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Let's talk...melons

Let's talk...melons

Emily Francis makes her way to Vincent’s Eco farm in Mgarr, where she talks melons with farmer Pawlu Debono

It’s melon season here in Malta and the island has blown up with watermelons whole, sliced, diced and juiced. Even the other day at the grocery store, they had a watermelon fiesta where the workers wore big hats and cut, sliced and juiced a ridiculous amount of watermelons while playing loud and inviting party music to get everyone into the watermelon groove of summer! Baskets upon baskets of enormous watermelons would arrive just as soon as the patrons sampled the old and they were gone before you knew it. For me coming from America, summertime always ignites the memories of delicious watermelon, cantaloupes, and sweet honeydew melons alongside a fat, juicy burger, potato salad and baked beans! That is the perfect American home summer lunch with friends.

Here in Malta, you can find melons (watermelons more than the others however cantaloupes are also out now and I have not seen any honeydew melons but that is not to say they don’t grow them here). A popsicle we used to make in the blender was with watermelon, raspberries and fresh basil mixed up and frozen. It’s so refreshing and sweet!

We visited one of our favourite farms, Vincent’s Eco Estate, to see the watermelons growing on the vine. We spoke with head farmer, Pawlu Debono. He let us walk through the lines of vines where the watermelons and the cantaloupes were growing. It’s fascinating to see the tiniest baby melons just showing up for the party while others next to them were getting big and ready to be cut. I love the way that nature works; each in its own time and the local farmers understand this and allow the foods to grow at their own pace without adding any extra chemicals to speed up the process. Pawlu mentioned that the farmers all over the island have been struggling this summer growing their crops as it’s gotten so hot and dry and the land has soaked up the water that they may have captured during the last rain season. Last year during this time, they didn’t have a drop of rain from February to September and it looks like that is repeating itself this summer. We need a lot of rain and a lot of prayers to help the farmers and the farms.

How to find the ripe, ready to eat, best quality watermelons:

When you are looking at your watermelon, you want to find a flat spot somewhere on that melon with a a slight change of colour, usually a more yellowish tint to let you know that the melon grew on the ground in a garden. That is a key thing to check for on any melon you are looking to buy.

Next, you want to play the watermelon like it’s a hand drum, specifically the djembe if you are familiar with the sounds of the djembe. The ripe watermelon will respond to your hand beat or finger thump with a similar vibration, as if it’s hollow if it’s ripe and if it’s not yet ripe the sound will be flat and not vibrate.

Another way to tell if a melon is ripe is to smell it. Even with the thick skin, the smell becomes more fragrant when it’s ready to make its debut and be opened up and shared with the world.

Finally, if you are looking for a sign that your watermelon is organic or as close as it can get to being fully organic, you will find big black seeds inside. While the seedless watermelons might be easier and more convenient, nothing beats the taste of the original watermelon grown on the farm with its flat back from the grounds imprint, with the smell that lets you know it’s ripe and ready to go, with the drum sound that lets you know it is ready to party and the seeds that are like a disco in its coming out. Bright pink and black is what are going for.

Visit Vincent’s Eco Estate for your organic fruits and vegetables or visit any number of the fruit trucks along the island that are filled with fresh, bright and happy watermelons and cantaloupe.