The big Saturday farmers market near UC Irvine is the only place in Orange County where Cal Poly Pomona sells its fantastic produce. I was so glad to see orange watermelon the other week, because the one that looms largest in my memory, the Best Watermelon EVER, was a then-rarely-seen orange one from a favorite grower at the Fullerton Farmers Market years ago.
It’s true with most fruit, I know, but watermelons inhabit that special category where when they’re good, they’re really, really good. It takes a trifecta of hot weather, a decent grower, and mad watermelon-choosing skills to realize watermelon nirvana. What characteristics signal perfection are mysterious and variable, which is why I was immensely happy to let the nice young Cal Poly Pomona ag student choose one—actually two—for me. I was buying a yellow and an orange—two for $5, a stone bargain.
The Cal Poly guy picked up a couple, thumping gently. I handed over the orange one I’d selected for consideration, very heavy for its size, with a nice bright sun spot. Thump thump. What was he looking to hear? “You want it to sound like a basketball,” he said. Hmm. Mine was deemed OK, and I also took the yellow one that passed his thump test. Both proved absolutely delicious, with the orange having the slight edge in excellence, maybe even approaching the mythic flavor of the long-ago Fullerton specimen.
The season is drawing to a close, but the Cal Poly campus Farm Store at Kellogg Ranch told me there’ll be orange and red watermelons at the Irvine market this Saturday, though likely no yellow. You know what? Orange and red will do just fine.