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Getting a little fruity

SUMMER fruits really are one of the joys of the year and, while there might only be a small window of opportunity for the A-list of watermelon, apricots, peaches and cherries, they are without a doubt worth seeking out.

Who could fail to enjoy slicing into a ripe watermelon and burying their face in its sweet, succulent flesh. The drips and dribbles and seed-spitting competitions are all part of the experience.

To get the best out of your watermelon, make sure you pick the heavy, dark green ones. Watermelons are 92 per cent water so, when ripe and ready for harvesting, the melon will be holding significant weight. And those of you who spend summer holding your stomachs in as you do the walk of shame at the beach need have no fear of the melon, as this fruit is virtually fat-free and supplies plenty of your daily fibre and vitamin c requirements.

The most popular variety is the red tiger, an elongated melon which has fantastic dark red flesh that is very sweet.

Other popular varieties are the allsweet, which tends to be large and more oval in shape; sugar baby, which are smaller and quite round; and a new, seedless variety called champagne, which has yellow flesh.

Fresh, ripe watermelon is a delight on its own, however I also use a watermelon as a vessel for fruit punch. After cutting out the flesh I use a blender and add in a few strawberries and a little bacardi or vodka (or both) with some crushed ice. I then pour this back into the watermelon shell for a refreshing afternoon treat.

When I was living in Chicago the guys who lived above me introduced me to a fantastic creation known as Watermelon Gazpacho. It is a little hard to give exact quantities, as I have never written this recipe down, preferring to make it by taste.

Grab half a watermelon and seed it, cutting the flesh into small chunks, and puree it in a food processor until it’s quite smooth. Finley chop a red onion and a jalapeno medium-sized chilli, peel and seed a cucumber then chop up into small cubes. Find a bowl large enough to hold all of the above and combine all ingredients. Season with salt, pepper and a little cayenne pepper. Serve well chilled

Watermelon costs about 79c a kilogram, with most of the top quality stock around town coming from Broome. There also are some good Canarvon melons beginning to hit the market, however.

My other favourite summer fruit is those plump juicy cherries, which are beginning to hit the heights at the moment. While Australia’s cherry industry spreads itself around the country, about half the national production comes from Young in NSW. Western Australia’s cherry industry has evolved around the elevated areas through the State’s South West, in particular the cold regions away from the coast in Manjimup, Pemberton and Northcliffe.

Cherries belong to the rose family and are believed to have originated in the areas around the Turkish town of Cerasus. The better varieties to ask for are bing cherries, which are dark red in colour with sweet red flesh and are heart shaped, and van cherries, which also are heart shaped and have sweet dark red flesh and are deep red in colour.

Cherries will hit the marketplace in earnest this week following the recent wholesalers’ cherry auction. Retail prices will start at around $29.99/kg and might go as low as $25.99/kg.

The rest of the summer stone fruits will continue to filter through over the next couple of months, although most of the stone fruit crops are in relatively short supply this year.

Plum lovers will need to get in quickly as my man at the markets tells me that crop levels are right down this year, with the hills suffering from strong winds during the critical flowering period, and Dwellingup suffering from hail damage.

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