Farm Focus: Cantaloupe from Turlock Fruit Company

Juicy, Sweet Cantaloupe from Turlock, CA

By Robbie Sigona

Each summer I am wowed by the intense flavors and aromas of the specialty melons available from small family farmers in the Turlock area. We carry melons year-round, but right now is when they’re best. The melons we’ve brought in are coming directly from Don Smith, a family farmer with the Turlock Fruit Company. We’ve worked with the Smiths and the company for more than 35 years.

This season’s cantaloupe, which is grown in Firebaugh (a bit south of Turlock), is definitely wow-worthy. The weather in the Turlock area is ideal for growing, with its hot days and warm nights. This weather makes for cantaloupes with a naturally higher sugar content, so they’re sweeter and juicier than others. These premium melons are picked at their peak and quickly delivered to our stores.

Melons are the perfect antidote for high temperatures as they help keep body temperatures lower than foods that take longer to digest. Melons are composed almost entirely of water so they have a low glycemic index, and are filling and refreshing without being heavy on calories. They’re also full of electrolytes, minerals and vitamins. They’re a great go-to food for a pre- or post-workout meal, too.

Cantaloupe Trivia

What is considered to be the original “cantaloupe” originated in Europe and was named for Cantaloupo, a papal villa near Rome. This European cantaloupe has a bumpy, warty rind and yellow flesh. The melon known as cantaloupe in North America, with the familiar raised netted skin, and sweet, orange flesh is actually a muskmelon – a species of melon that has been developed into many cultivated varieties.

When is a melon ripe?

Choosing a melon blind is a task best left to experts. What works for cantaloupes, does not for honeydew. To select a cantaloupe, check the stem end for a clean, smooth indentation. This is known as a “full slip” and shows that the fruit was fully ripe and ready to be picked when it was pulled off the vine. You can also press gently on the end opposite the stem end, feeling for a slight give. Check out all my produce tips here for more information.

Decisions, decisions

In addition to the cantaloupe just arriving from the Turlock Fruit Company, we’ve also brought in a few other outstanding varieties, such as the Tuscan melon, the Galia melon and the orange-fleshed honeydew. It’s hard to choose just one! Starting in mid August we expect to receive some of the season’s first local heirloom melons from growers like Phil Foster in Hollister.

We’ll highlight some of the heirloom varieties, such as the Sharlyn, Crane and the Haogen, later this summer, so keep an eye on upcoming newsletters! We encourage our customers to support the local farmers who grow pieces of the past as the revival of heirloom products, especially melons, has been a gift.

For now, here is a sampling of some of the local melons we have, in addition to the cantaloupe:

Honeydews tend to be one of the sweetest melons; they have a pale green or jade colored flesh and creamy rind. Fully ripe melons have a honey flavor, are very juicy and have a very tender texture.

The Orange-fleshed honeydew has a smooth outside skin like the green, but it has a definite orange hue. The orange-fleshed honeydew has rich, heavy sweet aromas, dense cantaloupe-colored flesh with honey sweetness and hints of herbs like herb de Provence, lavender, and rosemary. It is a staff favorite at Sigona’s.

The Tuscan melon has a firm, dense flesh which stands up on its own and in salads. It pairs well with stronger flavors and retains its own juices. Tuscan melons are an old-fashioned heirloom variety with cantaloupe-colored flesh and pronounced ribs on the outside.

Galia melons are highly aromatic and have pale green flesh that’s packed with juice. Galias are incredibly sweet with a texture similar to a watermelon. They have a telltale dark golden colored ring under the netting when they’re ripe.

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