Watermelons and cantaloupes are tardy this year but still tasty

watermelonThose favorite slices of summer—watermelons and cantaloupes—are making their seasonal debut in Virginia a little behind schedule. Their tardiness, however, should be offset by their tastiness, thanks to favorable growing conditions.

“The melons are running about a week or two behind schedule due to the cool spring we had,” said Clifton Slade, small farm outreach agent with Virginia State University. “However, we’ve had good growing conditions, and the melons are sizing up well. We could use a little rain right now but not too much. If conditions stay this favorable, we will have melons of exceptional quality.”

Don Reese, who grows 110 acres of produce, including melons, on his family farm in Halifax County, concurred. He began picking cantaloupes over the July 4 weekend and noted that “the watermelons are about seven to 10 days behind the cantaloupes.”

Reese said the weather has been good, with not too much rain. “A drier growing season actually makes better produce,” he said. “Our melons should be plentiful through Labor Day.”

Watermelons, which are 92 percent water, provide not only cool refreshment but health benefits as well. They have excellent levels of vitamins A and C, along with good levels of B6.

Cantaloupes are also a source of vitamins A and C, as well as dietary fiber and folacin, a nutrient needed for growth and the development of hemoglobin.

When selecting a watermelon, look for one that is heavy and firm, with a creamy yellow spot on the bottom where it sat in the sun to ripen. In choosing a cantaloupe, look for prominent, cream-colored ridges on the melon that resemble netting. The stem end should be smooth where the ripe fruit slipped off the vine. Lastly, just sniff it. A ripe cantaloupe has a sweet, musky aroma.

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