Tag Archives: Watermelon

Roadside Watermelons in Bienville Parish

With the enticing displays of watermelons at the grocery store, you may not feel the need to drive to a produce stand or farmers market to find a juicy sweet one.

But sometimes you find yourself on a Louisiana country road in July, passing handmade signs advertising hay for sale, fresh farm eggs and, less frequently, melons.

I was on such a road, Highway 4 in Bienville Parish, the other day when I came across all of those signs, including one for Plunkett Farms Watermelons near the General Store of Castor.

It actually advertised watermelons and black Angus, but since I didn’t have the need (or room in our Camry) for the latter, I concentrated on the melons.

Plunkett Farms Watermelons near Castor, Louisiana

Highway 4 is already off of the beaten path, but you have to go even farther –another half mile or so on a dirt road–past the main house, rusted tractors and sycamore trees to get to Plunketts 20-acre watermelon patch.

There I found Ronald Plunkett and his helpers under a canopy shading them from the harsh afternoon sun. The melons weren’t piled up there, but I was invited to ride in a cart to the field to pick  the one I wanted.

Plunkett himself goes out early in the morning, hand picks the ripe ones and piles them up at the edge of the field. By the time he opens at 7 a.m., there’s often a line of truck peddlers waiting to buy them. Plunkett’s father began growing watermelons 68 years ago, and the Plunketts have sold to Brookshire’s and Walmart until the vendor rules got too onerous for him. He has another 25 acres of watermelons planted elsewhere.

We were on our way to Jonesboro that day, and I would have loved to have chatted more but I did get to ask Plunkett and his helpers how to pick the perfect watermelon–whether you’re in the field, at a farmers market or at Kroger.

“Look for a brown scar. I don’t know why but that’s how I have the best luck,” said one guy. I did a little research online where one report suggested brown scarring or webbing meant there was more pollination of the flowers that produce the fruit on the watermelon vine. More pollination = more sweetness, many reports say.

Other tips I’ve read about include:

(1) a creamy yellow “field spot”

(2) a brown rather than a green stem and

(3) uniformly shaped, whether round or oval.

I asked Plunkett for his best advice:

“If it’s shiny on the outside, it’s not ripe. It dulls as it ripens,” he said.

Whatever method you use, Plunkett said the least is the thumping.

He said:

“You’re not doing anything but making your finger sore.”

Castor is about an hour southeast of Shreveport and 18 miles west of Saline, a town known for its watermelons.  Along my drive the other day, I found some other signs. One advertised Saline Watermelons and gave a telephone number. Another house with a patch outside simply had “Melons” painted on a white sheet. Bienville Parish is a colorful slice of rural Louisiana. If you want to learn more, read here or here.

Plunkett Farms
Plunkett Farms

 

 

 

Refreshing Watermelon Any Way You Slice (Or Ice) It

We have been eating a lot of watermelon this summer. David and I have already gone through about a dozen. At 92 percent water, watermelon is helping us stay hydrated.

Truth be told, I have just as much luck with seedless watermelons I get at the supermarket as the ones I pick up at farmstands. Luckily, most of the stores in Shreveport get their melons from Texas, so that’s local, depending on what part of Texas they come from.

Still,  it is hard for me to pass by a farmer sitting on the tailgate of a 40-year-old truck  in the 97-degree heat with a load of them.  Sometimes I get a real winner, sweeter than the supermarket ones–like the giant one I got from Ryan Farms in Dixie, Louisiana, earlier this summer and another one we purchased along a  south Arkansas back road.

Earlier this week my refrigerator was full, and I had another watermelon on deck (the floorboard of my car). So, I thought it would be fun to experiment with some refreshing watermelon frozen novelties. Surprisingly, there aren’t many watermelon-flavored treats in the supermarket freezer section other than a few made by the Popsicle brand. So I consulted Pinterest and found a few healthy ones to try .

My husband is a watermelon purist and believes eating it any other way but straight is gilding the lily.  I sort of agree, but I love ice cream novelties and frozen treats. I’m glad to have some new ones to add to my stash of Push Ups, Nutty Buddies and multiple flavors of Outshine bars.

Refreshing Watermelon Treats
Refreshing Watermelon Treats

In the photo above, the treats are as follows going clockwise from the the Watermelon Greek Yogurt Ice Cream cone with links to the recipes.

Watermelon Greek Yogurt Ice Cream-eating Greek yogurt is perhaps the most significant diet change I have made during the past three years. Multiple blending repeats made this recipe a bit cumbersome for me, but I liked the taste. I used banana to make it creamier as suggested.

Watermelon Ice Pops-these were my favorite. I substituted Splenda for the sugar. Adding lime sherbet for the rind and chocolate chips for the seeds was so much fun! (Why can’t you find lime sherbet in pint containers?  Does anybody know?) This recipe says 12 servings, but I only got 6 using the five-ounce cups.

Watermelon ice pops
Chocolate chips are the seeds in this watermelon ice pop

Watermelon Lemon-Limeade Pops With a Jalapeno Kick. I did as one of the commenters suggested and added some jalapeno to give it a little kick.

Creamy Coconut Watermelon Pop. This was supposed to be a milkshake but didn’t turn out thick enough for me. I poured it in a mold, and, voila, another frozen treat variation.