The first and only melons so far to hit the farmers’ markets this year are cantaloupes, very sweet, orange-fleshed, and dripping with juices.
About a month earlier than expected, cantaloupes made an appearance in the farmers’ markets this weekend in limited supply. These are very juicy and weigh as much as three pounds. Regardless of weight, they’re selling for around $6, which is an incredible bargain.
The variety pictured is known as the European cantaloupe or true cantaloupe. The variety seen more frequently in vegetable stands is the North American cataloupe, which has a reticulated skin of raised intersecting veins.
The ridged European variety is a little juicier and ripens faster, which explains why it is the first melon to appear in markets. Most cantaloupes take 80 to 100 days to grow and ripen. When choosing a melon, pick one without any soft spots on the rind, and also one that seems heavier than the appearance would suggest.
Cantaloupe makes an excellent summer dessert, deseeded and topped with ice cream or Greek yogurt and honey.
The growers with cantaloupes this weekend and in the coming week are all from south Jersey, where the growing season starts earlier — as much as two months earlier — from upstate New York farms.