Red, white and green is the other color trio of July celebrations. Long after sparklers and bottle rockets light up the night, the big kahuna of back yard picnics will still be in demand. It isn't summer without watermelons, and mid-summer is high season for the biggest fruit on the planet.

There are several varieties on the market this year. Sangria is a dark green melon with light green stripes and produces more watermelons per acre than most. But if you're looking for an old-fashioned Louisiana melon, keep your eyes peeled for Jubilation, a pale green melon with forest green stripes.

Jubilation is grown in Louisiana's watermelon patch, a place appropriately dubbed "Sugartown." Located about 20 miles east of DeRidder, the climate and soil of Sugartown are ideal for the sweetest melons around. Breaux Bridge Fruit Stand owner Floyd Foti has both Sangria and Jubilation, along with a much smaller, rounder seedless melon grown around Marksville.

Choosing a watermelon has a certain mystique. Look for melon with a nice balanced shape to it, and check out its belly. A yellow belly, says Foti, is the mark of a melon picked ripe, while a white stomach indicates a green melon. The skin should have a creamy sheen; if the melon is shiny it was picked too young. But the best test, akin to kicking tires on a truck, is the "thump" test. Slap the melon with a cupped hand, and a good echo means the melon is fully ripe. If it sounds flat, Foti notes, the melon will be overripe. Another old-timer's test involves the melon's pigtail. Right where the stem comes out of the melon is a little curlicue ' that's the pigtail. If it's black, the melon is mature and ready to eat.

Yellow melons and pink melons may look chic in a salad, but melons with dark red flesh and shiny black seeds can't be beat. Ice 'em down and bring on the heat, because there's nothing better on a scorcher of a day than the sweet flavor of fresh Louisiana watermelon.

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