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Cool melon salsa a perfect condiment for hot days

Recipe: Fragrant fruit melds well with peppers, cilantro

Pale salsa in red bowl and blue tortilla chips on orange plate
Muskmelon makes a bright, cool salsa for chips or a sweet-spicy condiment with grilled meat or vegetables.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)

My garden this year blessed me with so many wonderful melons. Specifically large, fragrant Ambrosias -- the best muskmelon I've ever tasted -- and cute little Aspires, a sweet personal-size French Charentais-type melon.

(Gardening note: I highly recommend poultry manure as a overwintering mulch that can be worked into the soil in spring. My melons this year grew where my tomatoes were last year, and they've been healthy and productive all summer.)

Halved melon, half a red onion, a lime, cilantro and peppers on a red cutting board
The ingredients are few but the flavor combination is excellent.

But this melon bounty has its stressful side: what to do with it all? I've given away several melons, and eaten melon for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I still have more, threatening to rot before my eyes if I don't do something with them quickly,

Last week I had just finished canning nine pints of tomato salsa -- yes, during a heat wave -- and contemplated the fate of the leftover cilantro and peppers. Ah, the melon, of course! Melon salsa, which is uncooked, would be a refreshing change from all that heated stuff but still be flavorful.

We enjoyed the result at dinner, as a condiment with grilled fish, but the salsa would be perfect with grilled chicken, too. Or in a fish taco. Or alongside tortilla chips. (Blue chips make a nice color contrast.) Or anything else that benefits from melon's cool sweetness.

Use whatever chile peppers you like. I'd put all my green jalapeños into the earlier salsa, so I grabbed three small peppers from the garden: a small yellow jalapeño and two shishitos, then tossed in a bit of minced Anaheim pepper to round out the flavors.

Melon salsa

Make about 2-1/2 cups


1 medium ripe muskmelon or honeydew melon, peeled, seeded and diced (generous 2 cups)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup minced cilantro

2 tablespoons (or more, to taste) minced chile pepper, such as jalapeño, serrano, Anaheim, or a mix

2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lime juice

Sea salt, to taste

Blue bowl of salsa on a red cutting mat
Garden-fresh salsa is refreshing on a hot day.


Place all the prepared vegetables in a medium bowl. Stir in the lime juice. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and gently stir. Taste and adjust the seasonings and/or add more lime juice.

Best the day it is made. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until serving time. It will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for a day or two but flavors will not be as pronounced.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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