Lifestyle

In season: Papalo, netted melons are good picks

Peaking

Papalo: My shopping buddy went crazy when she saw these unassuming little greens. After one bite, I understood. They taste like some kind of arugula gone wild, with a very aromatic but still somewhat astringent flavor. In the Mexican state of Puebla, they are the star of the popular sandwich called cemitas, sesame-sprinkled bread spread with beans and topped with white cheese, chipotle strips and maybe some avocado and meat. It takes a big herb to stand up to those flavors, but papalo (also called papaloquelite) is up to the challenge.

$1.50 per bunch, Coleman Family Farm

Netted melons: Still having trouble choosing a good melon? The best way to start is by narrowing your choices. Smooth-skinned melons such as honeydews are really tough to pick. Rough-skinned melons such as cantaloupes and muskmelons that have the netting on the skin are much easier. These offer a lot of clues to the discerning eye. Start with the netting itself, which should be raised above the peel. The background color should be golden, not green. Check the bellybutton where the melon attached to the stem. It should be clean -- these melons "slip" from the vine when they are mature so there should be no trace of stem left. You can give a gentle squeeze at the stem end; it should give slightly (but not be too soft). And give it a shake: If you hear the seeds sloshing around, it needs to be eaten right away. The surest sign of a great melon, though? These have an amazing perfume that you should be able to smell across the table.

$1.50 per pound, various vendors

russ.parsons@latimes.com

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