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For Immediate Release
August 27, 2012
William Troxell
[email protected]


Local Melons – the Summertime Treat

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 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 2012 Pennsylvania Vegetable Recipe Contest.  Additional melon recipes are available at www.paveggies.local.

Key Lime Grilled Shrimp over Melon & Pineapple Salsa
Serves 4

1 pound raw shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 tablespoons mango pepper jam
2 teaspoons minced, seeded jalapeño, divided
2 cups finely diced firm-ripe cantaloupe
1 cup finely diced fresh pineapple
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lemon verbena plus 4 sprigs for garnish
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
dash of pepper
4 large lettuce leaves, such as Boston, Romaine or iceberg
4 key lime wedges

Combine with shrimp, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon pepper jam, and 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Combine melon, pineapple, red and green bell pepper, onion, vinegar, honey, lemon verbena sea salt & pepper in a large bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon jalapeño. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes or overnight. About 20 minutes before serving, preheat grill to high. Thread the shrimp onto skewers, piercing each twice, once through the tail end and once near the head end. Grill the shrimp until pink and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. When cool enough to handle, slide the shrimp off the skewers. To serve, arrange one large lettuce leaf on each dinner plate. Spoon salsa onto the lettuce and top with shrimp and garnish each serving with a key lime wedge and lemon verbena leaves.

Submitted by Kathy Rohrbaugh, Shrewsbury

Zesty Melon and Shrimp Salad
Serves 4

1 cup cut cantaloupe
1 cup cut honeydew
1 cup cut watermelon
1 cup seedless cucumber, diced
1 cup cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dill
1 1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1 head bibb lettuce or leaf lettuce

Mix together fruit and cucumber, sprinkle with salt and allow to drain in a colander for several minutes. Add shrimp and mix. Set aside. While fruit drains, whisk together dressing ingredients and chill until serving time. Arrange lettuce in a single layer on individual plates and top with fruit shrimp/mixture. Drizzle on dressing and serve.

Submitted by Cindy Kerschner, Schnecksville

Tomato-Watermelon Salad
Serves 6

2 tablespoons sliced almonds
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic (available in Asian markets.)
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
1 teaspoon sherry
2 teaspoons rice wine or white vinegar
1/2 medium Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 cup 1/2-inch cubes watermelon
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 1/2 lbs. tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine almonds, garlic, 2 teaspoons olive oil and chili paste in a small pan. Sauté over medium heat for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.  For the vinaigrette, combine the sherry, vinegar, lime juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and onions in a bowl. Whisk in the almond/chili/garlic mixture. In a large bowl, toss watermelon, jalapeno, parsley, and capers. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and vinaigrette.  Sprinkle with feta. Serve immediately.

Submitted by Marilyn Goldfarb, Boalsburg.

Summer Salad
Serves 3

2 cups curly-leafed spinach, in bite-size pieces
1/3 cup diced watermelon
1/3 cup diced cantaloupe
1/3 cup diced fresh pineapple
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
approx. 2 tablespoons Greek salad dressing (Gazebo Room brand preferred)

Toss all ingredients together; serve immediately. Note that most of these ingredients can be purchased at the grocery store salad bar, so the salad can be a quick-to-fix recipe.

Submitted by Frances Dietz, York.

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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