It's been two solid months for farmers market shoppers since melons came to mind.
"It started around the Fourth of July," says Sams Valley farmer Doug Bigham of demand for his melons.
Synonymous with summer, local melons usually are ready to eat in August. This season, farmers say, they took their sweet time.
"The weather this year has been so mixed up; it's thrown everything off," says Doreen Bradshaw, owner of Seven Oaks Farms in Central Point.
Many local melons finally ripened enough last week to sell in quantity from farm stands and market stalls. The harvest should last through September.
"We've had a lot of really cool nights ... that's slowed 'em down," says Bigham.
Despite the cold soil conditions into June, his family property with its sandy loam near river bottom is well-suited to melons, a traditional crop in the Rogue Valley, says Bigham. A full acre of his land is planted in seeded watermelons, "superstar" musk melons and "ambrosia" cantaloupes.
Bigham's watermelons sell for 40 cents per pound, cantaloupe and musk melons for 60 cents per pound, at Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Markets, Tuesdays in Ashland and Thursdays in Medford, as well as Saturday's Grants Pass Growers Markets. Also at Tuesday and Thursday markets, Joshua Farms, among others, sells melons.
A wide variety of melons that changes daily can be had at Bradshaw's Seven Oaks. In addition to the typical cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelons — either seeded or seedless — yellow watermelons, canary, casaba and Crenshaw populate the farm stand.
"Our melons sell very well," says Bradshaw. "We go through a lot of melons, a lot of corn and ... a lot of tomatoes."
Prices are 29 cents per pound for seeded watermelon, $4.15 apiece for seedless. Honeydews and specialty melons are $1.95 each while cantaloupe is 45 cents per pound.
Once you've picked your melon, don't wait to eat it. The ripest melons have the shortest shelf life. After you're sated on sugary slices, try melon in salsa to complement shrimp or chicken, in salad with salty cheese and capers or in a refreshing beverage.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 776-4487 or e-mail email@example.com.