Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bradford Watermelon {Reintroducing an Heirloom Watermelon}

Bradford Watermelon, an 1840's heirloom watermelon

A recent farm trip brought us out to see the Bradford Watermelon, an heirloom/heritage melon being revived and reintroduced by the sixth great-grandson of the man who started it all, Nathaniel Bradford. He bred the Bradford Watermelon, which was preserved undetected for 170 years in the family’s fields, and believed to be extinct for around a century. What an amazing story and discovery you can read all about here

Nat Bradford cutting a Bradford Okra Pod

It was actually an article I read about the Bradford Watermelon that excited me many months before we were able to make arrangements to visit the farm ourselves. Imagine my surprise as I was reading the article to find out THIS WAS HAPPENING literally in my backyard! Just a few miles away from my house. Like, who knew? I sure didn't and was ecstatic to find out it was.

Bradford Watermelon cut open in the field

Did you know? Watermelons are mostly water — about 92 percent — but this refreshing fruit is soaked with nutrients. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. There's even a modest amount of potassium. Plus, this quintessential summer snack is fat-free, very low in sodium and has only 40 calories per cup.

Scientists have taken notice of watermelon's high lycopene levels — about 15 to 20 milligrams per 2-cup serving, according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board — some of the highest levels of any type of fresh produce. Lycopene is a phytonutrient, which is a naturally occurring compound in fruits and vegetables that reacts with the human body to trigger healthy reactions. It is also the red pigment that gives watermelons, tomatoes, red grapefruits and guavas their color.

Nat Bradford cutting the Bradford Watermelon

Lycopene has been linked with heart health, bone health and prostate cancer prevention. It's also a powerful antioxidant thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, according to Victoria Jarzabkowski, a nutritionist with the Fitness Institute of Texas at The University of Texas at Austin. (source: Live Science)

And here is a little bit about our host for the afternoon, who was a wealth of information and knowledge he generously shared. You can just listen to him and hear the passion he has about his family farm and their wonderful Bradford Watermelon.

And to give you an idea of how SWEET this watermelon is, its 'brix' measurement is 12.5. Brix is a widely used sweetness rating, and most melons hover around 10, which is already considered very sweet

"Nat Bradford is a father of five, farmer, and landscape architect in Seneca, South Carolina. He founded Eco Art, LLC in 2000 upon the principles of creativity and stewardship to nurture holistic sustainable landscape architecture. As a farmer he maintains the breedline of their 170 year old family heirloom, the Bradford watermelon.

Bradford Okra

He and his wife, Bette, started Watermelons for Water in 2013, a philanthropic cause funded by all the proceeds from their watermelon harvest. Watermelons for Water has provided hand-dug freshwater wells for small farming families in Bolivia and funded a project in Tanzania where the watermelon is being grown as an inexpensive freshwater source. His greatest joy is sharing this heritage with his children."

So on yet another another drizzly, cloudy day, a few friends and fellow farm trip enthusiasts, headed out to the farm. Our route had a detour we were unaware of, so a quick message off to Nat Bradford got us pointed in the right direction. Soon we arrived at the end of a long dirt road, where he was waving to us to show us where to go. We parked the car, and with some quick introductions all around, we walked into the family garden area and fields to talk about some of the other heirloom plants all organically grown, on this family farm in Sumter, South Carolina.

We saw and tasted right in the field some Indigo Tomatoes, Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes, and amazing Bradford Okra. Did you know the Okra is related to the Hibiscus? Neither did I, but you can certainly see it when you look at the flower of the Bradford Okra. And none of us were okra fans, but we sure tried it raw in the field, and it was delicious. Crispy and crunchy, I am now a fan of raw okra.

We also explored the remnants of the Bradford Watermelon field. All the while, Nat Bradford talked about the history of the watermelon, explained a lot about the soil nutrients required, and how the season's drought had affected and impacted the growth of many of the plants this year.

A bit later we wandered up to the house and enjoyed a spread of deliciousness on the front porch, prepared for us by Nat's wife, Bette. Talk about Southern Hospitality! Ciabatta bread slices, crackers, thinly sliced prosciutto, a variety of cheeses, and sweet Bradford Watermelon, Watermelon Rind Pickles and Watermelon Molasses. Oh my goodness, delicious. We enjoyed every single nibble and bite as we made our way around this lavish spread, all the while chatting about how wonderful it all was.

After a few hours, and a lot of delicious Bradford Watermelon treats, it was time for us to be on our way. While some purchased watermelon molasses and watermelon rind pickles, it was a real treat to receive a Bradford Watermelon to take home and make some fun recipes with. I was excited about the prospects and couldn't wait to get started.

For more about Bradford Watermelons:
Watch the Bradford Watermelon Story
Check out their Website
Like them on Facebook
Follow them on Instagram

And then I made Bradford Watermelon Lemon Pepper Mint Jelly! Grab the recipe!


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