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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

watermelons at farmers market

We spotted the first of the season’s melons at farmers tailgate markets this week, heralding the arrival of summer’s midpoint. Of course, melons of all types are ideal for eating fresh, but you can also incorporate them into your salads, cook them on the grill, or get creative with the rind.

Flying Cloud Farm (North Asheville and River Arts District markets) has baby watermelons now, while Lee’s One Fortune Farm featured their Japanese and Korean melons. The Japanese variety the Lees are growing is similar to honeydew and cantaloupe with smooth outer skin, soft green-orange flesh, and honeyed flavor. The Korean melon is canary yellow on the outside with pale flesh. Its texture is crunchy, like cucumber, with flavor somewhere between cucumber and cantaloupe—fresh and slightly sweet. Both varieties were a trial run for the Lees, so quantities are limited, but look out for them next year. Lee’s One Fortune Farm is at ASAP, Black Mountain, West Asheville, River Arts District, and East Asheville markets. 

Try watermelon in place of tomatoes in a caprese salad with mozzarella, basil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Or toss it with cucumber, feta, olives, and red onion for a Greek salad. Combined with cilantro, corn, peppers, and lime juice, watermelon makes excellent salsa, especially over fish tacos. 

You can also grill watermelon or other types of melon for a more savory result. Skewer cubes of watermelon along with pork, zucchini, and peppers for flavorful kebabs. Or grill thick slices of olive oil-brushed watermelon for about five minutes, then top with Monterey Jack cheese for a vegetarian burger substitute. 

And don’t throw away your watermelon rind! You can pickle it, make chutney out of it, or even use it in an Indian curry. For the latter, peel off the dark green outer skin and cut the white part of the rind into bite-sized cubes (it’s okay if there’s still some red flesh). Heat a tablespoon of neutral oil in a heavy saute pan over medium high heat. Fry one to two teaspoons each of cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Add one chopped onion and cook until translucent, then add a few cloves of garlic and knob of ginger, minced, and cook for two minutes. Add about 3 cups of watermelon rind along with a teaspoon of turmeric and salt, plus chili powder to taste. (You can also add powdered cumin and coriander at this step, if you don’t have whole spices.) Cook for about four minutes, then add a diced tomato and one-fourth cup of water. Lower the heat and simmer, adding more water if needed, and cook until watermelon rind is tender. Adjust seasonings and top with cilantro. 

At farmers markets now you’ll also find tomatoes, okra, peppers, summer squash, potatoes, green beans, nectarines, peaches, blackberries, salad greens, mushrooms, and much more. Markets are also stocked with farm-fresh eggs, bread, cheese, pastries, drinks, and prepared foods. There are more than 100 farmers tailgate markets throughout the Appalachian Grown region. Find them, as well as farms and other local food businesses, in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.

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