In Praise of the Hermiston Watermelon

Stand in line for the elephant ears if you must, but don’t block the melon booth.

By Mary Harvill

When I was living in Portland, Oregon, I saw a spill of Hermiston, Oregon-grown watermelons, splattered across a freeway on-ramp.  Total tragedy.  Those watermelons traveled all the way from Eastern Oregon only to meet their grim (though colorful) demise on the urban asphalt. The gaudy, juicy scene reminded me of the fate of travelers along the Oregon Trail when they drowned crossing the Columbia River.

Nothing captures summertime quite like a Hermiston, Oregon-grown watermelon, and a Walchli organically-grown watermelon at that.

Peaches are a very close second place in the competition for “best of summer” fruit.  If I am eating a peach, then peaches are #1.
Is there a difference between watermelon grown in Hermiston, Oregon and other places, namely Mexico?

Yes, as a matter of fact there is.  It could be that it’s something in the water, as the saying goes. But I prefer to think it is the Walchli family’s ability to create a fantastic watermelon seed, patiently cultivate it to produce that perfect orb containing that beautiful, red color inside with a perfect level of sweetness and refreshing taste, especially when the watermelon is chilled.

My childhood friend, Hope Podgorny Reimer had silver “sporks” that were the perfect watermelon utensil.  I have looked on and off over the years for these utensils to add to my flatware collection without success.  Colonel Sanders and the KFC plastic spork doesn’t quite cut it.  So I rotate between a fork and spoon when feasting on summer watermelon.

While en route to Hermiston from Spokane, I notice the signs for watermelon in Eltopia, Washington, north of Pasco, but I resist the temptation and hold out for the real thing.  I find that the watermelon in local Spokane stores is mainly from a grower in Pasco. These may appease me until I travel to Hermiston, a trip that usually coincides with the Farm City Rodeo during the second week of August, a world class small town rodeo.  And, bonus, the Umatilla County Fair sells Walchli watermelon by the slice.  Stand in line all night for the elephant ears if you must, but please don’t block the watermelon vendor’s booth.

As summer draws to a close, I will patiently wait for next year’s crop of Oregon grown watermelon, unfazed and untempted by the watermelon from Mexico in the dead of winter.

sky slice

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