PRODUCE PICKS: MELON SEASON IS HERE (CALIFORNIA GROWN)

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By Greg Dunne

June 28, 2017 (Alpine) -- The melon season has started!  With the start of summer, California melons from the desert are starting to come to the market. This melon season get bold and try a variety you haven’t tried before.

Varieties are many in shape, size, color and texture and are always tasty and refreshing. We are all familiar with watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melons. And most of us are familiar with Crenshaw, casaba and canary melons. A couple of melons you might not be familiar with are the Hami melon, Galia melon, or the golden kiss melon. All of these melons are different and tasty in their own rights.

The Hami melon and golden kiss are quite probably my favorite melons. The Hami melon is sweet and the flesh is crunchier. It’s oblong shaped like a canary melon and the outside skin is yellowish-orange. And a bit larger than a canary melon. The flesh is close to the color of a cantaloupe, but lighter like salmon color. But this melon “rocks” when it comes to refreshing, juicy taste! I like to cut the entire melon up into bite size chunks and refrigerate and eat it cold.

My second choice is a Tuscan cantaloupe or golden kiss melon. These both are similar in that they taste like a traditional cantaloupe, but have much more flavor and are sweeter. When picking out a Tuscan or golden kiss don’t be afraid if the melon is firm on the outside, these melons are a bit firmer on the inside, but eat like candy! I bought one of these as soon as it came into our store – when the produce manager buys a melon as soon as it comes in, you know it’s going to be good season.

Most of our melons are coming from Imperial Valley, California and western Arizona. Crops this year are plentiful and the sugar content is better than usual. We should see excellent prices at the market this summer as competition from packing houses look to get their product to market for the 4th of July and summer sales. So, pick up a melon you might not have tried, or haven’t had in a while and cut it up, refrigerate and enjoy!

FROM OUR KITCHEN

Watermelon is rich in antioxidants that help to prevent kidney stones, cancers and cardiac ailments. Watermelon is also an excellent source of potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure levels, keeping your heart healthy.

Most of the watermelons that you find in the markets are the smaller size. I prefer to pick up the larger size. I learned years back that extra watermelon makes a tasty and refreshing summer beverage.  I started juicing any watermelon left over from a barbeque or family party and it has never been tossed out.  The pure taste of watermelon can easily be overridden by stronger flavors so be sparing in adding other ingredients.  Other melons, strawberries or cucumbers are all good choices to combine with watermelon juice.  My favorite from years past was a mix of watermelon with a little cucumber and some fresh organic anise – it was wonderful!

Frozen melon makes an easy treat during our summer months – simply slice into wedges or interesting shapes, stick in a popsicle stick if desired, and freeze.  Below are some fresh recipe ideas using melons – any fresh melon can be added or substituted in any of these recipes.

WATERMELON, FETA AND ARUGULA SALAD

Ingredients

2 cups cubed seedless watermelon

4 cups of arugula

⅓ cup diced feta cheese

2 tbsp. minced red onion

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. white wine vinegar

6 twists of black pepper from a pepper mill

Instructions

  1. Cut one ½" slice of red onion and add to a small bowl of water to soak while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Wash and dry arugula and add to a large bowl.
  3. Cut and cube the watermelon and add to the large bowl.
  4. Dice feta and add to the large bowl.
  5. Drain red onion and mince - should equal about 2 tbsp. - add to the large bowl.
  6. Whisk together 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar and black pepper.
  7. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently.

STRAWBERRY-MELON FRUIT SALAD

Ingredients:

1 cup lemon yogurt

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 cups watermelon balls

2 cups cantaloupe balls

2 cups halved fresh strawberries

Directions:

In a salad bowl, whisk together the lemon, yogurt, honey and lemon juice until smooth. Gently fold in the watermelon balls, cantaloupe balls and strawberries. Toss to coat, and serve.

MELON MINT SALAD WITH CUCUMBER

This will make 6 servings if you’re making the salad as a side/serving it buffet-style at a BBQ; if you’re making it as a small lunch, it’ll make 3-4 servings.

Ingredients

2 cups watermelon (balls or chunks)

2 cups honeydew melon (balls or chunks)

2 cups cantaloupe (balls or chunks)

1 cup cucumber, peeled and seeded (I like to cut it into thin ribbons instead of chunks)

2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

4 tbsp lime juice (roughly two limes’ worth)

Grated lime peel

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Whisk together the lime juice, grated lime peel, salt and pepper.
  2. Use a melon baller or knife to scoop/cut up 2 cups of each of the melons. Skin and de-seed a cucumber and slice it into thin ribbons. Dump it all into a bowl.
  3. Pour the lime dressing over the melons and cucumber and toss with your hands. Cover and refrigerate for two hours.
  4. Mix in the mint.

WATERMELON SLUSHIE

Ingredients

1/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons cold coconut water or sparkling water

12 fresh mint leaves

2 cups cubed seedless watermelon, frozen

Juice of 1
lime

1 teaspoon agave, maple syrup or honey

Instructions

  1. Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a small pot. Add boba, stirring until they begin to float. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for another 15 minutes. Rinse under cold water, drain thoroughly and set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine pineapple, coconut or sparkling water and mint until pureed. Pour into the bottom of a drinking glass.
  3. Quickly rinse out the blender and combine watermelon and lime juice in it. Blend until you have a slush consistency. Stir in the boba and gently spoon watermelon slushy on top of the pineapple-mint slushy. Serve with a big, fat straw or spoon.