last week. To see what other gardeners are coaxing from their gardens, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.


  1. That is an interesting treatment of the winter melon. I can safely say I've never eaten one, at least not that I know of. It did make for a pretty soup. And what a pleasant surprise - volunteer onions! I made the mistake of letting garlic chives go to seed a few years back and we had them popping up all over the place.

  2. Gotta love those volunteers. Most of the cilantro that I've been harvesting this spring is from seeds that got scattered around after I removed the plants that I let bolt. I had winter melon years ago when I used to volunteer with the Master Gardeners, one of my fellow gardeners was Chinese and she would teach us how she used a lot of the unusual vegetables that she grew. I've never grown it myself though.

  3. That soup looks delicious - I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised that "winter" melon lasts this long in storage, but I still was! I have never used it nor eaten it but being a huge fan of Asian food, I'm quite intrigued and have added it to my future grow list.

    And those are some gorgeous onions - I'm still on the fence about the perennial bunching onions, and those from last year are starting to flower, but I'm not giving up just yet.

  4. I too have never tried Winter Melon - either eating it or growing it. It sounds a little "nondescript", if that's not being too harsh? I would imagine this is a vegetable you would only grow it you had loads of space and enough of all your other veg! (Of course I may be totally wrong...)

  5. I couldn't seem to get spring onions to grow last year so a few volunteers would have been nice. Yours are looking very healthy.

    I'm not a fan of winter melon but always nice to receive a gift of food though ...

  6. I wonder if winter melon is similar to wax melon, I really like wax melon. The skin and seed looks quite different. I hope the weather has been warming up for you.

    Planting is in full swing here. I'm hoping to finish up this week, if the weather and local animals are kind.

    1. Apparently wax melon or tallow melon is sometimes used to refer to winter melon, but there are also versions of was melon that don't look at all like this. I'm not an expert on Asian vegetables and this thing takes far too much space and tim to grow for me to try.


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