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Farmers Markets

What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Mountains of Melons

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Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 1:12 PM

click to enlarge Ogen melons from Weiser Family Farms at the Hollywood market. - FELICIA FRIESEMA
  • Felicia Friesema
  • Ogen melons from Weiser Family Farms at the Hollywood market.

Summer at the markets brings an embarrassment of riches and a bit of sensory overload. A prime example of this manifests when you walk by the Weiser Family Farms booth on a hot market day. Even feet away, you can't help being washed in the sweet musky scent of sun-warmed melons, a summer Weiser specialty. Yes, Alex Weiser always has great potatoes. But these melons -- the Ogen, Cavailion, Galia, Arava, and Piel de Sapo -- are his big summer song. Weiser took a slight risk planting back in March, especially after the super cold winter we had. But the result was so worth it. Other melons, like the super sweet, smooth-skinned, white fleshed Gayas at Ha's Farm, are also out in full force.

click to enlarge Cavaillion melons from Weiser Family Farms. - FELICIA FRIESEMA
  • Felicia Friesema
  • Cavaillion melons from Weiser Family Farms.

Right now our favorites are the Ogen and Cavallion. We recommend not pairing them with other fruits; they deserve a solo spot on the plate so you can savor their unique flavor. Both are honey sweet and musky and begging to be draped with a delicate salty robe of prosciutto at most. Their flesh is soft and prone to bruising, so treat them tenderly and serve icy cold. That in mind, turning them into a soft granita or sorbet isn't a bad idea either. And then there are melon aqua frescas, garnished with a melon chunk sprinkled with salt and chile.

Picking your melons can be a lovely sensory affair. Cradle the melon in your palm, stem side up, and inhale through your nose right where the stem was cut. A good melon will smell great -- sweet and almost cloying -- and will feel a little heavy for its size. This doesn't work for all melons. The Gaya, for example, betrays no smell and selecting one is largely a thing of chance, though the odds are very good. Bruising does happen, and isn't a huge problem if the fruit is fresh-picked. But try to select for minimal bruising and no exterior cuts. Melons will be here well into August and even September for some varieties, but the peak is most certainly right now.

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