What’s in Season? Melons, Peaches, and Cucumbers

What’s in Season? Melons, Peaches, and Cucumbers

By Barbara Kobsar | Illustration by Charmaine Koehler-Lodge


Fresh-picked, vine-ripened melons roll into the market in large crates, ready to offer a quintessential taste of summer. But how do you pick out the best?

The heaviest melons are the juiciest! If it’s a cantaloupe or Persian melon, look for prominent netting over the tan or golden-yellow skin. Press gently on the end opposite the stem, and if it gives a little, the melon is ripe. Smooth-skined melons show ripeness differently: A ripe honeydew will be a little sticky, a Juan Canary will be a little waxy, and the Crenshaw should be very aromatic. You can thump on a watermelon for the hollow sound that indicates ripeness, but the better bet is to choose one with a dull (not shiny) skin and a rich-yellow (not tan) patch where the melon rested on the ground.


Summer is the time to enjoy fresh peaches, and California is a great place to enjoy them. Our state supplies the nation with more than 50% of all fresh peaches and virtually all of the cling- or semi-cling types.

Freestone peaches have stones that separate freely from their pits. Any perfectly ripe white or yellow variety should be sweet and juicy. I prefer the flavor of a yellow peach, but hoards of shoppers crowding around the white peach bins prove that those less-acidic varieties are very popular.

Clingstone peaches are a bit harder to find, since most are destined for processing plants where their juiciness makes them optimal for canning or jam-making. The flesh of a cling peach literally “clings” to the pit, so you’ll want to eat it over the sink.



This gourd-family crop is fast-growing and sown in succession, which is why it’s available throughout the year. However, summer is the time to find novelty varieties, so there’s no reason to settle for the common slicing cucumber with its tough (often waxed) skin that requires peeling. Look for the small, bumpy-skinned pickling cucumber and the nearly seedless English or European cucumber. Other standouts include the pale-green ribbed Armenian cucumber (actually a long, thin melon), the slim Japanese varieties, and the bush types, which are perfect choices for container growing and make excellent snacks. Lemon cucumbers are named for their small roundish shape and yellow color, not their taste. They are popular for their thin edible skin, which is tender when the fruits are young. ♦


Minty Melon, Peach, & Cuke Salad

This refreshing salad features some of summer’s best offerings: melons, peaches, and cucumbers. Good melon choices include watermelon, muskmelon, cantaloupe, and Persian melon.

  • 3 cups 1-inch melon cubes
  • 2 large peaches, skin removed, sliced into wedges
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced into ½-inch rounds
  • 8 ounces crumbled feta or goat cheese or small-cubed gorgonzola
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh mint (plus extra whole leaves for garnish)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and fresh-cracked black pepper to taste

Arrange melon, peaches, cucumbers, and cheese down the middle of a long platter or board. Whisk together mint, oil, and vinegar or lemon juice and drizzle this vinaigrette over the assembled salad. Sprinkle with salt (to taste) and fresh-cracked pepper, garnish with mint leaves, and serve.

Veteran journalist Barbara Kobsar has authored two cookbooks focusing on traditional home-cooked meals using local produce. Find her on Sundays at the Walnut Creek market and on Saturdays at the Orinda and San Ramon markets selling her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies made from farmers’ market produce.

Artist Charmaine Koehler-Lodge grows most of her family’s food in their rural Pennsylvania garden.