July 16, 2008
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Watermelon provides "natural enhancers to the human body," according to Dr. Bhimu Patil. (Photo by Chris S. Corby)
Watermelon may have
By Rod Santa
A cold slice of watermelon has long been a Fourth of July holiday staple. But according to recent studies, the juicy fruit may be better suited for Valentine's Day.
That's because scientists say watermelon has ingredients that deliver Viagra-like effects to the body's blood vessels and may even increase libido.
"The more we study watermelons, the more we realize just how amazing a fruit it is in providing natural enhancers to the human body," said Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center in College Station.
"We've always known that watermelon is good for you, but the list of its very important healthful benefits grows longer with each study."
Beneficial ingredients in watermelon and other fruits and vegetables are known as phyto-nutrients, naturally occurring compounds that are bioactive, or able to react with the human body to trigger healthy reactions, Patil said.
In watermelons, these include lycopene, beta carotene and the rising star among its phyto-nutrients citrulline whose beneficial functions are now being unraveled. Among them is the ability to relax blood vessels, much like Viagra does.
Scientists know that when watermelon is consumed, citrulline is converted to arginine through certain enzymes. Arginine is an amino acid that works wonders on the heart and circulation system and maintains a good immune system, Patil said.
"The citrulline-arginine relationship helps heart health, the immune system and may prove to be very helpful for those who suffer from obesity and type 2 diabetes," said Patil. "Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it."
While there are many psychological and physiological problems that can cause impotence, extra nitric oxide could help those who need increased blood flow, which would also help treat angina, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.
"Watermelon may not be as organ specific as Viagra," Patil said, "but it's a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side-effects."
The benefits of watermelon don't end there, he said. Arginine also helps the urea cycle by removing ammonia and other toxic compounds from our bodies.
Citrulline, the precursor to arginine, is found in higher concentrations in the rind of watermelons than the flesh. As the rind is not commonly eaten, two of Patil's fellow scientists, drs. Steve King and Hae Jeen Bang, are working to breed new varieties with higher concentrations in the flesh.
In addition to the research by Texas A&M, watermelon's phyto-nutrients are being studied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in Lane, Oklahoma.
As an added bonus, these studies have also shown that deep red varieties of watermelon have displaced the tomato as the lycopene king, Patil said. Almost 92 percent of watermelon is water, but the remaining 8 percent is loaded with lycopene, an anti-oxidant that protects the human heart, prostate and skin health.
"Lycopene, which is also found in red grapefruit, was historically thought to exist only in tomatoes," he said. "But now we know that it's found in higher concentrations in red watermelon varieties."
Lycopene, however, is fat-soluble, meaning that it needs certain fats in the blood for better absorption by the body, Patil said.
"Previous tests have shown that lycopene is much better absorbed from tomatoes when mixed in a salad with oily vegetables like avocado or spinach," Patil said. "That would also apply to the lycopene from watermelon, but I realize mixing watermelon with spinach or avocadoes is a very hard sell."
No studies have been conducted to determine the timing of the consumption of oily vegetables to improve lycopene absorption, he said.
"One final bit of advice for those watermelons you buy," Patil said. "They store much better uncut if you leave them at room temperature. Lycopene levels can be maintained even as it sits on your kitchen floor. But once you cut it, refrigerate. And enjoy."
Recent rainfall not enough to end wildfire risk
Texas Forest Service
Recent rainfall varied widely in amounts and locations across the state, and state fire officials caution that wildfires remain an immediate threat in areas that received little or no precipitation and a potential threat even where rainfall of one to two inches fell.
Any relief provided by recent light rains and higher humidity is likely to be very short term in nature, said Rich Gray, mitigation and prevention coordinator with Texas Forest Service.
"Even a short period of dry, windy weather will sap moisture from dead grass and weeds and quickly render this vegetation dry and fire-prone," said Gray, "and obviously, vegetation in areas missed by rains will stay at high risk of wildfires."
Areas with heavy accumulations of dead grass and weeds that received significant precipitation will get some immediate benefit from the precipitation, but dangerous fire conditions could return fairly quickly if dry, windy weather prevails, according to Tom Spencer, predictive services department head for Texas Forest Service.
"Significant rainfall will lead to vegetation green-up, but it could take an extended period of time before new green vegetation will reduce the wildfire risk posed by the presence of large amounts of dead grass and weeds," said Spencer. "Until widespread green-up, the dead herbaceous fuels could still pose a significant wildfire threat."
Gray enumerated a variety of human activities that can cause wildfires where grasses, weeds and other fine-textured vegetation are present.
The Texas Forest Service says that public cooperation to help prevent additional wildfires from occurring is absolutely essential to avoid additional losses of homes and natural resources.
Texas continues to have personnel and equipment mobilized from other states to bolster the state's firefighting capacity. With growing competition for national firefighting resources from other states, most notably California, the likelihood of getting additional resources from other states is shrinking.
"To prevent moles, voles, and gophers from tunneling though your gardening or eating your plants and bulbs," writes Scott Jacobs, "lay small diameter wire mesh (sometimes sold under the name hardware cloth) about 6 inches deep in your garden. Cut the wire to the desired size using wire snips, bend all four sides of the wire up (use gloves for this), and bury to just even with the edges of the wire. The roots of your plants and bulbs can grow through the mesh, but the gophers and moles can't tunnel through it or reach your plants."
Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will send you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.
Did You Know...
Modern Biodynamic gardeners believe that plants are open to, and formed by, influences from the depths of the earth to the heights of the heavens. They are returning to a much earlier tradition of looking at the rhythms of the sun, moon and planets and the way these contribute to the life of plants. Biodynamic gardening represents a more holistic way of looking at the world where people, plants and the wider universe are all connected.
Upcoming garden events
San Marcos: Texas AgriLife Extension Service will conduct a rainwater harvesting workshop on July 26 in San Marcos. The workshop will be held at the AgriLife Extension office in Hays County. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. followed by the program, which is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Billy Kniffen, AgriLife Extension water resource specialist at Menard, said the workshop should be of interest to designers and installers of rainwater-collection systems, Master Gardeners, homeowners with systems or those planning to install a system for outside or home use. "We'll cover basic installation for outside landscape use, inside potable and non-potable use, sanitation of systems and general system maintenance," Kniffen said. The AgriLife Extension office is located at 1253 Civic Center Loop (east side of I-35 and one mile north of the outlet mall). Those wanting professional accreditation recognition must register through the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association, www.arcsa.org. The course is part of a testing and training regime for persons seeking to become accredited professionals in rainwater harvesting. A registration fee of $15 must be paid by July 21 so material and meals can be prepared. To register and for more information, contact Bryan Davis at (512) 393-2120 or email@example.com or visit the county's Web site at hays-co.tamu.edu.
Schertz: Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will hold their next Master Gardener training class from August 6 to December 3. Classes are on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Schertz Civic Center, 1400 Schertz Parkway, Schertz. Registration is $170 with a 10% discount if received with payment by July 10. Speakers include Malcolm Beck, Flo Oxley from the LBJ Wildflower Center, Bob Webster, Patty Leander and more. For more information, an application and a list of speakers, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (210) 363-8380.
Victoria: Victoria AgriLife Master Gardeners host a free seminar each month called "Lunch and Learn with the Masters." Each one-hour seminar is conducted by Master Gardeners, is open to the public, and is worth one CEU for Master Gardeners. The August 11 meeting, held from noon to 1 p.m. at The Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro, Victoria, will feature "Tips To Enhance Your Landscape." Bring your lunch. For additional information, call (361) 575-4581.
Austin: The 16th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, August 23-24, at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin. The festival will include a live plant auction on Saturday afternoon and two full days of bamboo activities and lectures with bamboo plants and crafts for sale and show. Guest speaker Robin McBride Scott will conduct a workshop on Weaving Cane Mat, using native American Bamboo that she has personally harvested, prepared and dyed. She will also do a presentation about her work with basketry and native American bamboo. The 16th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival is sponsored by the Texas Bamboo Society. For more information, call (512) 929-9565, e-mail email@example.com, or visit http://www.bamboocentral.net.
Austin: Travis Country Master Gardeners Association, a volunteer arm of the Texas A&M and Travis County AgriLife Extension Service, will present "Using Water Wisely," a seminar that concentrates on capturing rainwater and landscaping with plants requiring little water10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, September 6, at the West Rural Community Center, 8656 Hwy. 71 W, Build. A, Austin. Gain the knowledge necessary to build a rainwater harvesting system. All the basics are covered to build a non potable water harvesting system. A demonstration will show how to make a simple, inexpensive rain barrel collection system. Lower your water usage by utilizing native and adapted landscape plants that look great and need a minimal amount of water to thrive. This method of gardening is called Xeriscaping. If desired, a green, lush looking landscape can be achieved. Vendors representing tanks, pumps and guttering will be available to answer specific questions. This seminar is free. No reservations will be taken. For more information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardeners desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.
Rockport: The 20th Annual Hummer/Bird Celebration will be held September 11-14, 2008 at the Rockport-Fulton High School. Four days of programs, exhibits and field trips about hummingbirds, other birds, butterflies, and habitat gardening by renowned speakers and a visit to Hummer Homes to see Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds during their migration south for the winter. For more information, visit www.rockporthummingbird.com.
Houston: The Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 are accepting applications for Master Gardener Certification Training Classes. Classes will be held at The Precinct 2 Road Camp, 1202 Genoa Red Bluff, Houston, from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning September 16 and continuing through October 28. For additional information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.
Austin: The Travis County Master Gardeners Association, a volunteer arm of the Travis County AgriLife Extension Service, will present Vegetables for Cooler Times, a free seasonal seminar that will cover multiple topics pertinent to fall gardening activities from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 17, Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. In spite of the heat, it is time to be in the vegetable garden. "Fall Vegetable Gardening" by Patty Leander, a regular contributor to Texas Gardener, will include the basics of vegetable gardening with the emphasis on plants and varieties that flourish in the fall and winter months. Leaves, leaves everywhere! Dont rake, bag and send it to the landfill. Learn how to convert leaves and other material into plant food. It is called compost. Plants adore it. Learn how to make this magic act happen. Thought only Yankees could grow rhubarb? Wrong! With a little thinking outside the box, you can grow rhubarb and strawberries, too, right in your own backyard. Learn how these two favorites can be successfully in Central Texas. A Plant Clinic will be held during the entire seminar. Bring your diseased/bug eaten plant, roots and all, in a plastic bag. Gain knowledge from expert Master Gardeners on action you can take to remedy the situation. The seminar is free. No reservations will be taken. For more information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardeners desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.
Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold a "Fall Plant Sale" Saturday, September 27, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Purchase those much-wanted plants that you have been wanting to buy and can't find anywhere. Be sure to take the time to wander through the demonstration gardens at Green Acres which are continuously being updated and maintained by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association. This event is open to the public. For additional information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.
Bryan: The Brazos County Master Gardener Association will hold a Fall Pant Sale at the Brazos County Extension Office, 2619 Highway 21 West, Bryan from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, September 27.The sale will include a wide selection of unusual and unique plants guaranteed to grow in Brazos County. Choice Heirloom and Pass-along plants from the gardens of local Master Gardeners will also be available for purchase. For additional information, call (979) 823-0129 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fredericksburg: Texas Gourd Society will present the 13th annual "Lone Star Gourd Festival" at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds October 18 and 19. There will be door prizes, raffles, classes, demonstrations and an opportunity to meet Bill Decker, 2008 TGS Artist of the Year, and Bonnie Gibson, nationally-known author and artist. The show is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 and free to children under 12. For additional information, call (806) 523-9092 or visit www.texasgourdsociety.org.
Austin: Plant and Insect Photography for Beginners class will be taught by Sam Myers, a Master Gardener and experienced photographer, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., Wednesday, October 22 at Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. The class will concentrate on developing the ability to take sharp, colorful photos with impact. There will be an overview of cameras, both film and digital. Discussion will include how lighting, focal length and aperture interact in composing photographs and how to use your camera's programs (landscape, portrait, etc.) effectively. Guidelines of composition will be covered along with "posing" plants and insects for best visual presentation. Prerequisite: study the owner's manual on your camera. Bring your camera for some practical exercises. Class size is limited. Reservation required: email@example.com or (512) 804-2257. The class is sponsored by the Travis County Master Gardener Association in partnership with the AgriLife Extension, Travis County. For more information call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardener's desk. http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.
Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Wildwood Eco-Farm in Kilgore. For more information, call Carole Ramke at (903) 986-9475.
Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., Allen. For more information, visit www.allengardenclub.org.
Austin: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.
Friendswood: The second Tuesday of each month the Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold a free evening educational program for the public, called the Green Thumb Series, at Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 W Bay Area Blvd., Friendswood, about 1 mile west of I-45 and Baybrook Mall. For more information visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu or call (281) 991-8437.
Rockport: The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, meets the second Wednesday of each month, with the exceptions of June and July, to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including historical uses and tips for successful propagation and cultivation, meets at 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. Sometimes they take field trips and have cooking demonstrations in different locations. For more information, contact Linda (361) 729-6037, Ruth (361) 729-8923 or Cindy (979) 562-2153 or visit www.rockportherbs.com.
San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit www.sanantonioherbs.org.
Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member's homes and garden centers around the area. For more information, visit www.RainbowGardenClub.com.
Denton: The Denton Organic Society, a group devoted to sharing information and educating the public regarding organic principles, meets the third Wednesday of each month (except July, August and December) at the Denton Senior Center, 509 N. Bell Avenue. Meetings are free and open to the public. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are preceded by a social at 6:30. For more information, call (940) 382-8551.
Houston: The Native Plant Society of Texas Houston (NPSOT-H) meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except for October (4th Thursday) and December (2nd Thursday). Location varies. For locations, for more information on programs, and for information about native plants for Houston, visit http://www.npsot.org/Houston.
Rosenberg: The Fort Bend Master Gardeners meet at 7:15 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except December at the Bud O'Shieles Community Center located at 1330 Band Road, Rosenberg. For more information, call (281) 341-7068 or visit www.fbmg.com.
Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets the third Thursday of each month at the Texas AgriLife Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak at 7 p.m. For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.
Longview: The Northeast Texas chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets the third Thursday of each month at St. Mary's Parish Hall in Longview. For more information, call Logan Damewood at (903) 295-1984.
Edna: The Jackson County Master Gardeners present their "Come Grown With Us" seminars on the fourth Tuesday of each month, January through October, beginning at 7 p.m. at 411 N. Wells, Edna. The seminars are free, open to the public and offer 2 CEU hours to Master Gardeners or others requiring them. For additional information, contact the Jackson County Extension Office at (361) 782-3312.
Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.
Seabrook: The Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold an educational program at 10 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at The Meeting Room (on the Lakeside) at Clear Lake Park, 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. The programs are free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.
Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.
Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.
If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events. To ensure inclusion in this column, please provide complete details at least three weeks prior to the event.
Wish you'd saved
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Doug Welsh's Texas
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