Foraged Red Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit
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Inside a black garlic bulb's sheath of dry, aged paper-thin skin are black jelly-like cloves. The cloves have a savory sweet taste, a pleasant molasses undertone with a subtle hint of a soy sauce.
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Uzbek-Russian melon is creamy yellow to green with faint horizontal stripes and rough beige netting. Its flesh has a creamy ivory hue with an oval seed cavity. When ripe, its flesh is exceptionally sweet, succulent and juicy with a floral aroma and undertones of honey and spice. Varying heavily in size and weight, Uzbek-Russian melons can weigh anywhere from five to twenty pounds and have an elongated shape.
Uzbek-Russian melons are available in the summer months.
Inspired by melons from both Uzbekistan and Russia, the Uzbek-Russian melon, also known as Silk Way melon is a muskmelon variety and a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. Even in absence of their presence there has long been demand for Uzbek style melons which are known for their exceptionally sweet flavor. The challenge with meeting this demand has been that the seeds of these sought after melons are not readily available from seed catalogs or distributors in the United States, rather seeds must be acquired by knowing someone who has them or has connections to obtain them.
The Uzbek-Russian melon is often served fresh because of its sweetness and crunch. Pair fresh Uzbek-Russian melon with lime, yogurt, berries, peanuts, seafood, avocado, mint or ginger. Its sweet flavor will complement Asian and Latin preparations. In Uzbekistan melon such as the Uzbek-Russian are often stewed, candied or dried allowing the fruit to be enjoyed long after melon season has passed. Once ripe Uzbek-Russian melons will keep for a week at room temperature or up to two weeks refrigerated. Keep cut melon in the refrigerator in a sealed container and consume within three to four days.
Central Asia is considered by many to be the homeland of the melon. Uzbekistan in particular in renowned for melon production and is said to produce some of the most flavorful and sought after melon varieties in the world. The region is known to have long, hot and dry summers which provide ideal growing conditions for melons.
The first Uzbek-Russian melons were planted in the United States in 1993 in Fresno, California. The seeds made their way here and were grown by a group of investors from the former Soviet Union. Within five years their experimental plantings had grown to be over 200 acres of melons. Unfortunately the commercial distribution they had strived for was never achieved due to inadequate marketing, over planting and melon pests and disease. Tension heightened between investors and accusations were made about embezzlement, the situation reached a peak when one of the investors was shot and killed by an unidentified intruder. After the murder, interest in growing the Uzbek-Russian melon dropped off completely. It was not until 2010 when Fresno County farm adviser Richard Molinar gave a few of the Uzbek-Russian seeds to Balakian Farms of Reedley, California. Today the melons are grown at a few farms in Southern and Central California and can be found sporadically at farmers markets in California.
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