August is Colorado Pride Month, a moment to support local producers and their incredible contributions to the culinary scene. To celebrate, we’re launching a new “What’s in Season?” Series. Showcasing local farmers and the crops they produce. First up: find out why Rocky Ford’s cantaloupes, which are now hitting grocery stores, are some of the sweetest, juiciest melons grown in our own backyard.
What makes Rocky Ford Cantaloupe so delicious?
Good cantaloupes are smooth, juicy, subtly sweet, and so refreshing on a hot summer day, while bad ones are often too firm, crunchy, and tasteless, the parts you want to skip in a fruit salad. Rocky Ford cantaloupe falls into the first category, and there’s a reason for that.
“With the cool nights and the heat during the day, the variation in temperature helps make natural sugars,” says Brooke Proctor, a member of the Rocky Ford Growers Association with her husband, Matthew. Their farm, Proctor Produce, is a third generation melon farm in the Southeastern Colorado region. “We are on average over 100 degrees during the day (it can even go up to 110), then in the evening it is 55 to 60 degrees, so the temperature difference creates more natural sugars in all. melons, ”she says. . “That’s what makes them so sweet.”
The same conditions are also supporting the growth of the Proctors’ delicious watermelons and honeydew, which are also on their way to stores in the coming weeks.
The Proctors began pulling cantaloupe from the vine in late July (a bit later than usual due to late frosts that delayed their first planting), but the results are worth the wait. “Our harvest is phenomenal,” says Brooke. “Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also very, very high in sugar; it’s very sweet, very juicy.
This year’s crop also suffered hail damage, so it’s a bit lighter in volume than other years. “So in other words, if you find them, get them,” says Brooke.
Meet the producers
the Rocky Ford Producers Association is a group of four family farms that grow cantaloupe, watermelon and other crops in Otero County, many of which are operated by third, fourth, fifth or even sixth generation growers. While the association was created in 2011, the farms have been operating since 1887 and have been producing delicious fruit for almost 135 years.
In fact, the region produces around 3 million cantaloupes and 1 million watermelons each growing season. Each farm in the producer association produces both cantaloupe and watermelon, but families can also grow additional fruit as they wish. The Proctors also plant honeydew, pumpkins, onions, corn, wheat, and hay.
The Proctors’ farm produces approximately 750,000 cantaloupes and 250,000 watermelons each year. Matthew is a third generation producer and their children are already involved as a fourth. “It’s something we can be proud of being able to pass on to our next generation,” says Brooke. “It also requires us to take care of our land and our products and to ensure that we are of the highest possible quality, so that we can continue this process of passing down from generation to generation. “
How to choose the best cantaloupe
“The first easy thing I would say is [to check] that the fillet on the melon itself is yellow, ”says Matthew. “This is usually a good indication that the melon has had a chance to be ripe.” Next, look at the area where the melon was attached to the vine. “We call it the slip,” Matthew says. “Normally, if it came off cleanly – like you could put your finger on it, there was no more stalk on it – that means it was a full sheet, which means it was ready. to be plucked and in full sugar.If the stem has been pulled out or if there is still vine on it and the stem is still there, then it will still be good but it was not at the maximum sugar level.
Rocky Ford Cantaloupe Sorbet Recipe
Rocky Ford’s cantaloupe tastes amazing straight from the vine, but this sherbet recipe from Emma Nemechek, the chef and owner of Sweet Pastry is so good it will keep you chasing cantaloupe until the bitter end of the season.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon of honey or corn syrup
2 pounds. Cantaloupe Rocky Ford, seeded and diced
Prepare a simple syrup: boil the sugar and water in a small saucepan until all the sugar granules are melted. Reserve in the fridge.
Combine the cooled simple syrup, honey or corn syrup (this prevents crystallization during churning) and Rocky Ford cantaloupe and reduce the mixture to a smooth puree using a blender. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, put your jar of sorbet in the refrigerator.
Blend the cantaloupe mixture for 30 seconds before churning, following your ice cream maker instructions. Transfer to the refrigerated container and freeze for 2-3 hours.