Rocky Ford cantaloupes take center stage at local markets |

Rocky Ford cantaloupes take center stage at local markets

Sue BarhamVail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

The Colorado farmers markets are abounding in ripe Colorado produce this week. Cantaloupes are at their peek, so make sure to grab one or two while they are at their best. Known for their sweetness, cantaloupes are fat free, very low in sodium and are an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. The Rocky Ford growing region of Colorado is about 163 miles southeast of Denver and has been producing cantaloupe since 1878. Part of the Rocky Ford farming history spotlight belongs to settler George Swink, who convinced his neighbors to build the first community irrigation system in the Arkansas Valley, forever transforming Rocky Ford into a top crop-producing landscape. The name Rocky Ford, as the story goes, came from the spot where pioneers crossed the Arkansas to safety, avoiding the quicksand in other areas of the river.Chef Jeremy Kittelson of Restaurant Avondale in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa said cantaloupe is quite versatile. This is the time of year to savor fresh fruit in salads and desserts its appropriate at any meal period, Kittelson said. He said a quick cantalope, serrano and watercress salad is a nice accompaniment to grilled chicken, pork or fish. The combination of sweet, juicy cantaloupe, salty Serrano and spicy greens make a refreshing side dish, he said.

1 ripe cantaloupe, cut into chunks4 to 6 paper-thin slices prosciutto or Serrano ham2 cups of watercress, wild arugula or other spicy greensExtra virgin olive oilBalsamic vinegarSalt and freshly ground black pepper to tasteArrange the cantaloupe chunks on a serving plate. Tear the prosciutto into small pieces and add to the cantaloupe. Place the greens on top of the fruit. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top to taste. Salt and pepper to taste. This salad is a good side dish to complement grilled meat or fish. Serves 4.

Avondales bar manager, Brian Harker, suggests a cool martini using Septembers Rocky Ford melons.6 to 8 one-inch cubes of cantaloupe1/2 ounce fresh lime juice dash of organic agave nectar2 1/4 ounce Square One organic cucumber vodkaMuddle the cantaloupe, lime juice and agave nectar together in a martini shaker. Add the vodka, shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with skewered cantaloupe balls.Serves 1.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale. Chef/Owner Thomas Salamunovich will open Avondale this month in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The restaurant features a West Coast inspired, seasonal menu and the chefs use time-honored cooking methods, such as slow roasting and braising, to create simple dishes rich in flavor. The wine program focuses on small production wines to compliment the straightforward cuisine. For more information visit

Support Local Journalism