Turnip Greens (Farm Bureau Photo)
blackeyed peas / broccoli /
cabbage / carrots / sweet
cucumber / greens /
lettuce / lima
beans / okra / green
peas / peppers / potatoes / pumpkins / snap
beans / summer
squash / sweet potatoes / tomatoes / winter
county in Oklahoma listed vegetables as a crop in the last
Census of Agriculture. Oklahoma is a great place to grow vegetables.
We have a long growing season and good soil. Many communities
around the state have active farmers
markets from April through
October where you can purchase locally grown vegetables. Some
markets even operate year-roun. Locally grown vegetables are
also available from roadside stands and "pick-your-own" farms.
experts tell us we should be eating five servings a day of
fruits and vegetables. With all the variety available to us,
that shouldn't be difficult. Eating vegetables in season is
a great way to get the most nutritional value and usually the
best price as well. Vegetable also taste best in season, so
offering veggies in season may be the best way to get kids
to appreciate them. There's no comparing a tomato from the
farmer's market or home garden to one bred for shelf life rather
than flavor, picked while still green, trucked thousands of
miles and then placed - still green - in the grocery store.
The same goes for many other kinds of produce.
farmers who formerly grew more traditional crops like wheat
and cattle have started adding fruits and vegetables to their
operations for the sake of diversity. That way if one crop
fails, it's not a total loss. And consumer concerns about health
have helped make growing vegetables and slightly more lucrative
business. Vegetables are more difficult to grow than traditional
crops because they require more attention day by day.
Asparagus grows well in Oklahoma gardens. In
the spring, tiny asparagus tips poke their noses out of the
ground. If you don't pick them right away, they grow into big
originate in the coastal regions of Europe, Africa
and the Near East.
- The beet is a member
of the goosefoot (chenopod) family, along with spinach, chard and quinoa. Wild foods in the chenopod family were probably eaten by ancient hunter/gatherer people on the North American continent before the development of agriculture.
- Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betalains provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification support.
- Betanin pigments from beets have been shown to lessen tumor cell growth.
- The wild beet is thought to have originated in North Africa and grew wild along Asian and European seashores.
- In earlier times people just ate the the beet greens and not the root. People today eat both.
- Although typically a beautiful reddish-purple hue, beets also come in varieties that feature white, golden/yellow or even rainbow color roots.
- Broccoli has been
served up for dinner for at least 2,000 years.
- By 2010 Americans were eating 900 percent more broccoli
than they were eating in 1990.
- Thomas Jefferson,
often called the farmer president, was an avid gardener.
He kept a detailed garden diary and recorded his planting
of broccoli on May 27, 1767. It is likely that he was the
first person to grow broccoli in the United States. Americans
have grown broccoli in their gardens for about
200 years, but it was not popular until the 1920s.
The first commercially-grown broccoli was grown and harvested
in New York, then planted in the 1920's in California.
name "broccoli" comes
for the Latin word brachium, which means "branch," or "arm." Roman
farmers called broccoli "the five green fingers of Jupiter."
- Broccoli was first grown in the Italian province of Calabria
and was given the name Calabrese. Today there are many varieties.
In the United States, the most common type of broccoli is the
Italian green or sprouting variety. Its green stalks are topped
with umbrella-shaped clusters of purplish green florets.
consumption has increased over 940 percent over the last
for ounce, broccoli has as much calcium as a glass of
milk and more vitamin C than an orange!
A 1/3 pound stalk of broccoli has more vitamin C than 2
1/2 pounds of oranges or 204 apples.It is one of the
best sources of vitamin A and has more fiber than a slice
of wheat bran bread. Broccoli
is also a good source of potassium,
folacin, iron and fiber. It contains a few important
phytochemicals: beta-carotene, indoles and isothiocyanates.
Phytochemicals prevent carcinogens (cancer causing substances)
from forming. They also stop carcinogens from getting
to target cells and help boost enzymes that detoxify
- Broccoli is a cool
season vegetable. It grows well in Oklahoma gardens in
early spring and in the fall.
- Cabbage is one of only a few vegetables available fresh
in the winter time. It is a cole crop, related to broccoli,
cauliflower, kale and brussel sprouts. Cabbage is a cool
weather vegetable that grows fine in Oklahoma gardens,
as long as it is planted very early in the spring or in the
- Carrots are members of the parsley family, characterized
by the feathery green leaves. Other members include parsnips,
fennel, dill and celery.
- Carrots are a taproot,
a type of root which grows downwards into the soil and swells.
Carrots come in many sizes and shapes: round, cylindrical,
fat, very small, long or thin.
- Carrots are an excellent
source of beta-carotene, which our bodies turn into vitamin
A. Carrots provide 30 percent
of the vitamin A in the US diet.
only need a small amount of space and are very easy to
grow. They need well-worked, sandy soil so they will grow
long, straight roots. Lumps and stones in the soil will cause
the carrots to grow crooked.
taste best when grown in cool weather. When the weather
is too hot, the carrots grow bitter. In Oklahoma, some people
grow carrots in their fall gardens.
originated in Afghanistan and possibly northern Iran and
Pakistan. The first carrots were purple and yellow. Orange carrots
did not appear until the 1700s, when Dutch plant breeders
bred them to match the Dutch flag. Orange carrots
are the only carrots with beta carotene. Today most carrots eaten
around the world are orange. In 2002 European farmers began
growing purple carrots again.
- Carrots are worth approximately
$300 million per year to US growers.
- In the US carrots were
allowed to escape cultivation and subsequently turned into
the wild flower, "Queen Anne's Lace."
- In the reign of James
I, it became the fashion for ladies to use Wild Carrot flowers
and its feathery leaves and stalks to decorate their hair,
their hats, dresses and coats. This was especially fashionable
during the autumn months when the leaves took on a reddish
- When the British Navy
blockaded West Indian sugar from entering Europe in the 18th
century, chemists made sugar from organic carrots.
- An extract of carrots was used
to colour oleos (margarine) during the fats rationing that
took place during WWII.
- Cauliflower probably
originated in Asia Minor, but was available almost exclusively
in Italy until the 16th century when it was introduced
to France and eventually to other areas of Europe. It was
first grown in North America in the late 1600s.
thick cauliflower soups are popular in France and Eastern
Europe. Sardinian cooks combine garlic, olive oil and capers
with it to make zesty salads and hot dishes. In India,
it's cooked with potato and onion to make a rich vegetable
- Mark Twain called cauliflower " a cabbage
with a college education."
- Cauliflower is formed
from the natural flowers of a variety of cabbage plant encouraged
to gather together, unopened, to create a mass which becomes
a large head over time. Depending on type, the heads can
be pale green, white or even purple. The cauliflower was
once described as resembling a bridal bouquet.
- Purple Cauliflower is
wild and is actually better for us. The color is caused by
anthocyanins (like those found in red cabbage and red wine),
- The buds of the cauliflower
head are kept white by carefully covering them to prevent
the formation of chlorophyll that sunlight would cause. Cauliflower
that is green has simply not been covered.
- Cauliflower is an excellent source of Vitamin C, a good source
of folacin and a source of potassium.
- Cauliflower is a cool
season crop, grown in Oklahoma gardens early in the spring
and in the fall.
- Fresh cauliflower keeps well and can be
refrigerated in the plastic wrapping in which it was purchased.
- Cauliflower is a cruciferous
vegetable, related to broccoli. It has has a milder flavor
than broccoli and tastes good in raw
veggie platters and cooked dishes.
cucumber is believed native to India, and evidence indicates
that it has been cultivated in western Asia for 3,000 years.
India it spread to Greece and Italy, where the Romans were
especially fond of the crop, and later into China. It was
probably introduced into other parts of Europe by the
- Records of cucumber
cultivation appear in France in the 9th century, England
in the 14th century, and in North America by the mid-16th
- The Spaniards brought
cucumbers to Haiti in 1494. In 1535 Cartier found "very
great cucumbers" grown
on the site of what is now Montreal. Captains Amidas and
Barlow found cucumbers in Native American gardens in Virginia
in 1584. They were also being grown by the Iroquois
when the first Europeans visited them.
- Although less nutritious than most fruit, the fresh cucumber
is still a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium,
and also provides some dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B6,
thiamin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium,
copper, and manganese. The pickling process removes or degrades
much of the nutrient content, especially that of vitamin C.
- A common belief is that
cucumbers contain a substance that helps to reduce the swelling
around eyes or the bags under the eyes. They can reduce swelling
but not for the assumed reason. More than 90% of the cucumber
consists of water, and it is the cooling effect of the water
in the cucumbers on eyes, together with increased humidity,
that reduces the swelling.
are the first vegetables to come up in the springtime. If
well-protected, some will stay alive through the winter and
begin growing once the days start to warm. Spinach that overwinters
is sweeter than that is planted later.
is probably the best known of the greens, but there are many
others, including young dandelion greens! Swiss chard grows
very well in Oklahoma as do mustard and beet greens. Other
greens available in the grocery store this time of year are
collard greens, kale and an assortment of Oriental greens.
- Lettuce, a member of the sunflower family, is one
of the oldest known vegetables and is believed to be native
to the Mediterranean area.
- In the US lettuce ranks second only
to potatoes as the most popular vegetable. Average US consumption
in the 1990s was 30 pounds of lettuce per person per year.
- Lettuce cannot be harvested mechanically because
no machine has been invented that can tell a good head of lettuce
from a bad head of lettuce. Lettuce must be harvested by hand.
- There are four main types of lettuce - head lettuce,
romaine, loose leaf and butterhead. Head lettuce is better
known as iceberg lettuce. Up until the 1920s it was known as "crisphead" but
was renamed when California growers began shipping the lettuce
under mounds of ice to keep the heads cool and crisp. Romaine
lettuce was named by the Romans who believed it had healthful
properties. In fact, the Emperor Ceasar Augustus put up a statue
praising lettuce because he believed it cured him from an illness.
- Iceberg lettuce doesn't offer much nutritionally,
but romaine and loose leaf lettuce are nutrient rich. In fact,
romaine and looseleaf provide five to six times the amount
of vitamin A and five to ten times the vitamin A compared to
iceberg. Romaine and butterhead also are good sources of folate,
which helps prevent birth defects and may decrease risk of
- In Oklahoma, lettuce is grown early in the spring
in home gardens. It is a cool weather crop and tends to bolt
in our hot summers. Lettuce is a good vegetable to grow in
classroom gardens because it is ready to eat 40-50 days after
it is planted.
- In Louisiana
okra is called “gumbo” because
it is an important ingredient in
a kind of soup by that name.
- Okra is
more common in Oklahoma and other southern gardens than
it is in other parts of the country. That’s because it
needs plenty of sunshine and won’t even poke its
head out of the ground unless the weather is very warm.
- One bell
pepper has more vitamin C than an orange or a cup of strawberries.
love warm soil and cannot tolerate frost.
- The pepper
was introduced to Europeans by natives to the Americas.
- Bell peppers
belong to a different family from that of black pepper,
but they belong to the same family as the pepper from which chili powder
- Chilies can make foods
safer. Tthey are known to reduce harmful bacteria on foods.
Mayans rubbed hot peppers on their gums to stop toothaches.
- The Incas believed that
eyesight was improved by eating chilies.
- In New Mexico, chili
is spelled c-h-i-l-E. In 1983, New Mexico Senator Pete Dominici
made it official by putting it in the Congressional Record.
He rose and addressed the United States Senate, declaring
that even though the word was "chili" in the dictionary
, New Mexicans refused to spell it that way, and so, he said,
he was standing before the full Senate, with the backing
of his New Mexican constituents, to state unequivocally that
the dictionary was wrong.
- Inhabitants of the New
World had chili peppers and the makings of taco chips 6,100
years ago, according to new research by the Smithsonian Institute
that examined the bowl-scrapings of people sprinkled throughout
Central America and the Amazon basin. The chili pepper is
the oldest spice in use in the Americas, and one of the oldest
in the world.
- The researchers believe
further study may show that the fiery pod was used 1,000
years earlier than their current oldest specimen, as it shows
evidence of having been domesticated, a process that would
have taken time. If so, that would put chili peppers in the
same league (although probably not the same millennium) as
spices such as coriander, capers and fenugreek.
- Within decades of European
contact, the chili pepper plant was carried across Europe
and into Africa and Asia, adopted widely, and further altered
through selective breeding.
- Today, the chili pepper
is an essential cooking ingredient in places as different
as Hungary (where paprika is a national symbol), Ethiopia,
- In all seven New World sites where chili pepper residue was
found, the researchers also detected remnants of corn. That
suggests the domestication of the two foods -- still intimately
paired in Latin American cuisine -- may have gone hand in hand.
- The cultivated potato, Solanum tuberosum, is one of around
1,500 species in the flowering plant genus Solanum, which also
includes the tomato, eggplant and woody nightshade.
- There are some 190 species of wild potatoes, all found in
the Andes. From these a single species has been domesticated
and spread throughout the world.
- Botanically, the potato is a tuber, a swollen piece of underground
stem where the plant stores starch.
- Wild potato plants and local primitive varieties have tubers,
but they are often small and oddly shaped.
- One acre of potatoes
will produce 52,000 servings of French Fries.
- The word “spud” was
a 14th Century term for a short knife or dagger and came
to mean potato because of its use in digging holes for planting
- Potato is the world's
most widely grown tuber crop, and the fourth largest food
crop in terms of fresh produce — after
rice, wheat, and maize.
- The potato originated in the area of contemporary Peru.
- Potato was introduced to Europe probably in the 1570s, or
approximately eighty years after the first voyage of Columbus
in 1492, and subsequently by European mariners to territories
and ports throughout the world as European colonization expanded
in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
- Thousands of varieties of potatoes persist in the Andes,
where over 100 varieties might be found in a single valley,
and a dozen or more might be maintained by a single agricultural
- Once established in Europe, potato soon became an important
food staple and field crop. Potatoes can feed a family well
from a very small plot of land, improving offspring survival
and thus driving population growth. Pushed onto marginal land
by large landowners, Irish peasants thrived by growing potatoes.
They were desperately poor but not starving.
- Lack of genetic diversity, due
to the fact that very few varieties were initially introduced,
left the Irish potato crop vulnerable to disease. In 1845,
a fungal disease, Phytophthora infestans, also known as late
blight, spread rapidly through the poorer communities of western
Ireland, resulting in the Great Irish Famine. The resultant
starvation killed more than a million Irish people and led
to the emigration of millions more.
- Following the Irish Potato Famine, most Americans regarded
the potato as food for animals rather than for humans, until
an effective fungicide against potato blight was found in 1883
by French botanist Alexander Millardet.
- Potatoes arrived in the Virginia colony of Jamestown in 1621 when
the governor of Bermuda, Nathaniel Butler, sent two large cedar
chests containing potatoes and other vegetables to Governor
- The first permanent potato patches in North America were
established in 1719, most likely near Londonderry (Derry),
NH, by Scotch-Irish immigrants. From there the crop spread
across the country.
- The potato is also strongly associated with Idaho, Maine,
North Dakota, Prince Edward Island, Ireland, Jersey and Russia
because of its large role in the agricultural economy and history
of these regions.
- In recent decades, the greatest expansion of potato has been
in Asia, where as of 2007 approximately 80 percent of the world
potato crop is grown.
- Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, China has become
the world's largest potato producer, followed by India.
- The potato is a cool season crop and can be grown in Oklahoma
gardens early in the spring or late in the fall.
- Pumpkins originated
in Central America. Seeds from related plants have been found
in Mexico, dating back over 7,000 years to 5500 B.C.
- The name pumpkin orginated
from "pepon" – the Greek word for "large
melon." Native Americans called pumpkins "isqoutm,"
their word for "squash."
- The pumpkin is one of
only a few foods we still eat today that is native to North
- The Pilgrims and other
early New England settlers liked to use pumpkins, because
uncut pumpkins would keep for several months, if stored in
a cool, dry place. Pumpkins were a main part of the early
settlers daily diet.
- Colonists made the first
pumpkin pies by slicing off pumpkin tips, removing the seeds
and filling the insides with milk, spices and honey, then
baking it all in hot ashes. Pumpkins
were also used as an ingredient for the crust of pies.
- Pumpkins were used for
many different things. Dried pumpkin shells served as bowls
or containers for storing grains and seeds. Native Americans
flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats from
- Native Americans used
pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
- The pumpkin is a vegetable,
but most pumpkins grown today are sold for decorating and
- Pumpkins range in size
from less than a pound to over 1,000 pounds. The largest
pumpkin ever grown weighed 1,469 pounds and looked like "a
pale version of Jabba the Hut."
- Some pumpkins are gray
or pale green, but most are yellow or orange. Some are
- The Connecticut field
variety is the traditional American pumpkin.
- Pumpkins are 90 percent
water, high in fiber and contain potassium and Vitamin
flowers are large and yellow. They are also edible.
- Pumpkins are cucurbits,
related to cucumbers, squash, melons and gourds.
- Some kinds of pumpkins
are grown for cattle to eat.
- The largest pumpkin
pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed
over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36
pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
- Pumpkins were once
recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
- Eighty percent of the
pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
- The tradition of carving
pumpkins at Halloween started with the Irish, but the original
jack-o-lanterns were made from turnips. When the Irish immigrated
to the U.S., they found pumpkins a plenty, and they were
much easier to carve.
- The town of Goffstown,
New Hampshire, holds an annual pumpkin regatta each October,
in which giant pumpkins are hollowed out to make room for
a single passenger, then fitted with trolling motors and
paraded on the Piscataquog River.
- Squash is usually divided
into two categories - summer and winter. Summer squashes
are harvested and eaten while their skin is still tender.
Winter squash grows a thick skin, which helps it keep longer.
most common summer squashes are scallop, or patty pan,
constricted neck and zucchini. Patty pan is round and flattened
like a plate with scalloped edges. It is usually white.
Constricted neck squash is thinner at the stem end than the
blossom end, and is classified as either "crookneck" or "straightneck.'
It is usually yellow. Zucchini squash is cylindrical
to club-shaped and is usually green.
- Zucchini squash is so
prolific in home gardens that there is an official night
designated for getting rid of it: National Sneak Some Zucchini
Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night (August 8).
- Archaeologists have
traced squash origins to Mexico, dating back from 7,000 to
5,500 BC, when they were an integral part of the ancient
diet of maize, beans, and squashes.
- The colonists of New
England adopted the name squash, a word derived from several
Native American words for the vegetable which meant "green
thing eaten green."
- Eventually summer squash
made its way to the warm Mediterranean regions of Europe
where it thrived and was renamed zucchini by the Italians
and courgette by the French. Both names mean "small
implies that they were eaten at their small, young stage.
Washington and Thomas Jefferson were squash enthusiasts
who even enjoyed growing them.
squash is very low in calories and high in fiber.
It is rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid and calcium.
One cup of summer squash has nearly as much potassium
as a banana. It also contains the valuable mineral nutrient
- There is ample archaeological evidence to show that the diverse
varieties of squash and pumpkins grown today throughout the
world originated from wild Cucurbita gourds cultivated in the
Americas for thousands of years by native Indians.
- According to Smithsonian
archeologist Bruce Smith and archaeologist Wesley Cowan of
the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, a variety of squash
native to the Ozark region of Arkansas and Missouri may
be the living ancestor of today's many varieties of summer
squash and related gourds. Their research indicates that
is was cultivated in this area by native Indians more than
3,000 years ago.
- Sweet potatoes are members
of the morning glory family and native to the American
- Native Americans were growing sweet potatoes in the New World when Columbus arrived in 1492.
- By the 16th Century, sweet potatoes were being cultivated in the southern colonies, where they became a staple in the traditional cuisine.
- Today sweet potatoes are used in cuisines all over the world as a satisfying and versatile vegetable with a well-earned reputation for nutrition.
- Sweet potatoes are not the same as yams, which are native to Africa and Asia and are starchier and drier than sweet potatoes.
- They are a winter crop, so they provide fresh vegetables
when many other vegetables are unavailable.
- A sweet potato
is a root tuber, a fleshy root that stores food for a
- Sweet potatoes are an important source of beta carotene,
an organic compound that helps to prevent Vitamin A deficiency.
- The heaviest tomato ever grown weighed 7 lb 12 oz. It was
of the cultivar 'Delicious' and was grown by Gordon Graham
of Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986.
- The scientific name for tomato
is lycopersicum, which translates "wolf
- The tomato probably originated in the highlands
of South America. From there it migrated
to Central America, where Mayan and other peoples in the
region used the fruit in their cooking. By the 16th Century
it was being cultivated in southern Mexico. The large, lumpy
tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated
and was encouraged in Central America. This variant is the
direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes.
- The earliest
reference to tomatoes in British North America is from 1710,
when herbalist William Salmon reported seeing them in what
is today South Carolina. They may have been introduced from
the Caribbean. By the mid-18th century they were cultivated
on some Carolina plantations and probably in other parts
of the South as well. It is possible that some people continued
to think tomatoes were poisonous at this time, and in general
they were grown more as ornamental plants than as food. Cultured
people like Thomas Jefferson, who ate tomatoes in Paris and
sent some seeds home, knew the tomato was edible, but many
of the less well-educated did not.
Tomatina is a festival held on a Wednesday towards the end
of August at Buñol, Valencia, Spain. Tens of thousands
of participants come from all over the world, fight in a
harmless battle where more than one hundred metric tons of
over-ripe tomatoes are thrown in the streets.The tomato fight
has been a strong tradition in Buñol since 1944
simply for fun - there is no known political or religious
- Botanically speaking a tomato is the ovary,
together with its seeds, of a flowering plant. This
would mean that technically it would be considered
a fruit. However, from a culinary perspective the
tomato is typically served as a meal, or part of a main course
of a meal, meaning that it would be considered a
vegetable. This argument has led to actual legal implications
in the US. In 1887, U.S. tariff laws, which
imposed a duty on vegetables but not on fruits, caused
the tomato's status to become a matter of legal importance.
The U.S. Supreme Court settled this controversy in
1893, declaring that the tomato is a vegetable, along
with cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas, using
the popular definition which classifies vegetables by use,
that they are generally served with dinner and not
dessert. The case is known as Nix v. Hedden.
- In England during the
1500s, the most prosperous people ate from plates made of
pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead
to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This
happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years
or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
- The term "winter
squash" dates back to a time when refrigeration and
cross country transportation was not as readily available
as it is now. Fresh produce was not available on grocery
shelves year round to the extent that it is now. "Good
keepers" became known as winter vegetables if they would "keep" until
December. Winter squash have hard, thick skins and will keep
for up to a month if stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated
- Winter squash is in the cucurbitae family, along with other
gourds - pumpkin, cucumber and summer squash.
- Winter squash can be
used as a substitute for pumpkin in pumpkin pie. Most people
can't tell the difference. Many cooks prefer winter squash,
because it is not as fibrous as pumpkin.
- Butternut is the most
common winter squash in grocery stores. This squash has a
peachy orange skin and bright orange flesh color. It has
a long neck with a round base which holds the
seeds. Those with thick necks and small round
bases have the most edible flesh.
- The acorn squash
green with a series of deep ridges, narrowing to a tapered
point.The flesh is golden yellow, The best ones are dark
green and are available late in the fall.
- The flesh of spaghetti
squash is very fibrous and stringy. Some people actually
eat it like spaghetti.
The stringy flesh is a creamy white color, and not too sweet.
- Squash plants produce separate male and female flowers and
rely on bees for pollination.
- Winter squash is a tasty source of complex carbohydrate (natural
sugar and starch) and fiber. It is also a source of potassium,
niacin, iron and beta carotene.
- Modern day squash developed from the wild squash that originated
in an area between Guatemala and Mexico. While squash has been
consumed for over 10,000 years, they were first cultivated
specifically for their seeds since earlier squash did not contain
much flesh, and what they did contain was very bitter and unpalatable.
As time progressed, squash cultivation spread throughout the
Americas, and varieties with a greater quantity of sweeter-tasting
flesh were developed. Christopher Columbus brought squash back
to Europe from the New World, and like other native American
foods, their cultivation was introduced throughout the world
by Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Today, the largest commercial
producers of squash include China, Japan, Romania, Turkey,
Italy, Egypt, and Argentina.
apples / apricots / blackberries / blueberries / cherries / grapes /
melons / peaches / pears / plums / strawberries
- Of all the tree fruit crops, apples and peaches are best adapted to Oklahoma conditions.
- The best apple varieties for Oklahoma are McLemore, Gala, Jonathan, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Fuji.
- Apples bloom later and are less susceptible to spring frosts.
- The crabapple is the only apple native to North America.
- The pilgrims planted the first apple trees in the Massachusetts Colony.
- The science of apple growing is called pomology.
- Apples are a member of the rose family.
- There are approximately 7,500 varieties of apples around
the world. Only about 100 are grown commercially in the US,
and the top 10 varieties account for 90 percent of the crop.
- Americans eat 19 pounds of apples annually--about a quarter
of the 46 pounds consumed annually by Europeans,
- The most popular varieties are Red Delicious, Golden Delicious,
Granny Smith, McIntosh and Jonathan.
- The red delicious apple emerged
from an Iowa orchard in 1880 as a round, blushed yellow fruit.
Over time, developers bred it to be red to make it more appealing
to the consumer. They also made it firmer and juicier.
red delicious apple can be
stored in hermetically sealed warehouses for up to 12 months.
- The apple harvest in
Washington state ends in October. Most
apples sold through December are stored in refrigerated warehouses.
Fruit shipped later in this cycle is kept in a more sophisticated
environment called controlled-atmosphere storage - airtight
rooms where the temperatures are chilly, the humidity high
and the oxygen levels reduced to a bare minimum to arrest
aging. Last year's fruit will be sold through September,
just as the new harvest is in full swing.
- Storage apples must
be picked before all their starches turn to sugar. If they
are picked too late, the apple turns mealy in the supermarket.
If picked too soon, the apple will never taste sweet.
- In the 1980s heyday
of the Red Delicious, it represented three-quarters of the
harvest in Washington state, epicenter of the apple industry.
By 2000, it made up less than half, and in 2003, the crop
had shrunk to just 37 percent of the state's harvest of 103
million boxes. Red Delicious remains the single largest variety
produced in the state, but others are ascending in market
share as rapidly as Red Delicious is dropping, notably Fuji
- American as apple pie? The first apple pie was reputed to
have been baked at Valley
- The top apple-producing states are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.
- A temperamental plant, apricots need a
dry climate in which to thrive. They grow wild in the mountains
of north-western China and central Asia and have probably been
cultivated for at least 5,000 years.
- Apricots were probably introduced to North
America by the Franciscan brothers in California some 200-300
- Apricots flourished
in ancient Rome and the Moors also established them in
Spain. King Henry VIII's gardener imported them to England
in the 1500's and grew them in protected walled gardens.
- King Henry VIII's gardener brought the apricot to England
from Italy in 1542.
- The poet Ruskin described
apricots as "shining in a sweet
brightness of golden velvet"
- The Latin name for apricot
is praecoquum, meaning early matured (fruit).
- Just three fresh apricots
provide 30 percent of the recommended daily amount for beta-carotene
(Vitamin A). Apricots also provide Vitamin C, iron, potassium,
and fiber among other nutrients.
- The blueberry is a native
American fruit. Early settlers cherished it as a staple ingredient
in foods and medicines. They incorporated the berries into
their diets, eating them fresh off the bush and adding them
to soups, stews, and many other foods.
- Early American colonists
made grey paint by boiling blueberries in milk. The blue
paint used to paint woodwork in Shaker houses was made
from sage blossoms, indigo and blueberry skins, mixed in
- Blueberries are a good
source of fiber and are the best of all fruits and vegetables
for their antioxidant activity. Foods containing antioxidants
may prevent cancer, heart disease, and other ailments. One-half
cup of blueberries delivers as much antioxidant power as
five servings of peas, carrots, squash, broccoli and other
- The US leads the world
in sweet cherry production, producing about 370 million pounds
every year. Sweet cherries are grown commercially in Washington,
Oregon, California. and Michigan.
- Oklahoma is too hot
and dry for commercial cherry production, but sour cherries
are grown successfully in some home gardens. On large cherry
orchards, large machines actually shake the tree to harvest
- Grapes were cultivated in ancient Egypt and in ancient Greece and Rome, both for eating and winemaking purposes. From there the cultivation of grapes spread to Europe, North African and finally to North America.
- Leif Ericsson the Lucky of Norway called the east coast of New England Vinland because of all the wild grapes he found growing there.
- Native purple grapes grew wild across North America and were a part of the diet of many native tribes.
- Raisins were probably first
produced deliberately in Asia Minor by the process of burying
fresh grapes in the hot desert sand.
- The grapes used to make
raisins are different from table grapes. Another kind of
grape is used to make grape juice.
- All kinds of grapes
can be grown in Oklahoma, but most of the grapes we find
in the grocery store come from California or Chile.
- The climate and soils of Oklahoma are favorable for grapes. Several species are native.
- About 50 percent of the grapes grown in the US are used to make wine.
- Columbus brought Old World grapes from Europe to Haiti in the New World. They were introduced to the east coast by colonists but were attacked by many pests and diseases. Some of the colonists developed New American varieties by selecting and crossing the better native wild grapes with each other or by crossing wild grapes with European varieties.
- Spanish explorers introduced the grape to America about 300 years ago. The first cultivated grapes in the US were probably grown in California by Spanish Franciscan friars who made wine for California missions.
- The oldest cultivated grapevine in the US grows in North Carolina.
- The Mothervine in Manteo, Roanoke Island, Virginia, is a 400-year-old Scuppernong vine.
- Table grapes are still harvested by hand in many places.
- Grape-growing is the largest food industry in the world. There are more than 60 species and 8,000 varieties of grapes, and they can all be used to make juice and/or wine.
- The best-selling grape in the US is the Thompson Seedless. Golden raisins are made from Thompson seedless.
- Botanically, grapes are berries.
- About 25 percent of the grapes eaten in the US are imported from Chile.
- It takes about 2 1/2 pounds of grapes to produce a bottle of wine.
- One acre of grapes can produce an average 15,000 glasses of wine.
- Grapes have resveratrol, phytonutrients, anthocyanins, catechins and phenols—all good for your health.
- Melons are warm season crops that thrive in Oklahoma's
long growing season.
- All kinds of melons grow in Oklahoma,
but our watermelon crop is the most profitable. In 2011
Oklahoma produced 230,000 hundredweight of watermelon, adding about
$3 million to our state’s economy.
- Columbus brought cantaloupe with him to the New World
on his second voyage.
- Melons were
grown almost exclusively in home gardens until the first
half of the 20th century, when more disease- and wilt-resistant
cultivars were developed by the USDA.
- Archaeological evidence
suggests the muskmelon originated in Persia about
4,000 years ago.
- The Greeks appear to have known about muskmelon
in the 3rd Century BC.
- The North American Indians were growing
muskmelons in the 17th Century.
- Cantaloupe is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C,
a very good source of potassium and a good source of B6,
folate and dietary fiber.
- A melon that is ripe will have a blossom end
that is fragrant and gives slightly to pressure.
- Ripe muskmelons
or cantaloupes should be tan or gold under their netting.
- Ripe honeydews
should be velvety and creamy yellow.
- Ripe crenshaw melons should
be golden yellow and green.
- Ripe casabas are ready when the skin
turns golden and the flesh white.
- Ripe honeydews, casabas and
watermelons should feel heavy for their size and sound
hollow when tapped on the rind.
- Avoid melons with shriveled,
punctured or cracked rinds.
- Thumping an unripe melon will
produce a metallic sound while the sound emanating from
a ripe melon will be duller.
- The terms "muskmelon" and "cantaloupe" are often used
interchangeably, but this is not accurate. All cantaloupes
are muskmelons, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes.
- Muskmelons include a variety of melons, which
run the gamut from cantaloupes to casabas. There are
two basic categories: netted and smooth. The skin of a
muskmelon can vary in color from creamy white to rich green,
while the flesh may be white, green, golden, orange, or
even almost salmon colored.
- Melons grown commercially are dependant upon honeybees
for proper growth. On average, it takes about 10-15 bee
visits for proper pollination.
"An apple is an excellent thing, until you have
tried a peach." George du Maurier, British illustrator
Many of the tribes located in Indian Territory were growing peaches well before Oklahoma statehood. Travelers through the area reported peaches as one of the foods offered by their Indian hosts.
Peaches were also an important crop to settlers who moved into the area with the land runs. According to one early account,
peaches were being shipped out by the carload within
eight years after settlement. Porter, Stratford and Guthrie were some of the areas where peach production was reported early in our history.
In 1904, Ben Marshall, a Creek allotee from Porter, received a gold medal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition for the quality of his peaches. Commercial peach production took off in Oklahoma after that.
Peaches need a reasonably fertile, well-drained soil.
The major problems for growing peaches in Oklahoma include unpredictable weather conditions, bacterial leaf spot and insect pests. Spring storms bring hail, high winds and heavy thundershowers which may damage peach orchards through limb breakage and loss of fruit during the critical growing period. Peach borers sometimes damage trees, and other insects can cause the fruit to be unattractive to customers.
The first ripe peaches appear in June. Most of the peaches grown in Oklahoma are consumed within the state and are hand harvested. Because consumers want peaches with few flaws, harvesters must exercise care in harvesting and handling.
In addition to harvest, peach production includes spraying regularly for pests, pruning as soon as the leaves start dropping in the fall, grading, choosing and setting out new trees, fertilizing, and thinning the tiny green fruit so each peach has space to develop.
Some of the popular varieties grown in Oklahoma are Candor, Sentinel, Redhaven, Reliance, Ranger, Glohaven, Nectar, Cresthaven, Autumn Gold, Ouachita Gold, White Hale, Starks Encore and Fairtime.
Orchards in Stratford and Porter continue to be the areas where most of Oklahoma's peaches are produced. Peach festivals are held each July in Stratford
- China is widely considered to be the
native home of peaches. This is supported by
the fact that there is a wide range of wild peach
types in the countryside. Originally the peach
grew in North China in areas of erosion and overgrazing.
They were a symbol of fertility and affection
and of immortality and unity. The peach tree
is considered to be the tree of life.
- To this day China remains the largest producer of peaches,
with Italy second. California produces more than 50 percent
of the peaches in the US.
- True wild peaches are found only in China. Unlike the cultivated
fruit, the wild fruit is small, sour and very fuzzy.
Peaches traveled west via the silk roads
to Persia (now Iran). In Persia, peaches were discovered
by Alexander the Great, who mentions half a dozen types.
Alexander the Great introduced peaches to the Greeks.
By 322 BCE Greece enjoyed the peach, and
by 50 to 20 BCE, the Romans were growing and selling them.
The Romans called the peach "Persian apple," and the name
for peach in numerous languages is the name for Persia. (French peche, German pfirilch, Italian pesca,
Portuguese pessego, Danish/Norwegian fersken, Swedish persika,
Finnish persikka, Russian persik, Polish brzoskwinia, Serbo-Croat breskva, Romanian piersica, Bulgarian praskova, Greek robakinon,
Turkish seftail, Hebrew afarseq, Arabic khukh, Persian hulu,
Hindi aru, Chinese tao, Japanese momo, Indonesian persik)
Spaniards brought peaches to South American,
and the French introduced them to Louisiana. The English
took them to their Jamestown and Massachusetts colonies.
Columbus brought peach trees to America on his second and
were propagated by seed, the easiest way to transport the
peach plant. Budded trees became available
in America around the time of the American Revolution.
Several tribes of Native American Indians
were particularly fond of peaches. In Pennsylvania, William
Penn wrote that there was "not
an Indian plantation without them." It is probable that
the spread of peaches was due to the Native Americans. Thomas
Jefferson planted peaches at Monticello in 1802.
- Dried peaches travelled with Americans setting
out across the western frontier.
- A peach was the first fruit tree to be patented - in 1932.
are two basic types of peaches. One is the clingstone,
in which the flesh clings to the stone. Most clingstones
are taken ripe from the field and canned within 24 hours
of picking. The other variety is the freestone, which can
be loosened from the pit with relative ease. These are
the fresh peaches most often found in grocery stores.
- The expression "You're a real peach" originated from the tradition of giving a peach to a friend you liked.
- Peaches are sometimes called "stone fruits" because of their pits.
- Pear is the common
name for about 20 species of trees of a genus in the
rose family, and for their fruit. The common pear is native
to Europe; the Chinese sand pear is native to the Orient.
Both species are extensively cultivated for their fruit
in cool, humid, temperate regions throughout the world.
- The fruit of a pear
tree is a pome, juicier than the apple, and varying from
apple-shaped to teardrop-shaped. Among different varieties,
the thin skin varies in color from light yellow and green
through red and brown. The thick flesh varies in flavor
among different varieties. In young, unripe common pears,
and in young and mature Chinese sand pears, the flesh contains
numerous gritty cells called stone cells.
- Pears are gathered from the trees before they are completely
ripe and are allowed to ripen in storage. Cold retards ripening,
and heat speeds it. Pears are eaten fresh and canned.
- Commercial pear
production in the United States averages about 700,000
metric tons annually. The best North American pear-growing
districts are in California, Washington, and Oregon
and, to a lesser degree, in the northern United States,
from New England to the Great Lakes and in lower
Canada. Pears are grown extensively in home orchards
in Oklahoma and all over the United States.
- Pears contain about
16 percent carbohydrate and negligible amounts of fat and
protein. They are good sources of the B-complex vitamins
and also contain vitamin C; in addition, they contain small
amounts of phosphorus and iodine. Fresh
pears offer dietary fiber, much of it in the form of
pectin. A pear weighing 166 grams provides 2.32 grams of
crude fiber, and 4 grams of dietary fiber, of which 41
percent is pectin. Fiber contains no calories, and is a
necessary element of a healthy diet.
- Europeans call some
pear varieties "butter fruit" because
of their buttery texture when ripe and their sweet and juicy
- There are several different varieties of
pears available from the supermarket. Here are some of the
more common varieties.
stays light green when ripe and is good for eating
raw or cooking. Red anjou have a dark red skin with a contrasting
creamy interior. They cost more than green anjou.
- Bartlets are sweet and juicy. They
turn yellow and may have a pink blush as they ripen. This
is the most popular pear and the one most commonly used for
canning and drying. Also called the yellow
or green Bartlett, and the Williams pear. Red Bartlett pears
have bright red skin and
are more costly. Also known as the Red Sensation
- Bosc pears are firm, hold their shape when
cooked, and have long, elegant necks. Not as juicy, this is
a crunchier pear when eaten raw. Also called the Golden Pear.
- The comice is the perfect snacking pear because it is sweet and juicy. Also
nice for a dessert or with cheese. It is more costly than the others.
- Concord pears are tender, sweet, juicy, and creamy, with a hint of vanilla
flavor. They havea smooth texture and are not at all grainy like some other
pears. They also have long necks, much like the Bosc.
- Packham is smooth, sweet, and juicy with bumpy skin and white flesh.
Also known as Triumph. A specialty from Australia and a favorite fruit there.
Can be eaten fresh or cooked. Unlike some other pears, this pear stays green
even when ripe.
- The seckel pear is smaller and sweeter and is therefore the perfect lunchbox
- Plums are hard-pitted
fruits like peachs, cherrys, almonds, and apricots. About
12 plum species are cultivated throughout temperate regions
for their fruit and as flowering ornamentals.
- Plums grow in over 2,000 varieties, in shades of red, blue-black,
purple and bright amber.
- When dried, a plum becomes a prune, a name that comes from
the fruit's scientific name Prunus.
- Prunes are eaten raw, soaked or stewed alone or with other
fruits, and used in jams and desserts. The pulp, stewed fruit,
and juice are packaged commercially.
- Plums are native to
China, America, Europe and the Caucasus. Greek writers mention
cultivated plum varieties being imported to Greece from Syria.
The Romans introduced the fruit in Northern Europe. In 1864
there were 150 cultivated varieties.
- Wild plums native to
North America were gathered and eaten by aboriginal peoples
and European colonists alike. the variety of wild plum seen
growing along roadsides in Oklahoma is called "Oklahoma
plum" or "sand plum."
- The common European
plum has been cultivated since
ancient times and probably originated near the Caspian Sea.
It was introduced into North America, possibly by the Pilgrims,
and is now mostly cultivated in the western United States.
Fruits of varieties of this species range in color from yellow
or red to green, but purplish-blue is most common. Dried
plums, or prunes, are made from the varieties that are richest
in sugar and solids.
- Plums have stones like human fingerprints, each one being
unique to a particular variety.
- Henry VIII was a plum-eater.
Experts were able to identify over 100 individual plum stones
found on the flagship of Henry VIII’s Mary
Rose, which sank in 1545 and was raised in the 1980s.
- A plum's ripeness cannot
be judged by its color because each variety has its own color:
Santa Rosa plums are dark purple in color, Red plums are
redish-purple, and Black plums are deep purple almost black.
Yet all plums should be soft when ripe and never hard. The
softer the plum the sweeter the plum.
- Certain varieties of
plums have such firm flesh and such a high sugar content
that they can be dried with little loss of their original
plumpness and flavor. These plums are called prune-plums,
and the dried plums themselves are called prunes. The
ancient peoples of the Middle East were probably the first to
dry plums to make prunes.
- One medium-size plum
contains 36 calories and is a source of Vitamin C and of
antioxidants that may help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol
that can damage arteries. In fact, plums provide just as much
antioxidant as blueberries. Plums and prunes are also high
in potassium. Prunes are a good source of vitamins A and B,
are high in fiber, and are rich in iron, calcium, and phosphorus.
Their pulp is used as food for infants.
- Plum pudding, a traditional
Christmas dessert from medeival England, is a steamed or
boiled pudding which, oddly, has never contained plums. In
the 17th century, the word "plum" referred to raisins or
other fruits used in cakes, puddings, etc. This use probably
arose from the substitution of raisins for dried plums or prunes.
Plum pudding does contain raisins, which are called plums only
when used in plum pudding. Traditionally in England, small
silver charms were baked in the plum pudding. A silver coin
would bring wealth in the coming year; a tiny wishbone, good
luck; a silver thimble, thrift; an anchor, safe harbor. It
was also traditional for everyone who lived in the household
to simultaneously hold onto the wooden spoon, help stir the
batter for the pudding, and make a wish. During the Puritan
reign in England, plum pudding was outlawed as "sinfully
- The word plum, used
to mean something
first recorded is 1780, probably in reference to the sugar-rich
bits of a plum pudding.
- A sugar plum is simply
a small piece of sugary candy.