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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

Ingredients:

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.

Instructions:

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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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