RICHMOND, Va. — Watermelon enthusiasts rejoice; August marks the peak of Virginia’s melon season. Shoppers can find ripe watermelons at their local farmers markets and grocery stores through mid-September.
This season, Virginia watermelon growers have experienced a variety of weather conditions. But farmers like Luke Hallman, co-owner of Riverside Produce Farm in King William County, have found ways to work with the weather, rather than against it.
“This year has certainly had its challenges—from extreme heat to sporadic downpours—but overall, it has been a very good growing year,” Hallman said. “Watermelons flourish in hot, dry weather. So, if you are able to irrigate the crop, you can experience very good yields in years like this.”
Hallman and his wife, Stacey, founded Riverside Produce Farm in 2009, and they grow watermelon and other produce, including tomatoes, muskmelon and peppers. “The most rewarding part of growing a watermelon crop is when you can finally enter the field and see what’s there,” Hallman said. “I’m always trying new varieties of watermelons, so I’m looking forward to seeing how well they performed and how the yields compare to standard varieties.”
Watermelons have several health benefits, including high levels of water, vitamin C, antioxidants and amino acids. According to the Agricultural Marketing Research Center, just one cup of cubed watermelon contains 21 percent of recommended daily levels of vitamin C, and 18 percent of vitamin A.
The National Watermelon Board suggests consumers searching for a ripe watermelon avoid melons with punctures, cracks or soft spots. Check to see if the green striations on the rind are dark and well-defined.
Next, check the underside of the watermelon. It should have a yellow spot where the fruit sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
For those interested in a new watermelon recipe, the Hallmans recommend making a refreshing salad with cubed watermelon, sprinkled with a bit of blue, feta or asiago cheese, and paired with fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
–Virginia Farm Bureau