July 31, 2014
Small Is Sometimes Better In
The Vegetable World
By LEE REICH
Truman Capote famously told friends that the very wealthy eat better vegetables, tiny ones. So there's another plus for gardening: It's easier to eat the way the super-rich do.
Not that smaller is always better in the world of vegetables. A cucumber picked undersize does not taste better than one allowed to swell up before harvest, as long as that full-size one is picked before its skin yellows and seeds start to harden.
Similarly, the taste of baby carrots can't compare with fully grown ones, unless the ``baby'' size is how big the carrots are supposed to be when fully mature. A certain degree of maturity is needed before a carrot can store energy, which translates to sweetness, in its fleshy roots. Some varieties of carrots, such as Caracas and Atlas, never grow large; when mature and tasty, the roots are still no more than a few inches long.
"Baby carrots" that you buy in the supermarket, incidentally, are not actually babies, but are full-size carrots cut into smaller pieces.
There's no arguing that tiny vegetables are more fun and convenient to eat. That must be what accounts for the popularity of supermarket cherry tomatoes.
The bulk of these, unfortunately, are the variety Red Cherry, which doesn't taste nearly as good as Sungold, which has a delectable sweet-tart flavor.
Miniature cauliflower, "minicauli," is another tiny vegetable that is fun and convenient. This one tastes pretty much the same as full-size cauliflower. The way to grow minicaulis is by planting out any variety of cauliflower at a 6-inch spacing each way and letting competition among the plants keep them dwarf as they mature.
Of course, tiny vegetables' main draw is their perceived gustatory superiority. And it's true: Many vegetables are most delicate, tender and tasty at this stage.
Fine examples of vegetables that reach gustatory perfection early in their growth are zucchini and other summer squashes. You can even pick zucchinis before their blossoms have wilted and been shed, eating the tasty blossoms along with the fruit.
Every gardener knows how fast a zucchini can grow from the size of a carrot to that of a baseball bat. A few days' delay in harvest rapidly plumps up zucchinis and the wallet of any farmer who is paid for poundage, thus accounting for the extra cost of vegetables harvested while still tiny. For a backyard gardener, though, frequent picking of tiny zucchinis yields better taste and keeps the kitchen from being overrun with oversize specimens.
And then there are vegetables that take on a different character if picked while still tiny; they're not necessarily better, but they are different.
As green beans mature, the seeds within the pods expand and contribute to the flavor and texture. When baby-size, beans are almost all pod.
Baby corn is similarly quite different from large ears of sweet corn whose kernels are plumped full of milky, sweet juice. But they're both good.
Any variety of lettuce, especially heading lettuces, takes on a different taste and textural quality as it matures. As lettuces grow up, the leaves of some varieties turn buttery. Those of other varieties become crisp only along their ribs, and still other varieties become crispheads. Flavors may also take on distinctive qualities.
Pretty much all varieties of lettuce taste similar and are good eating when young, with diaphanous, soft leaves and delicate flavor. Like other tiny vegetables, they're easy to grow, and eating them makes you feel rich.
Last Of Crew That Dropped The First Atomic Bomb Dies In GA
By KATE BRUMBACK
Atlanta (AP) - The last surviving member of the crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, hastening the end of World War II and forcing the world into the atomic age, has died in Georgia.
Theodore VanKirk, also known as "Dutch," died Monday of natural causes at the retirement home where he lived in Stone Mountain, Georgia, his son Tom VanKirk said. He was 93.
Crew of Enola Gay
VanKirk flew nearly 60 bombing missions, but it was a single mission in the Pacific that secured him a place in history. He was 24 years old when he served as navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb deployed in wartime over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.
He was teamed with pilot Paul Tibbets and bombardier Tom Ferebee in Tibbets' fledgling 509th Composite Bomb Group for Special Mission No. 13.
The mission went perfectly, VanKirk told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview. He guided the bomber through the night sky, just 15 seconds behind schedule, he said. As the 9,000-pound bomb nicknamed "Little Boy" fell toward the sleeping city, he and his crewmates hoped to escape with their lives.
They didn't know whether the bomb would actually work and, if it did, whether its shockwaves would rip their plane to shreds. They counted - one thousand one, one thousand two - reaching the 43 seconds they'd been told it would take for detonation and heard nothing.
"I think everybody in the plane concluded it was a dud. It seemed a lot longer than 43 seconds," VanKirk recalled.
Then came a bright flash. Then a shockwave. Then another shockwave.
Navigator on the Enola Gay
The blast and its aftereffects killed 140,000 in Hiroshima.
Three days after Hiroshima, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The blast and its aftermath claimed 80,000 lives. Six days after the Nagasaki bombing, Japan surrendered.
Whether the United States should have used the atomic bomb has been debated endlessly.
VanKirk told the AP he thought it was necessary because it shortened the war and eliminated the need for an Allied land invasion that could have cost more lives on both sides.
"I honestly believe the use of the atomic bomb saved lives in the long run. There were a lot of lives saved. Most of the lives saved were Japanese," VanKirk said.
But it also made him wary of war.
"The whole World War II experience shows that wars don't settle anything. And atomic weapons don't settle anything," he said. "I personally think there shouldn't be any atomic bombs in the world - I'd like to see them all abolished.
"But if anyone has one," he added, "I want to have one more than my enemy."
VanKirk stayed on with the military for a year after the war ended. Then he went to school, earned degrees in chemical engineering and signed on with DuPont, where he stayed until he retired in 1985. He later moved from California to the Atlanta area to be near his daughter.
Like many World War II veterans, VanKirk didn't talk much about his service until much later in his life when he spoke to school groups, his son said.
"I didn't even find out that he was on that mission until I was 10 years old and read some old news clippings in my grandmother's attic," Tom VanKirk told the AP in a phone interview Tuesday.
Instead, he and his three siblings treasured a wonderful father, who was a great mentor and remained active and "sharp as a tack" until the end of his life.
"I know he was recognized as a war hero, but we just knew him as a great father," Tom VanKirk said.
VanKirk's military career was chronicled in a 2012 book, "My True Course," by Suzanne Dietz. VanKirk was energetic, very bright and had a terrific sense of humor, Dietz recalled Tuesday.
Interviewing VanKirk for the book, she said, "was like sitting with your father at the kitchen table listening to him tell stories."
A funeral service is scheduled for VanKirk on Aug. 5 in his hometown of Northumberland, Pennsylvania. He will be buried in Northumberland next to his wife, who died in 1975. The burial will be private.