Q: How can watermelon be Oklahoma’s state vegetable? I thought it was a fruit.
A: Botanists describe fruit as the fleshy part of a plant that contains seeds and a vegetable as any other edible plant part.
The rest of us tend to think in terms of flavor: Fruits are sweet and vegetables aren’t. So while a botanist considers a tomato a fruit, the less botanically minded see it as a vegetable. By either definition, watermelon is a fruit.
But in 2007, the Oklahoma Legislature declared the watermelon the state’s official vegetable. The reasoning? According to the law, “The watermelon may in fact be considered both a fruit and a vegetable as a result of its membership in the botanical family Curcurbitaceae, with other family members such as the cucumber, pumpkin and squash.”
However watermelons are defined, Oklahoma produces tons of them — about 20,000 in 2008. Every summer, several fairs celebrate the state vegetable.
Q: Are there other ways to preserve tomatoes besides canning?
A: There are several other ways to preserve your bounty. One is oven-drying. This method — cooking the tomatoes at low heat for several hours — concentrates the flavor, giving it a rich zing.
Once dried, tomatoes can be frozen for up to six weeks. Use them chopped to add depth to sauces and soups. Also try substituting them for basil in pesto.
Toss the mixture with pasta or use it as a sandwich spread; the intense taste can transform a dish. For a recipe, go to www.marthastewart.com/oven-dried-tomatoes.
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