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Crop Report : Produce: It's melon time, there's news on the grapevine and iceberg comes to a head.

June 15, 1995|RUSS PARSONS

While it's still relatively cool through most of Southern California, in the Imperial Valley temperatures are starting to bump up. And that means it's melon time.

The cantaloupe harvest has rocketed in the last three weeks, increasing by more than 800%. That means prices are falling and you should be seeing melons on special over the next several weeks.

Honeydews are also picking up, as are watermelons--which are being picked in Florida as well as California.

Expect this year's melons to hang on for a while longer than they have in the past. Because of the cool, cloudy weather earlier in the spring, growers staggered their crops even more than usual, planting as much as a month later than normal.

That will pay off in another four to six weeks, when melon prices usually take a brief, albeit big, jump as the harvest switches from the Imperial Valley to the San Joaquin Valley. This year, the increase shouldn't be as dramatic, though the San Joaquin season got off to a late start as well.

The Imperial Valley crop will be smaller than normal and, because of the cool weather, the melons will be smaller and not as sweet, yet. In addition, you may see some scarring from strong winds.

Besides melons, look for grapes to be prime buys. The harvest has more than doubled in the last three weeks and Perlettes, the standard early variety, are giving way to the more flavorful Flame Seedless.

Finally, it looks like the spring-long roller-coaster ride for iceberg lettuce is finally at an end. Prices have fallen dramatically in the last month--from a high of around $1.75 per head wholesale during the week of May 15 to the 40-cent range late last week. Romaine and the various head lettuces have followed suit.

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