Cantaloupes Take Center Stage In Fallon

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Cantaloupe bread, cantaloupe ice cream, cantaloupe daiquiris, even cantaloupe salsa. It's Cantaloupe Festival time in Fallon.

"I think we are coming up with some unique ways to use cantaloupes," farmer Rick Lattin said. "Fallon is synonymous with the Hearts of Gold cantaloupe.

"Whenever I go to a farmer's market, customers always ask when I'll have them. It's a unique Nevada product."

Farms like Lattin's had their genesis just after the turn of the last century, when the Newlands Project diverted water from the Truckee and Carson rivers into the desert around Fallon, transforming it into an oasis.

Somehow, the combination of water, soil and sunlight produced a cantaloupe with unmatched sweetness that became a delicacy sought by hotels and restaurants in San Francisco, Salt Lake City and as far away as New York City.

At one point, 44 farms were producing the melons. Then a railroad strike, drought and the Depression took their toll. Also, hybrid melons were developed that lacked the flavor of Fallon's, but shipped better and stored longer.

Weather also was a constant threat. A cold, wet spring or an early frost could decimate a crop. A few years back, a bad spring was followed by a hailstorm that shredded the ripening melons.

This year has been just about right and growers are picking 500 boxes of cantaloupes a day as they ripen, the Lahontan Valley News reported.

There also is a record number of food and drink vendors at the Cantaloupe Festival and County Fair, each charged with creating a concoction featuring Fallon's famous produce.

For 20 years, one of the more popular booths has belonged to Troy and Dee Dee Howell, who offer up cantaloupe daiquiris.

"When I first started making cantaloupe daiquiris people would turn up their noses, but now people come from Reno and Carson City to get them," Troy Howell said.

They expect to go through a minimum of 20 cases this weekend.

Since the turn-up-the-nose days, he said the stand has wooed many loyal customers.

"A lot of these people don't see each other for a year, but they can count on getting together every year at the festival."


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