This Watermelon Is So Good, Farmers Used To Guard It With Guns

So why did we spend 90 summers eating bland, seedless fruit at every barbecue?

Image via by Heather Grilliot

Ponder, if you will, the watermelon. The healthy, electrolyte-rich fruit has long been the signature snack of summer. But for generations, the seedless, pale slices populating paper plates in backyard barbecues across America were flavorless shadows of a once-great fruit. Things got so bad that in 2011, Mother Jones declared “the death of the watermelon”; a year earlier, the Washington Post observed that watermelons had become so “mealy and tasteless” that a fruit once destined to be eaten “out of hand” was far more likely to be found diced dully into “fruit salads.”

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Yet there was a time when the deep South boasted a watermelon so juicy, so decadent, the people who grew it strung their fields with electrocuting wires or stood by at night with guns to deter thieves. It was called the Bradford melon, after the Sumter, South Carolina family who first cultivated it “during the great age of experimental horticulture in the South—from 1830 to 1860” (as stated on their website). When plucked from the vine, a Bradford melon routinely weighed in at 30 or 40 pounds. Open one up, and you’ll find pearly white seeds, brilliant red juice, and a succulent texture—the soft, smooth rind can be scooped out with a spoon and is perfect for pickling. But that tender rind made Bradford melons susceptible to damage in transit, so they were supplanted by varieties with hard rinds that could be stacked and shipped. By 1922, the Bradford melon had all but died out in a commercial sense, and we’ve been eating sweet-enough, if oddly-textured, impostors ever since.

For 90 years, the melon lived on like a forgotten keepsake in the Bradford family backyard—until 2012, when Nat Bradfordlandscape architect and heirloom farmer, great-great-great-grandson of the melon’s creator—realized he was actually the steward of a once-great southern melon, and that he could and would revive it.

“My family maintained the watermelon for 100 years,” explains Nat. But it wasn’t until 2012 that David Shields, a professor at the University of South Carolina, and author of Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine, confirmed for Nat that he had the genuine historic melon.

Four years later, the Bradford has staged a comebackstarring in a popular segment on the PBS series Mind of a Chef, thriving in gardens across the South, tempting chefs to recreate historic recipes, transforming it into brandies and craft beers, and growing as far north as Charlottesville, Virginia, at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate. (Should you be in town, a watermelon tasting will be offered on-site on September 10, at the 10th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival, and you can listen in as three-time James Beard nominee Tyler Brown waxes poetically about the melons.)

Brown isn’t the only chef entranced by the Bradford. At the new Shovel and Pick restaurant in historic Bristol, Virginia, Chef Travis Milton—who spent much of his childhood planting seeds and preserving Appalachian harvests alongside his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents—plans to use molasses, vinegar, and cold-pressed seed oil from this year’s crop of melons. “The seed oil is simply phenomenal,” he says. It was his mother, Rene, who grew a dozen Bradford watermelons in her own garden last summer and gave him some. “Most people don’t know a real watermelon,” says Rene. “I grew up eating them and they should be so juicy the water runs down the sides of your mouth. When I tasted the Bradford out of my own garden I was like, ‘Holy smokes! It’s the watermelon revival! It’s the taste of my childhood!’”

But the Bradford isn’t just gracing tables at homes and in restaurants. At Casselmonte Farm on the Appomattox River in Powhatan County, Virginia, cofounder Bill Cox and his wife India juiced the melons and sold them to Hardywood Craft Brewery in Richmond, VA. Known for their unusual stouts, including fruit-based ones like peach, raspberry, and blackberry, the brewery will be making a watermelon stout later this year.

The nutritious Bradford is even being featured as part of an actual fruit and veggie prescription program offered to low-income residents with food-related health problems such as diabetes and obesity, and funded by Wholesome Wave of Georgia. The melons are being grown for Wholesome Wave by Icebox Farm, which is part of Icebox Ministries, a nonprofit located in North Augusta, South Carolina. Says owner Steve Fountain, “This year we will have thirty-five individuals who have gone to a clinic in the Harrisburg-Augusta, Georgia area, and in addition to their normal prescriptions, they are given a natural prescription for fruits and vegetables. They get $1 day per person per family, so a family of four would get $28 week to spend on fruits and vegetables. We also offer classes in on how to prepare their food and how to ‘stretch’ what they get to make more meals.”

Meanwhile, gardener and seed-saver Philip Wingard, of Clover SC, saved thousands of seeds from the melons he grew in 2014 and 2015, and they are now available at Seed Savers Exchange for $5 a packet (including shipping). “The Bradford is out of the South now,” says Bill Cox. “Who knows where it will be growing in a few years.”

When Nat Bradford thinks back about the journey of the last few years, and the folks he has met along the way who remembered stories of the Bradford and wanted to grow it again, he concludes that the melon is more than a melon. “It represents flavor, resilience, relationships, and sharing between families and friends. It’s really encouraging to see all that coming back.”

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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