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For Immediate Release
August 15, 2011
William Troxell
[email protected]


Maturity and condition of the melon crop will vary widely across the state. Local growers are the best source for local conditions. If you do not have local grower contacts, contact us or go to:http://webapps.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/marketmaker/#PA/food/business/2226/42.

Local Melons Are Oh So Sweet

Few things are as refreshing and naturally sweet as a fresh, locally grown cantaloupe or watermelon. Pennsylvania farmers annually grow about 800 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 increase 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 greenish-white. 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. Following are some tasty melon recipes from the 2010 Pennsylvania Vegetable Recipe Contest.  Additional melon recipes are available at www.paveggies.local.

Cantaloupe Slush Dessert
Serves 6 to 8

4 c.            Cantaloupe – cubed, ripe
1 c.            Apple Juice – unsweetened
1/4 c.         Lime Juice – freshly squeezed
Berries – for garnish
Mint – fresh, for garnish

Process the first three ingredients in food processer or blender until smooth. Pour fruit puree mixture into 9 x 13-inch rectangular glass pan and place in freezer. Freeze for 3 to 4 hours as you take a fork and run through the mixture every half hour, breaking up lumps and smoothing. Freeze until firm, cut into small slivers, and place in airtight container in freezer for 1 more hour. Serve with fresh blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries if desired as well as a sprig of fresh mint. This dessert is very refreshing on a hot summer’s day!

Lori Ritter, Barto, Finalist Recipe
2010 Pennsylvania “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” Vegetable Recipe Contest

Cantaloupe Bars
Serves 24

1.               Yellow Cake Mix with Pudding – 18.25 oz. size
2 T.            Cantaloupe, finely chopped
2 T.            Oil
1                Egg
8 oz.          Cream Cheese – softened
1/3 c.         Sugar
1                Egg
1 c.            Cantaloupe – finely chopped

Mix dry cake mix, 2 tablespoons of cantaloupe, oil and 1 egg until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup. Press remaining mixture into an ungreased 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 ºF for 15 minutes. Mix cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add 1 egg and 1 cup of cantaloupe. Spread over baked layer. Sprinkle on reserved mixture. Bake 15 to 20
minutes or until cream cheese layer is set.

Bonnie Mortimer, Mt. Pleasant
2010 Pennsylvania “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” Vegetable Recipe Contest


Quick buying tips for Fresh Pennsylvania Melons
The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program offers these tips when buying melons:
—    Select cantaloupes that have a rich golden color, thick netting, a delicate aroma and give a little on the blossom end.
—    Select watermelons with a waxy “bloom” on the rind, neither very shiny or very dull. The melon’s underside should be a yellowish color, not greenish-white.
—    Cantaloupes can be refrigerated. However, let them warm to room temperature before serving to allow the meat to soften and become juicier. Watermelons should be served icy cold.

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