When you're biting into the juicy flesh of a summer ripened cantaloupe, have you ever stopped to wonder where it came from? I mean before you grabbed it off the grocery-store shelf. To be honest, I always assumed that the melons arrived at my local supermarket on a truck from California or some other eternally sunny locale. But as it turns out, the majority of cantaloupes in my Toronto-neighbourhood Loblaws store right now are produced by Bill Nightingale, a third-generation farmer and one of Canada's largest local suppliers to food retailers in Ontario (as an aside, he's also quite cute—that's him up there jauntily tossing one of his cantaloupes).
Farmer Bill and the folks from Loblaw stopped by the Best Health offices this week to tell us about their commitment to stocking locally grown produce in all Loblaw company stores (that includes not just Loblaws but also Real Canadian Superstore, valu-mart, Provigo, no frills and others). At this time of year, 40 percent of the produce in Loblaw company stores is locally grown—including the cantaloupes. That's good news for Farmer Bill because his family's 55-year-old Nightingale Farms is currently having its best melon crop ever thanks to Southern Ontario's recent warm weather. This guy is harvesting 'loupes (as he calls them) like crazy, working round the clock to pick, pack and ship those melons to Loblaw company stores within 24 hours. And that is great news for us, since no one can possibly know more about growing perfectly juicy melons than Farmer Bill. After all, his dad was the first farmer to try growing cantaloupes in Canada back in the 1980s.
Bill says a Canadian-grown cantaloupe is much sweeter than the variety grown in the U.S., but they don't last as long on the shelf (they're picked at a much riper stage than melons that have to travel from warmer climes). So it's best to eat a Canuck cantaloupe during the very short time the melons are in season (that's mid August to mid September) and on the same day you buy it. But what's the secret to picking the perfect 'loupe? (I do so love the farmer speak.) "If the tip of the melon is orange and gummy, it's ready," says Bill.
What an educational way to start off my first week as Best Health's associate web editor!
Have you tried a Canadian-grown cantaloupe this season? What did you think?