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Farmers’ Market Report:

Nothing brings back summer memories like watermelon juice dribbling down your chin. John Hurley of Summer Harvest Farms grows the exact variety of watermelon that reminds you of being a kid again. Pug watermelons are a lightly seeded, smaller melon. They are a traditional variety that has the quintessential watermelon taste. Hurley will have watermelons in a week, and he is at both Saturday markets as well as the Sunday market.

Ed Munak’s farm is in Paso Robles, where the days are hot and the nights cool, resulting in melons with high sugar content and exceptional sweetness. He grows seeded and seedless watermelons, as well as a wide variety of other melons. Ambrosia cantaloupes are a cross between a Crenshaw melon and a cantaloupe. They have a fine, sweet flesh and a netted skin. A Supreme cantaloupe is very sweet, with a fine, musky flavor. It is a more traditional, but extremely sweet melon. A Rocky Sweet has green flesh and more flavor than traditional honeydew. Charentais is a French variety that has an orange, denser flesh and intense flavor that is very strong and sweet. It is wonderful soaked in champagne or wine or wrapped with prosciutto. Ananas has white flesh, creamy skin and is very sweet and aromatic. Munak says all of his melons pair wonderfully with raspberries. His instructions for choosing a ripe melon are to judge by smell and color. Melons ripen from the middle, so the outer skin should more or less match the color of the flesh. Watermelons are the exception to the rule, of course. If you are not going to eat your melon right away store it in the refrigerator. Munak is at the Wednesday and Saturday Downtown and Sunday markets.

Weiser Family Farms also grow many varieties of outstanding melons. Their early season melons are grown in Arvin and the late varieties in the Lucerne Valley. Both locations also have hot days and cold nights. Weiser grows several types of Musk melons (cantaloupes are actually Musk melons). They are vine ripened and picked when fully ripe. Sugar Queens have a lighter orange flesh and are smooth and juicy with a white rind. The Super 45 has a deep orange flesh and a firmer green rind. Galia is an Israeli variety with green flesh and a sweet, tropical flavor with a slight tang. Of the cantaloupe varieties, Weiser grow French Cavaillons, with an orange flesh and slightly netted skin, and Charentais. Both of them are cut from the vine and turn color when ripe, similar to an avocado. Ogen is not the sweetest melon, but the tastiest according to Alex Weiser. It is a green flesh cantaloupe with a yellow and green striped skin with a banana or guava-like aroma. Of the honeydew varieties, there is the Indorous melon, a winter variety that has orange flesh, and the Sugar Nut, a baby canary melon, with white flesh and smooth consistency. The Piel de Sapo (translates to frog skin) is a white flesh winter variety. The Valencia is a dark green Italian variety with creamy flesh and the sweetest of the late season melons. Weiser Family Farms are at all four of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets.

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