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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 March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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