2012-09-06 / Local & State

Local Melons – The Summertime Treat

By William Troxell

EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PENNSYLVANIA VEGETABLE MARKETING AND RESEARCH PROGRAM

Few things are as refreshing and naturally sweet as a fresh, locally grown cantaloupe or watermelon. Pennsylvania farmers annually grow about 1,000 acres of cantaloupes, which ranks the Keystone State as eighth in the production of cantaloupes, plus about 650 acres of watermelons. Pennsylvania cantaloupes and watermelons are plentiful now and are usually available statewide through September.

Many Pennsylvania growers plant their melons in black plastic mulch to increase soil temperature and conserve soil moisture, producing a better melon. Growers also commonly lay drip irrigation lines under the plastic mulch to allow them to apply water and fertilizer directly in the root zone to make the most efficient use of the water and nutrients.

Although some consumers have their own standards for choosing cantaloupes, there’s no disputing some basic ripeness indicators. A good cantaloupe will have no trace of a stem and will have a pronounced cavity where the melon was pulled from the vine. These two characteristics indicate that the cantaloupe was harvested when it was fully mature which is important because melons do not inc rease their sugar content after they have been harvested.

When buying cantaloupes, select melons that have a thick netting and a rich golden color underneath. They should also have a delicate aroma. A cantaloupe that is still firm can be stored uncut at room temperature to let the flesh become softer and juicer but, as mentioned above, it will not become sweeter.

Watermelons should have neither a very shiny or very dull rind but rather a waxy “bloom.” They should be yellowish on the underside – not greenishwhite. If they have a stem, it should be brown and dry, not green. The traditional “thump” test, besides almost being an art, is not particularly accurate.

Each serving of cantaloupe contains only 35 calories and is a good source of vitamins A and C plus potassium. Watermelon has only 32 calories and is also a source of vitamins A and C.

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