Green River, Utah, a quiet hamlet of houses nestled under a big sky and stark cliffs, is known for its melons. Cantaloupe, honeydew, crenshaw, winter pink watermelon, just to name a few. The desert climate here is prime for melon. The hot sun, cool nights, and sandy soil encourage the fruit to hold onto their sweetness. The melons that grow here are said to be world famous, and for good reason. Take a bite of a ripe Green River melon and you will find your mouth watering for its juicy, melon sweetness.
From I-70, take one of the two exits for Green River and drive through town. Main Street is dotted with historical buildings and an impressive display of vintage motel and cafe signs. You will also surely come across a number of melon stands.
On the east end of town, there is a large stand under the name, Vetere. Among numerous tables full of a variety of melon and summer squash, sits June.
On approach, June will offer you a taste of the numerous melons she has for sale. You should take her up on her offer. Taking a bite of a ripe Jerusalem melon is like biting into the purest of warm summer days.
I am endlessly curious as to how people come to find themselves in Utah and, especially, what makes them stay. My conversation with June starts with an inquiry as to how long she has been living as a Green River resident. My expectation is that she would be a Utahn, born and raised, but she surprises me with her answer that she is a transplant.
June and her husband, Bill, moved to Utah from Santa Barbara, California. In 1978, they bought property along the Green River. Land that rises high above the water and which June describes as having the most exceptional sunrises and sunsets. They traveled back and forth until, in 1991, they relocated permanently to Green River.
I ask June why she sits at the melon stand. She replies, that most simply, it is a job, but it is much more than that. The melon stand is her connection to the people that she loves, friends and neighbors, but also travelers, many of whom, stop by regularly as they pass through.
June is quiet and modest and looks to me like she holds stories of the desert that comes with living off the land with grace and gratitude. I am correct, June has many stories. She tells me a few of them and I listen. I watch her crystal blue eyes sparkle as she recalls some of her adventures on the land and on the river, and with the people she holds dear. The spirit of this place shines through her.
As I prepared to leave, June lit up and asked, “did you know you can make coconut cream pie with spaghetti squash?”
Here is the recipe:
Mock Coconut Pie (Spaghetti Squash Pie)
Preparation 20 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Ready in 1 hour
Recipe By:Julie Taylor
“Not too many people would know this pie is not made with coconut, but actually uses spaghetti squash. I wasn’t sure what to do with a bumper crop of spaghetti squash and this quickly became an annual answer to a now non-issue!”
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups cooked, shredded spaghetti squash
1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked
1 pinch ground nutmeg (optional)
1 pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 cups whipped cream for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Beat the sugar and eggs together in a mixing bowl until light and frothy. Beat in the butter, lemon juice, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in the spaghetti squash. Pour the mixture into the prebaked pie shell. If desired, dust the top with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Bake the pie in preheated oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool on a rack before serving. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.
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